Claude Kitchin represented North Carolina in the U.S. House during the early 20th century and served as Speaker of the House during the First World War. Though he was a Democrat, he is remembered for risking his political career to oppose President Woodrow Wilson on questions of U.S. foreign policy: Kitchin consistently opposed Wilson’s attempts to expand America’s role in world affairs. On other issues, Kitchin adopted parts of the Populist and Progressive agenda and often aligned his positons with those of William Jennings Bryan.
Kitchin was born near Scotland Neck in Halifax County, North Carolina on March 24, 1869. He was one of 11 children born to William Hodges Kitchin and Maria F. Arrington. William Kitchin, a Confederate veteran, struggled as a prominent but debt-ridden planter who supported the Farmers’ Alliance and served one term in the U. S. Congress shortly after Reconstruction. Claude’s older brother William also served in the House (1897-1908) and later as governor (1909-1913).