I sat in the Missouri Supreme Court Division One courtroom one day in the summer of 1972 listening to lawyers argue about whether the St. Louis Board of Election Commissioners should allow a candidate on the ballot for the August primary.
The Minority Leader of the Missouri House, R. J. “Bus” King, wanted to keep a challenger off the ballot as he sought higher office. King argued that the candidate had not met the state constitution’s requirement that the candidate had to have been “a resident of this state at least ten years next before the election.”
He hadn’t been, argued King’s lawyer. He’d been gone while attending law school, doing summer internships in New York and Atlanta, and clerking for a federal judge in Georgia. He also practiced law in Washington, D.C. for three years. When he applied for law licenses in two other states, he claimed the he was living in those states.
The lawyer for King’s opponent admitted that the young lawyer not been physically present in the state for ten years (he had been for five) but had often said he planned to return to Missouri and establish his practice here, that he often came back to his home town during holiday breaks, retained membership in his hometown church and kept a bank account at the hometown bank.
Furthermore, he had hunting licenses during those years. The licenses were specifically included as evidence in the case to show he maintained a domicile here although he was physically elsewhere for several years.
The court voted 5-2 that the word RESIDENT “does not mean or require actual physical presence, continuous and uninterrupted for ten years, but means that place where a man has his true fixed and permanent home and principal establishment and to which whenever he is absent he as the intention of returning.”
Dove hunting licenses were among the key factors in deciding that he had “the intention of returning,” according to the court decision.
Christopher Bond’s hunting license was a factor in determining that he could run for the Republican nomination for Governor in 1972. In the August primary, Bond had 265,467 votes. King, with 21,422 finished third. Second place when to Gene McNary, then the St. Louis County supervisor, who had 56,652. Bond then defeated Democrat Edward L. Dowd 1,029,451 to 832,751 in November to become the youngest governor in Missouri history. He was two months shy of 34 when he took office. At the time he was the youngest governor in the United States.
McNary, now 75, is still campaigning. In 2011 he hopes to be elected St. Louis County Assessor.
Christopher Bond, now 71, whose career path was allowed to go on because he liked to get a bird in his sights every now and then, has decided it’s time to spend more of his time doing that.
Bond has caught a lot of nice fish and hunted a lot of birds in all those years since 1972 but his most important trophy might have been the hunting license that didn’t get away.