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  • Writer's pictureDerryl Dumermuth

Alfred Elliot

Since 1872, the year of Tulare's birth, this city has been ably represented in Congress by several dozen men (no women, not yet). In 2002, Devin Nunes, TUHS class of 1991 and our current congressman, was probably the youngest (at age 29) to be sent to Washington D.C. to represent the city of Tulare and its neighbors. Bob Mathias, TUHS class of 1948, had the distinction of being the only congressman from this district who was known and admired worldwide because of his Olympic fame. He served four terms as an effective legislator, from 1966 to 1974.

From 1936 to 1948, Tulare was represented in Congress by Alfred Elliott, a Democrat, and indeed the most colorful representative ever sent to Washington from this district. He was highly respected for his effectiveness despite irritating and angering many of his colleagues and constituents with his outspokenness. In Congress, he fought to complete the Central Valley Water Project and other water issues vital to California.

Alfred James Elliott was born in Yolo County in 1895 and came to Tulare with his parents fifteen years later. He attended Laurel School briefly and Tulare Union High School for a little more than one year before dropping out to work. His background in farming brought him employment in the field of agriculture. For five years, he worked for Hulett Merritt, owner of the vast Tagus Ranch north of Tulare. Among other duties, he managed the ranch's swine department, the largest herd of registered hogs west of the Rocky Mountains.

An exciting story illustrates Elliott's independent, and sometimes impulsive, nature. It seems that Merritt was criticizing the way his employee was feeding the hogs. Elliott handed him the bucket, said, "You slop 'em," and quit on the spot.

For 34 years, from 1931 to 1965, the Tulare County Fair employed Elliott as secretary/manager of the Tulare County Fair. One month before the 1951 Tulare County Fair opening day, a disastrous fire destroyed the main building on the grounds. The annual event opened on time in makeshift quarters. In recognition of his record-breaking length of service, the city named the new auditorium on the fairgrounds in his honor on Pioneer Day, 1954. In September 1965, two months after his retirement, the town selected Elliott as the grand marshal of Tulare's annual Dairy Fiesta Parade.

On November 8, 1932, Elliott was elected to the Tulare County Board of Supervisors and chosen as chairman for one term. Also, he served two terms as president of the Tulare Chamber of Commerce.

Elliott entered his hogs in competition in fairs throughout California, winning his share of prizes. One episode seems too bizarre to be accurate, and indeed the story must be apocryphal, but it does fit his impetuous nature. It appears that on one occasion, at the State Fair in Sacramento, he offered to buy the hogs from the exhibitor whose hogs had been judged superior to his. Assuming that Elliott wanted the hogs for breeding purposes, the man agreed to the sale. Money changed hands, Elliott fetched his rifle from his tent, and shot the newly purchased hogs, thus virtually eliminating the competition.

In 1948 Elliott entered the newspaper business. He bought the nearly bankrupt Tulare Daily Bee from Fred Allen and changed it to the Tulare News. Elliott operated the newspaper first as an afternoon daily, then a semi-weekly, a weekly, an afternoon daily again, a morning daily, and finally suspended operations in 1951. He constructed a building at King Avenue and N Street to house his enterprises, the building now occupied by Carl and Irving, Printers.

Elliott married Jessie June Soults of Tulare in 1914. The couple had two children, a son, I.J., and a daughter, Esther. Jessie died in 1940, and Elliott married Rae Moore twelve years later, but she died in 1967. He married Ruth Anderson in 1969, and she survived him. Alfred Elliott died in 1973 at age 77.

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