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Governor 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.
Early Political Career
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 Deal.
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.
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This page was last updated on September 23, 2017.