Wesley Clark

official photo of Wesley Clark, c. late 1990s

Birth Name: Wesley Kanne

Place of Birth: Chicago, Illinois, U.S.

Date of Birth: December 23, 1944

*father – Ashkenazi Jewish
*mother – English, some German

Wesley Clark, also known as Wes Clark, is an American retired General of the United States Army.

He was a candidate for the Democratic Party’s nomination for President of the United States in 2004.

Wesley is the son of Veneta (Updergraff) and Benjamin Jacob Kanne. He is married to Gertrude Kingston, with whom he has a son.

Wesley’s father was Jewish (of Polish Jewish, Belarusian Jewish, and Russian Jewish descent). His mother, who was from a Christian background, had English, and some German, ancestry.

Wesley’s father died when he was three, and Wesley took the surname of his stepfather, Viktor Clark, becoming legally known as Wesley Kanne Clark. Wesley was raised Southern Baptist, and later converted to Catholicism, his wife’s religion. Wesley did not know that his birth father was Jewish until he was in his 20s.

Wesley’s paternal grandfather was Jacob K. Kanne (the son of Meyer Kanne and Malka Friedman). Jacob was a Jewish emigrant, from Warsaw, Poland, and his own parents were from Minsk, Belarus.

Wesley’s paternal grandmother was named Ida Goldman (the daughter of Meyer Goldman and Rose). Ida was a Russian Jewish immigrant.

Wesley’s maternal grandfather was Robert Stetson Updegraff (the son of Harrison Augustus Updegraff and Eveline Charlotte “Lottie” Holland/Catherine). Robert was born in Missouri. Harrison was the son of Andrew Updegraff and Margaret Lowman. Eveline was possibly the daughter of John Holland and Margaret Faubion.

Wesley’s maternal grandmother was Elsie Nora Reynolds (the daughter of Thomas Wesley Reynolds and Mary Emma Upshaw). Elsie was born in Arkansas. Thomas was the son of Josiah Conley Reynolds and Martha C. Brown. Mary was the daughter of Henry Harrison Upshaw and Matilda Long.

Two people of Jewish heritage have been nominated for President of the United States by a major political party. Barry Goldwater, nominated by the Republican Party in 1964, was the first (Goldwater was born to a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother, and was raised an Episcopalian). John Kerry, nominated by the Democratic Party in 2004, was the second (Kerry’s paternal grandparents were born Jewish, though Kerry’s father and Kerry himself were raised Catholic).

Joe Lieberman, who was Jewish, was nominated for Vice President of the United States by the Democratic Party in 2000.

Wesley is one of five people of Jewish heritage to have won a major party’s presidential caucus and/or primary. He won 1 state, Oklahoma, in 2004. The others are:
*Barry Goldwater (1964, the year he was nominated; Republican; won 7 states; Goldwater also sought the 1960 Republican nomination)
*John Kerry (2004, the year he was nominated; Democratic; won 51 contests)
*Bernie Sanders (who sought the Democratic nomination and 2016 and 2020; in 2016, he won 23 contests; in 2020, he won 9 contests)
*Michael Bloomberg (who sought the 2020 Democratic nomination; won 1 territory, American Samoa)

Of the five, Bernie Sanders and Michael Bloomberg are Jewish by religion, and Sanders is the first person of Jewish religion to have won a caucus and/or primary for a major American political party’s Presidential nomination (the 2016 New Hampshire primary).

Other people of significant Jewish heritage who have mounted or are mounting plausible or semi-plausible campaigns for a major party’s nomination for President of the United States are:
*Milton Shapp (who sought the 1976 Democratic nomination)
*Larry Agran (who sought the 1992 Democratic nomination)
*Arlen Specter (who sought the 1996 Republican nomination)
*Joe Lieberman (who sought the 2004 Democratic nomination)
*John H. Cox (who sought the 2008 Republican nomination)
*Fred Karger (who sought the 2012 Republican nomination)
*Marianne Williamson (who is seeking the 2024 Democratic nomination; and was previously a candidate for 2020’s)
*Michael Bennet (who sought the 2020 Democratic nomination)
*Tom Steyer (who sought the 2020 Democratic nomination)
*Dean Phillips (who sought the 2024 Democratic nomination)

Shapp, Agran, Specter, Lieberman, Karger, Williamson, and Phillips were/are all Jewish by religion. Bennet and Steyer were raised in mixed-faith households, Bennet with a Jewish mother and Steyer with a Jewish father. Shapp was the first person of Jewish religion to mount a prominent campaign for a major party’s nomination for President of the United States.

Kirsten Gillibrand, a Catholic with a Jewish great-grandfather, also sought the 2020 Democratic nomination.

Sources: Genealogies of Wesley Clark – http://www.wargs.com

Obituary of Wesley’s paternal grandmother, Ida (Goldman) Kanne – https://www.newspapers.com

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