Georgia Neese Clark Gray, Legislative War of 1893

(Frank) Today on Around Kansas we start with a story of a strong Kansas woman – Georgia Neese Clark Gray – the first woman Treasurer of the United States. Then learn about Kansas’ Legislative War of 1893. Next enjoy a poem from Ron Wilson and we’ll end with Grandfather Says, a wonderful book about life on the Potawatomi Reservation from a granddaughter’s point of view.

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(Frank Chaffin) Good morning. I’m Frank. (Deb Goodrich) I’m Deb. (Frank) And this is Around Kansas. Thank you for being up early in the morning. This is a show where we talk about the people, places, and things that make Kansas a great place to work and live and play. (Deb) Just like you. (Frank) Yes. (Deb) That’s why we’re here. (Frank) Yes. (Deb) You were talking about your daughter’s dogs and she’s got these labs. (Frank) Yes. (Deb) My uncle, Tommy Gerald, had a big black lab and bless his heart, he was probably 50 pounds overweight. Because Uncle Tommy fed him table scraps and stuff. This big black lab was named Bolivar. One day we’re sitting around and I had the opportunity and I said, “Uncle Tommy–” and this is Mayberry folks so just picture Mayberry. I said, “Uncle Tommy, why did you name your dog Bolivar?” “Well, you know, that Latin American dictator Simon Bolivar?” Oh yes. I’m like, “Why did he name his dog after Simon Bolivar? I have no idea.” (Frank) Oh my. (Deb) Like I said, we don’t make this stuff up. [Laughs] (Frank) Yes. (Deb) Labs are great dogs. (Frank) Labs are great dogs but the thing is they’re puppies for the first seven years. They really are puppies. (Deb) True. (Frank) That’s unfortunate because a lot of the shelters get labs turned in. That’s because people say, “This dog just drives me nuts.” They don’t realize when they get one that they’re really kids- (Deb) – for long a long time. (Frank) – for a long time. (Deb) Just like men. (Frank) Then they settle in. (Deb) Yes, just like men. They’re just puppies for a long, long time. If you don’t get one 50, 60 before they grow up at all, I think then it’s just because they lose the energy to be the kids that they were. Probably the same thing happens with labs. They just don’t have the energy to be that rambunctious. They’re not any more mature. They just don’t have as much energy. (Frank) If you haven’t grown up by the time you’re age 50, you don’t have to. (Deb) You don’t have to. Yes. Why bother? (Frank) Yes. (Deb) Why bother. March 8th already. March again, just a busy– you’ve got March Madness, you got–yes, all those–we were talking last week about all the things related to the craziness of March. (Frank) Yes. (Deb) I want to mention my sister in that; because my sister is a Pisces. (Frank) Is she crazy or what? (Deb) She is crazy in a good way. She does my taxes, I can’t say too much about her. But I was thinking about the whole Pisces thing. That moodiness of March and it very much reflects the month. I’m an April baby. I’m all like flowers and sunshine, all that good stuff. She, on the other hand, is moody but very creative, very reflective, but yes. I guess I was thinking about that because I was thinking about how good my life was until my brother and sister came along. [Laughter] When I had– (Deb) When I had everybody all to myself. Life was good, yes. My dad said, “We’re going to have a baby. What do you want?” “I want a baby sister because I can play with her.” Then she comes along and I’m like, “This is not what I expected. She cries.” [Laughs] (Frank) Okay, then. (Deb) But I digress. I’m selfish. I didn’t mean to be. Yes. Now everybody knows how selfish and self-centered I am. (Frank) Oh my. She really is from Mayberry. (Deb) I’m really from Mayberry. You wouldn’t expect people from Mayberry to be so selfish, would you? (Frank) What was that? There’s something on Facebook somewhere and it’s about– (Deb) Oh, why people of Mayberry are happy? Because they’re single. (Frank) Yes, everybody is single. (Deb) Only married one’s Otis and he’s drunk all the time. Yes. (Frank) Yes. (Deb) Because obviously, you can’t live with anybody from Mayberry. Oh boy. The truth comes out. (Frank) We have some stories today? (Deb) We have some great stories. (Frank) I think we have some stories today. (Deb) We do. (Frank) We have some good ones. (Deb) I say all this because I’m going to wish my sister a Happy Birthday. Her birthday is March 12 so before the next. And she–God bless her–she keeps all of us running. That’s–bless you, Denise. Thank you. [Laughs] (Frank) If we don’t see you next week– (Deb) You’ll know why. [Laughs] (Frank) Okay, then. I guess we’ll be back.

