of Kansas, 1933-1937; presidential candidate
Alfred Mossman Landon was born
in West Middlesex, Pennsylvania, on September 9,
1887. His father was an oil prospector, and as
oil prospects moved so, too, did the Landon
family. Alfred grew up in Ohio, and received his
primary education at the Marietta (Ohio) Academy;
he moved with his family to Independence, Kansas,
at the age of seventeen.
Landon received his law degree
from the University of Kansas in 1908, but
decided to follow his father into the oil
industry rather than follow a law career. He
launched his own oil prospecting company in 1912,
and soon amassed a small fortune in his own
right. On January 9, 1915, he married Margaret
Fleming; she died while giving birth to the
couple's only child, Margaret Anne, in 1918. The
death of his wife prompted Landon to enlist in
the Army, but World War I
ended while he was still in training.
Landon and his father were
delegates to the Progressive Party national
convention that nominated Theodore Roosevelt for the presidency in 1912. His
vigorous statewide campaign for Roosevelt
ultimately earned him respect from the
progressive Republican establishment, and he
began rising through party ranks. In 1928, Landon
was elected chairman of the Kansas Republican
Party. He managed the successful gubernatorial
campaign of Clyde Reed that same year.
In 1930, Landon married Theo
Cobb, with whom he had one daughter, Nancy.
Governor of Kansas
In 1932, the Kansas Republican
Party chose Landon as its candidate for Governor.
Given that the country was then in the midst of
the Great Depression and that there happened to
be a Republican President (Herbert Hoover), it
was not a good year to be a Republican candidate
in any major election. Landon was not handicapped
by his party affiliation, however, as he was the
only Republican west of the Mississippi River to
win a gubernatorial contest that year. In 1934 he
was the only Republican Governor in the country
to win re-election.
As Governor, Landon did
everything he could to ease the Depression's
affects on Kansans. He reduced taxes, put a
moratorium on mortgage foreclosures, instituted
state-supported local relief programs, and pushed
a series of emergency banking laws through the
legislature. And, he did it all without
increasing the state debt.
Landon's successes as Governor
led many in the Republican Party to see him as
the natural choice to challenge incumbent President
Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936.
Landon took up the challenge, and officially
announced his candidacy at the 1935 American
Legion Convention. Although he did not officially
enter any Republican Party primaries, Landon
easily won the party's nomination.
Although a Republican, Landon
generally supported President Roosevelt's
"New Deal" goals. Rather than criticize
Roosevelt or the New Deal itself, he chose to
focus on flaws with many of the New Deal
programs, saying they were generally poorly
executed and far too costly. A rather weak public
speaker, he left most of the actual campaigning
to party officials, many of whom were far more
willing to openly criticize Roosevelt and the New
The Republicans may not have
liked President Roosevelt's New Deal, but the
general population did, as Landon only managed to
win the electoral votes of two states -- Maine
and Vermont. In one of the most lopsided
presidential elections in history, Roosevelt
garnered a total of 27,751,797 popular votes and
523 electoral votes, against the 16,679,583
popular votes and 8 electoral votes for Landon.
Following his failed
presidential bid, Landon finished out his term as
Kansas Governor and then retired from active
politics. He did not, however, retire from
offering advice and opinions when asked. He
supported U.S. participation in World War II
and endorsed President Harry Truman's Marshall
Plan, played a key role in the nomination of
Wendell Wilkie for President in 1940, and
actively supported much of President Lyndon Johnson's "Great Society" program.
Alfred Mossman Landon died in
Topeka on October 12, 1987.
Landon's second daughter, Nancy Landon Kassebaum, became the second woman to be elected
to the U.S. Senate in her own right in 1978; she
was re-elected in 1984 and 1990.
The Landon State Office
Building in Topeka is named in his honor.
World War I
Franklin D. Roosevelt
World War II
President Lyndon Johnson
Nancy Landon Kassebaum
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