John Clay: Journalism's benefactor
By John Eighmey, Greenlee School Chair 1996-2002

John Clay was the son of a tenant farmer in southeastern Scotland. In 1874, at the age of 22, he came to the United States with what he called “an eye to the main chance.”

Clay said of the American West, “There was a freedom, a romance, a sort of mystic halo hanging over those green, grassy, swelling divides that was impregnated, grafted into, your system … It was another world.”

Clay became a leading figure in the development of the livestock business in the United States. His career encompassed managing Bow Park Farm near Toronto; serving as a land scout for a group of Scottish investors seeking new range lands; founding Clay, Robinson & Co. (a major livestock commission company); and serving as president of the International Livestock Exposition.

Readers of Clay's "The Plough and the Book" will appreciate the depth of Clay’s intellect and education, as well as his gift for writing. Indeed, his autobiography, "My Life on the Range," remains widely regarded today as one of the most comprehensive and detailed sources concerning cowboy life in the American West.

In was a delight to discover John Clay and to appreciate the significance of his vision and generosity.

In 1905, the original strategic focus of journalism education at Iowa State College was to improve communication for the advancement of agriculture.

Today, almost 100 years later, our strategic purpose has become science communication. But Clay’s ideas remain vital and his writing something to appreciate.

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