Clifford W. Trow was born in 1929 in Topeka, Kansas. In 1951 he graduated with high honors from Kansas Wesleyan University and promptly embarked upon a career as a high school social studies teacher. Later in the decade he resumed his schooling, graduating with an M.A. from the University of Colorado in 1958. Eight years later he completed his Ph.D., also from the University of Colorado.
Trow moved directly from Colorado to Oregon, where he assumed a position on the history faculty at Oregon State University. As an academic, Trow's research interests included the presidency of Woodrow Wilson as well as American foreign policy in Mexico and elsewhere. In 1972 Trow received the Binkley-Stephenson Award from the Organization of American Historians for his paper, "Woodrow Wilson and the Mexican Interventionist Movement of 1919," published in The Journal of American History. He remained on staff for more than thirty years, retiring from OSU in 1996.
Active in Democratic Party politics from his days in Colorado, Trow ran for the Oregon Senate in 1970, losing the District 18 race to incumbent Dick Hoit. Four years later he ran again, this time winning and beginning a period of service in the Senate that would last until his retirement in 2003. A steadfast supporter of education, Trow served on the Senate Education Committee for eight sessions, including five as Chair. In 1979, he was recognized as "Education Senator of the Year" by the Oregon Education Association and was similarly honored as "Senator of the Year" by the Oregon Library Association in both 1991 and 1993.
A member of numerous additional committees, Trow chaired Senate Ways and Means in 1993 and subcommittees of Ways and Means from 1985-1991. Elected President Pro Tempore of the Senate in 1981, Trow also served as Senate Democratic Leader from 1995 to 1998. In 2002, on the eve of his retirement from elected office, Trow was honored by the city of Corvallis, which declared December 16th to be "Cliff Trow Day."
Not long after his arrival in Corvallis in 1965, Trow met Jo Anne Johnson and, in 1969, the couple married. Jo Anne enjoyed a long career as a high-level administrator at OSU including stints as Dean of Women and Vice President for Student Affairs - the first female vice president in OSU history. Together the Trows have remained active in retirement, devoting their energies to numerous civic groups including the OSU Academy for Lifelong Learning, which Cliff Trow co-founded, as well as the Benton County Historical Association, the Corvallis Parks and Recreation Advisory Board and the Old Mill Center for Children and Families.