(Frank) And here we are again believe it or not. (Deb) I’ve been on this kick about strong women and Kansas has a slew of them. I just get excited. I don’t know if this month is national anything history month. I don’t know, maybe it is National Women’s History. I don’t know what month that is. But anyway, I’m going to share them. Georgia Neese Clark Gray who was the first woman Treasurer of the United States. But my favorite story about her, and it’s not in the segment; I’m not giving anything away by this, is when the bank was robbed. She was president of her dad’s bank. The banker dad found it in Richland. Which I think is underwater now? (Frank) Yes it’s in the water. (Deb) Yes. Clinton Lake, that’s one of the communities that it flooded. These robbers come to her house in the middle of the night and they’re going to force her to go down and open up the bank vault. She makes them wait until she can put on her girdle before she gets out there. Oh my god. You talk about one tough woman. She was something else. (Frank) “Wait just a moment. I must dress for the occasion.” (Deb) Exactly. You got these guys with guns and I don’t know if they’re holding her husband hostage or whatever. But she’s getting dressed and putting her girdle on because God knows you don’t want your belly hanging out in the middle of a bank robbery. (Frank) [Laughs] Oh my. (Deb) I understand that totally. Yes, I really do. First, in today’s world where you go to Walmart and everybody’s wearing their pajamas. I don’t know if you got those same standards or not. (Frank) Oh my. [Laughs] You just painted an image. I think we better take a break and come back. (Deb) And watch the story in the meantime. We’ll be right back. Kansas raises cows, wheat, and some very strong women. The first woman Treasurer of the United States is a prime example. Born in 1898 in Richland, Georgia Neese Gray attended school in Topeka and graduated from Washburn College in 1921. While at Washburn, she became interested in acting and spent ten years with various stock companies. She married her manager and they later divorced. Theater wasn’t immune from the depression and with acting jobs scarce she returned to Kansas to care for her ailing father and went to work in his bank. She became president of the Richland State Bank in 1937 following her father’s death. She also became active in the state Democratic Party and was elected National Committee Woman in Kansas in 1936, a position she held until 1964. She was an early supporter of Harry Truman and it was this support that brought about her nomination as the first woman to be Treasurer of the United States. She served in that office from June 9, 1949, until January 1953 when Truman left office. Her name, Georgia Neese Clark, became known to millions through her signature on all U.S. currency issued while she was in office. Reminiscing about her conversation with President Truman about taking the position, Gray said Truman pointed out the disadvantages of the job including low pay and asked her if she could afford to take the job. She replied, “Can I afford not to?” Following her term, she returned to Kansas to work in the family’s business. In the same year she married Andrew Gray and wished to become known as Georgia Neese Clark Gray. She remained active in national Democratic Party politics until 1964 when she resigned from the Democratic National Committee. She was the Native Sons and Daughters of Kansas’ Distinguished Kansan of the Year in 1981. Gray died in 1995.

(Deb) Welcome back, folks. Yes, keeping that serious vein of wearing your girdle to the bank robbery, now we have the Legislative Wars. Like we didn’t have war enough in the legislature already. But this is why we study history, Frank. Because it reminds us, people will say so many times, “Oh, it can’t get any worse” Oh no, it can always get worse. I don’t care what is happening. It can get worse. (Frank) These stories couldn’t be about–back around the turn of the century, you talk about politics being passionate. This was the legislative war and it was a war. (Deb) It was a war. It was an armed conflict. (Frank) Yes. The thing is I think the house chamber, I don’t know if the doors are still there, but they were for a long time. I don’t know if they’ve been moved now in the renovation to the historical society. But it was the actual doors that got battered down by the populists breaking into the chamber to take over from the Republicans at the time. (Deb) And you know, there is a photograph, the famous photograph of that is on display now in the basement, the Visitor Center of the Capitol. They do have that photograph of the guys standing there- (Frank) With a sledgehammer (Deb) – with a sledgehammer and the hole in the door. There is–this is not fake news. There is real evidence. (Frank) This is real news. (Deb) This is real news. (Frank) This really happened when people were really, really passionate about their politics in the state of Kansas. (Deb) And not taking Prozac. (Frank) Yes. May you be blessed to live during interesting times goes the old Chinese curse. This could very well be the story of Kansas politics. With our beginnings in troubled times through to the present, Kansas politics has been filled with interesting moments and perhaps none more so than the Legislative War of 1893. Populist Governor Lorenzo D. Lewelling was elected in 1892 but both the Republicans and Populists claimed a majority in the legislature. The parties elected their own officers and conducted separate sessions in the same hall. Although each party made attempts to unseat the other, they proved fruitless. Finally, in mid-February 1893, the Populists took sole possession of Representative Hall locking themselves in and Republicans out. The breaking point came in mid-February with the arrest of Ben Rich, Clerk of the Populist House, with the charge of disturbing the peace of the legislature. After his “rescue,” both sides began to muster their forces. Republicans marched to the statehouse and took a sledgehammer to the door of the House of Representatives. Governor Lewelling called up several militia companies. Late on February 15 the governor sent for Battery “A” of Wichita and instructed the men to bring their Gatling gun. The militia arrived but since it was composed almost entirely of Republicans, most of the units refused to obey the governor. The crisis continued for three days until a Populist “surrender” was affected. The Republican House stayed in the hall, proceedings against the clerk were dropped. People’s party representatives agreed to conduct their business in a separate statehouse room. The final decision was left to the Supreme Court. On Saturday, February 25, by a partisan vote of 2 to 1, the court found in favor of the Republicans. On Monday the Populists went to Representative Hall to assume their position as minority party. By this time only a few days remained in the session. Although little constructive work was accomplished, but there was no bloodshed, perhaps their greatest accomplishment.

