A Brush with History

Senator Thomas Hennings via Biographical Directory of Congress

In 1952, as the machinery of war wound down after World War II, the status of Fort Crowder was uncertain. Area residents were anxious that Crowder’s closure would have a negative effect on the health of the local economy. Joplin businessmen and laborers were no exception. Herb Riddle, president of the Central Trades and Labor Assembly of Joplin, wrote to U.S. Senator Thomas C. Hennings regarding any possible plans the federal government might have in store for the city, as well as an idea of his own.

Riddle suggested to Hennings, “I note in the Joplin Sunday Globe, April 13, 1952, that the government had been looking over various sites in the United States to establish another atomic bomb plant. I believe that we have some very fine possibilities for such a plant in this area which I talked to you of when I was in Washington, D.C., especially near the Du Pont Powder Plant, just north of Joplin.”

Senator Hennings, like most members of Congress, sent a brief response. After thanking Riddle for his letter, Hennings stated, “For your information, I have requested Chairman [Gordon] Dean of the Atomic Energy Commission to give every possible consideration of Joplin as a site for the construction of an atom bomb plant. As you no doubt know, there are certain very definite requirements which a site must have before it can be seriously considered. As soon as I receive a report from the Commission I will let you hear from me.”

There was no follow-up letter.