Eric Schmitt is the Big Man in the Senate. He’s a Republican from Kirkwood and he takes pride in being the tallest Senator. Tallest in Missouri history, he has boasted. Six feet, six and one-half inches tall, he proclaimed the other night in the senate.
Senator Bob Dixon of Springfield, who has a little size to him, too, had dug out an old newspaper article, apparently from the Springfield Leader, and distributed it to fellow Senators that same night. The article was a reprint from the Jefferson City Daily Capital News, probably from about February 1, 1919. It was the story of Senator Charles J. Belken of Fredericktown, who “enjoys the distinction of being the tallest man ever elected to either branch of the Missouri General Assembly, according to old-time lawmakers.”
The article recounted that Belken was six-feet, six-inches high in his stocking feet. He was referred to as a “genial senator” who had to duck through ordinary doors. Belkus complained the Jefferson City beds were “almost too short” but he made-do by “cupping up his knees” to achieve “tolerable comfort.”
Schmitt says he’s got Belken beat by a half-inch.
Not so fast, big guy.
The OTHER Jefferson City newspaper, the Post-Tribune, also had an article about Belken. And it said he “stands six feet and seven inches.”
The Missourinet’s discovery of the alternative newspaper article leaves the title of Missouri’s Tallest Senator in doubt, although Schmitt quickly dismissed the second newspaper article’s accuracy. And he did not seem willing to accept a suggestion that the heights in the two articles be averaged, which would leave him and Belkus tied.
His rejection of any compromise on the issue drove us quickly to consult with Terry Spieler, who has been Secretary of the Senate since Schmitt was probably less than shoulder high to her. We have decided the best way to end this controversy once and for all is to ask Senator Schmitt to take off his shoes and stand in the doorway of his inner office while Ms. Spieler, who is substantially shorter than he is now, stands on a chair with a ruler in her hand, places it atop his head, and makes a mark on the door jamb—as many parents do to chart the growth of their children. A yardstick will then be used to certify the measurement.
Because door jambs are repainted during office decorations, that mark might be lost. Our alternative plan is to have Schmitt lie down on the marble floor outside his office with his feet planted against the wall while someone, using the same or a similar ruler, measures how far out in the hallway he sticks. An unobtrusive but permanent mark should be left on that floor so that any future senator asserting claim to the “tallest-ever” title can verify the claim by stretching out on the hallway floor.
Another factor to consider in determining the tallest state Senator in state history is to consider relative tallness. A reference we consulted indicates the average American man in 1920 stood 5’7.5.” That would mean Belkus towered 8.5 to 9.5 inches above the average Senator of his time. (There were no women in the Senate then)
Another study says today’s average American male stands 5’9.2,|” which means Schmitt is only 8.3 inches taller than the average male Senator. So on a height relativity scale, he comes up, uh, short.
Opinions seem to differ on the height relativity issue, though. Some studies we have consulted indicate men in 1920 were about 5’9″ tall and that men have not grown much taller in the 90-plus years since then. He’s just expanded. .
So IS Eric Schmitt the tallest Senator in Missouri history? Maybe we should say that he’s certainly up there amongst ’em.
It’s odd what goes through the mind of a reporter at the Senate press table when the Senate begins to drone.

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One thought on “BMIS

  1. Let’s not forget Sen. A. Clifford Jones… he was head and shoulders above most, proving that it ain’t the size of the dog in the fight… — M

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