(Ron Wilson) Perhaps we’ve seen horses with problems through the years but I’ve come to find from my experience that oftentimes the problem isn’t the horse, it’s the rider. This poem is entitled the Problem Horse or the Horse’s Problem. Here’s part one: “What’s wrong with this horse?” the young rider asked, as he struggled with the job for which he was tasked. She balks at the trailer, won’t stand at the gates, and she doesn’t move right when I want to change gait. She’s skittish as heck and she spooks at my rope. I’m beginning to think this darn mare is a dope. I’m trying to get the work done that I need but I can’t make her start upon the right lead. Disgust and frustration fueled the cowboy’s discourse as they ask the question, “What’s wrong with this horse?” Here’s part two: “What’s wrong with this rider?” the mare must have thought as he went through the struggles the morning had brought. Does he want me to gallop or just go and lope? Does he know that he cracked me upside with his rope? Do we stop at the gate or go on down the fence? What the heck does he want? His cues make no sense. Is he squeezing his knees because he wants to go fast or is this any different than it was in the past? The mixed signals she got cause frustration inside her, and the mare had to wonder, “What’s wrong with this rider?” Happy Trails.

(Deb) Well, we’ve got out a book. We had to get our glasses so we can see. This is–I can’t tell you how much you will enjoy this book, Grandfather says: Native American Parables and other Lessons from Reservation Life. Our good friend Brenda Culbertson authored this. It has her just amazing photographs in it. See, there’s one of an eagle right there. But these are just these beautiful simple stories from spending time with her grandparents up on the Potawatomi Reservation. It’s just precious. (Frank) Oh. Can I read this one? (Deb) Yes. (Frank) This is called Nose Time, anyway. “We were working in the hay meadow that was close to the house one fall day. Hay harvest was in full swing and grandfather was teaching me how to load the bales onto the wagon. The small square bales weighed as much as I did. But I managed to put a few on the wagon instead of dropping them back onto the ground. ‘You’re doing good’ Grandfather told me. ‘You’ve loaded many this time.’ He smiled through the sweat running down his face and into his eyes. We almost have a full load. I was sweating too and I needed to drink a cold water, but I kept working. Making grandfather proud kept me strong.” Anyway, I thought this was a short story. But it goes on for another page. (Deb) But it’s- (Frank) It’s fun stuff. (Deb) It is. It’s beautiful and they’re so sweet, and the relationship between the grandparents really touched me because I had a very close relationship with my grandparents. But the parables, that’s true. There are little life lessons in these. But they’re not preachy, they’re just sweet, and you can find this on Amazon. I can’t say enough about how–pretty butterfly. She’s a very talented photographer. You’re going to love this book, you are just going to love this book and it just is such a pure Kansas book. I’m proud of Brenda for getting this done and I’m tickled to share it with you. Let’s watch this segment. (Frank) Now it’s mine. (Deb) Not for long. Grandfather says that to live good and long, a person should laugh hard every day and work hard enough to see results. He usually dishes out my share of work, but I can tell that he is about to top off the work with a heartfelt laugh. Thus begins the book, Grandfather Says: Native American Parables and other Lessons from Reservation Life. BC, Brenda Culbertson wrote in the book’s introduction that the stories included are mostly tales from her growing up on the Potawatomi Reservation in northeastern Kansas. This simple volume is illustrated by Brenda’s outstanding photography. This book is profound in its simplicity; written from the perspective of a child, it is honest, straightforward, poignant and funny. Brenda is trained as an astronomer and teaches as a profession, but the stories here are personal, some are parables familiar to all of us with her grandparents’ own unique twist, and others will be new. They are all filled with insight, humor and compassion. Many of the stories are conversations, like this one: I have been thinking about the kind of person I want to be when I grow up, I told Grandmother and Grandfather one day after supper. What do you mean, Grandmother asked me. You are a person now. Shouldn’t you think about the kind of person you are now? I mean, I am thinking of what kind of adult I want to be, I said. I want to be like you, Grandmother and Grandfather. Both of you are respected, kind and smart. That’s what I want to be like when I am grown up. If you want to be like that when you grow up, then you should be that before you grow up, Grandmother told me. You are already respectful, kind and smart. Why do you look to the future for what you are now? From the book, Grandfather Says.

(Frank) How time flies, we’re out of business. Out of business? [Laughter] (Deb) Hope not. (Frank) How time flies, we’re out of time. I’m Frank. (Deb) I’m Deb. (Frank) And we’ll see you somewhere… (Frank & Deb) …Around Kansas.

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