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Jerry Lon Litton (May 12, 1937 – August 3, 1976) was an American Democratic politician. He served as a U.S. Representative from Missouri and later died with his wife and two children while en route via a small plane to the victory party after winning Missouri's state Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate.

Jerry Litton
Jerry Litton.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Missouri's 6th district
In office
January 3, 1973 – August 3, 1976
Preceded byWilliam Raleigh Hull Jr.
Succeeded byTom Coleman
Personal details
Jerry Lon Litton

(1937-05-12)May 12, 1937
Lock Springs, Missouri, U.S.
DiedAugust 3, 1976(1976-08-03) (aged 39)
Chillicothe, Missouri, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Sharon Litton
EducationUniversity of Missouri, Columbia (BS)

Early lifeEdit

Litton was born near Lock Springs, Daviess County, Missouri in a house without electricity. He was national secretary of the Future Farmers of America (1956–1957). He graduated from the University of Missouri in 1961 with a B.S. in Journalism. Litton was president of the University of Missouri Young Democrats and chair of the National Youth for Symington during Stuart Symington's unsuccessful 1960 run for U.S. President. He served as President of the Theta chapter of the Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity.[1]

Litton made his fortune raising cattle at the Litton Charolais Cattle Ranch in Chillicothe, Missouri. This ranch was maintained as a beautiful showplace where Litton entertained both the well connected and constituents. Litton made a point to bring school children and low level local leaders to his home. Before he began his political career, he was active in promoting youth involvement in leadership in agriculture and rural communities. His family (including his parents, Mildred and Charlie Litton) was very prominent in the Charolais cattle business.

U.S. RepresentativeEdit

Litton was elected to the U.S. House as a Democrat in 1972. He was considered a rising star in the Democratic Party and his television show Dialogue with Litton was broadcast statewide. Among the guests were Jimmy Carter, Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz, Congressman Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill, and House Speaker Carl Albert.[2]

Green bumper stickers (like those used in his prior Congressional campaigns) circulated in the state saying "Litton for President."[3] Jimmy Carter was to say that he thought Litton would be President one day.[4]

1976 U.S. Senate electionEdit

In 1976, after only two terms in the House of Representatives, Litton entered into what amounted to a three-way Democratic Party primary race for the U.S. Senate seat of retiring Senator Stuart Symington. The other major contestants were Symington's son James W. Symington and former Missouri Governor Warren Hearnes. Final election results showed Congressman Litton winning with 45.39%, former Governor Warren Hearnes second at 26.38%, and Congressman James Symington finishing third with 25.16% of the statewide vote.[5] Seven other candidates including Kansas City, Missouri Mayor Charles Wheeler split the remaining 4 percent of the vote.[6]


Litton won the primary but died[7] with his entire family (wife Sharon and their two children, Linda and Scott) along with pilot Paul Rupp Jr. and the pilot's son, Paul Rupp III, en route to a victory party in Kansas City, Missouri; their plane, a Beechcraft Model 58 Baron, crashed on take-off from the Chillicothe airport shortly after 9 p.m. on election night. The investigation into the crash determined the twin-engine plane broke a crankshaft in the left engine. The plane was about 100 to 150 feet above the runway 14, which was the airport's only hard surfaced runway, when the engine failed. The plane veered to the left and crashed rapidly into a soybean field, where it exploded on impact, burning all victims beyond recognition. The NTSB reported that the pilot did not retract the wheels when the engine cut off and that this contributed to the sudden loss of control. The report said the plane had been airborne for only 19 seconds before striking the ground. The plane was owned by Rupp Automotive, which was the car parts store owned by Rupp.[8][9]

The State Democratic Committee held a vote on a new nominee on August 21 and Hearnes defeated Jim Spainhower, garnering 63.3% of the vote. Hearnes lost the general election to John C. Danforth, who garnered 56.93% of the vote.[10]

A museum of Litton memorabilia was made in the Jerry L. Litton Visitor Center near the dam at Smithville Lake in Smithville, Missouri.[11]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^
  2. ^ SHSMO-Columbia-Jerry L. Litton, Papers, 1960-1976 (C3730)-INVENTORY
  3. ^ The World According to Leigh Ann Little
  4. ^ History of the Litton Agri-Science Learning Center Archived 2007-10-08 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ "1976 Senatorial Democratic Primary Election Results - Missouri". 2007-04-20. Retrieved 2010-03-16.
  6. ^ "MO US Senate - D Primary Race - Aug 03, 1976". Our Campaigns. Retrieved 2010-03-16.
  7. ^ Rep. Litton dies in plane crash, as he wins voting
  8. ^ Engine failure during takeoff killed Litton
  9. ^ Famous People Who Died in Aviation Accidents: 1970s
  10. ^ "MO US Senate Race - Nov 02, 1976". Our Campaigns. Retrieved 2010-03-16.
  11. ^ Jerry L. Litton Visitor Center (archived from the original, October 2002)

External linksEdit