The Life of Kansas Statesman Arthur Capper

(Frank) We’re back again. (Deb) So Frank, you’ve got a great connection to Arthur Capper, because you worked with him. (Frank) Well it was Alf Landon then, of course they were very good friends. When I worked for Alf he was at the radio station, WREN, virtually every day, and he liked to chat with the people that were around there. At one time the Republican Party in the State of Kansas pretty much ran the Republican Party nationally, with Arthur Capper and the Stauffers and Alf Landon, and anyway, they were very good friends and they conferred on a lot of issues. (Deb) So did you get to meet Capper? (Frank) No, I did not. He was long gone before. (Deb) I knew that so, even as a child did you get to see him when? (Frank) No, how old do you think I am? [Laughter] (Deb) You just said you were married for 54 years. (Frank) I know, but Arthur Capper he was deceased in 1951. (Deb) You were around in 1951. (Frank) But I didn’t live in Topeka in 1951, so I did not know him personally, I knew who he was when I was what, six years old. [Laughter] (Deb) Yes, we’re not even going to get into my age. (Frank) But, anyway, he was really quite a publicist and the statesman. He was one of the great ones. (Deb) He was a remarkable man. So his new statue of course is on Kansas Avenue, and we are taking a look at all those folks who are being memorialized on Kansas Avenue. So here’s Arthur Capper. (Frank) Arthur Capper was proud of the fact that he was the first governor born in Kansas. Born in Garnett on the heels of the Civil War and just weeks after the Lincoln assassination, Capper was to find himself in the midst of history. According to the Kansas State Historical Society, at the age of 14 he became a “printer’s devil” with the Garnett Journal. After graduation from high school Capper went to work as a typesetter for the Topeka Daily Capital. Working his way up at the newspaper, he became an editor and served as correspondent for the state legislature and U.S. Congress. In 1892, Capper married Florence Crawford, daughter of Governor Samuel Crawford. The couple had no children. Capper left Kansas and took a position with the New York Tribune. He later worked as a congressional correspondent in Washington, D.C., before returning to his native state. Capper purchased two Topeka newspapers, the Mail and the Breeze. He later acquired controlling interest in the Daily Capital. By 1911 the Saturday Evening Post called Capper’s Capital “one of the best and brightest dailies in the West.” Capper became the 20th governor, serving two terms, followed by five terms as U.S. senator, 1919 to 1949. In 1927 Capper purchased WIBW, among the first radio stations in the state. An advocate of children’s welfare, Capper established a number of events and programs to assist the state’s youth. The Capper birthday party was a popular summer event from 1908 until 1951, when the flood forced its cancellation. He established agricultural clubs that loaned money to students so they could start modest businesses. These clubs eventually merged into the 4-H movement. To benefit children with disabilities, Capper formed a foundation in Topeka in 1920. He also organized the Goodfellows’ Club of Topeka. Capper became one of the nation’s leading publishers of the decade and was featured on the cover of Time magazine. He served as chair of the Senate’s agriculture and forestry committees during the 80th Congress, and chose not to seek reelection in 1948. Capper died December 19, 1951, in Topeka.

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