Kansas Day honors vibrant history
Did you know that this is a special day? No, it really isn’t a holiday, however, it deserves at least a passing thought. This is Kansas Day, a time when we observe our state’s long and fascinating history. Kansas is a diverse state that is rich in farming and minerals. It is a state that has contributed some tremendous leaders to our nation.
Despite having a relatively small population, Kansas has provided that nation with outstanding leaders. Kansas has produced a president, Dwight D. Eisenhower and a vice president, Charles Curtis. In addition, two Kansans, Alf Landon and Bob Dole, have been the Republican nominees for president. We have provided many legislative leaders throughout the decades and unfortunately some of them have been forgotten. Let me introduce you to a pair of outstanding Kansans — Sen. Arthur Capper and Sen. Frank Carlson.
One of my personal heroes as a youth was Sen. Arthur Capper who was born in my hometown, Garnett. Beyond that, Sen. Capper was trained as a printer, and he branched out to become a newspaper publisher and radio station owner. He owned the very popular “Capper’s Weekly,” which was a publication very popular with farm families throughout Kansas. One biography pointed out that the paper was the basis for his early political successes. Capper owned the Topeka “Daily Capital” and was the founder of the Kansas City “Kansan.” A long-time champion of agriculture and education, he served as chairman of the board of regents at Kansas State and the senate agriculture committee.
Capper didn’t let defeat deter him. He was the Republican nominee for governor in 1912 and lost. He bounced back two years later and was elected governor. He served a pair of two-year terms, which was the limit at that time. He was the first native born Kansan to be elected governor.
Maybe his interest in politics came naturally. His father-in-law, Samuel J. Crawford served as governor of Kansas.
Capper was first elected to the U. S. Senate in 1918 and served for 30 years. He chose not to run for re-election in 1948.
He was interested in the welfare of Kansans, not just party politics. He supported relief efforts and other policies of President Roosevelt during the Depression. He was regarded as the leader of the farm bloc in the senate and sponsored a variety of legislation that benefited farmers nationally.
Sen. Carlson was a household name in Kansas during his long and distinguished career. After serving in the Army during World War I, he returned to farming in Concordia. He was elected to the Kansas Legislature and moved to the national level in 1935 when he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives where he continued to serve until 1946. He returned to Kansas and was elected governor in 1949.
As governor, he pushed mental health and highway improvements during his time in Topeka. When Sen. Clyde M. Reed died in 1949, Gov. Carlson appointed Wyandotte Countian Harry Darby to the senate. Sen. Darby served until 1950 when Carlson was elected to the U.S. Senate.
One of his major achievements came in 1952 when he campaigned to get Gen. Eisenhower elected president. He is credited with working out the compromise that made Eisenhower’s opponent for the nomination, Sen. Robert A. Taft, senate majority leader. This cleared the way for Ike’s nomination and ultimate win.
One of his most unique accomplishments was the organization of the first national President’s Prayer Breakfast. He chose not to seek re-election in 1968 and was followed by another Kansas legend, Bob Dole.
Sen. Carlson returned to Kansas and died at the age of 94 in 1987. He was a national leader in agricultural policy and had an excellent national reputation.
Both remained very popular in Kansas, and I read several references to the fact that they were regarded as “unbeatable.” While being well known on the national stage, both remained true to their constituents in Kansas.
Yes, Kansas has provided many national and world leaders all of whom have played an important part in the state’s history. Now as we are observing Kansas Day, it might be a great opportunity to do some study on our exciting and vibrant history.