Owen B. Doyle, state labor commissioner of Kansas, is not only one of the most popular and efficient of the state's officials, but also one of the most democratic and approachable servants of the people to be found in the state capital. Mr. Doyle comes of stanch Irish ancestors, as both of his parents, John and Delia (Lyons) Doyle, were natives of Erin's soil. Each parent immigrated to America when young, met and married in this country and soon thereafter located in the little mining camp known as Rich Hill, Mo., where John Doyle secured employment as a coal miner, which occupation he continued to follow the rest of his active life. It was in that mining camp at Rich Hill, Mo., on March 20, 1881, that Owen B. Doyle was born and there amid the mines and miners he spent his boyhood and youth. He had but meager school advantages there, yet while in school he employed himself diligently to mastering the common branches, so that by the age of ten, when, as the eldest of a large family, he was compelled to enter the mines and assist his father in providing the necessaries of life, he had obtained a very good common school education. Therefore, it might be truthfully said that Mr. Doyle began life's battle at the age of ten and from that date down to the present he has been constantly on the firing line in the ranks of the wage earner. Realizing that his only opportunity to secure a better education depended on self-study and the burning of midnight oil he devoted himself for four long years to work in night schools, and thus secured a good business education. While yet a boy at work in the mines he began to develop more than an ordinary interest in the welfare of his co-workers and ere he had reached his majority he was one of the recognized leaders of his local. At the age of eighteen he came to Kansas and for a time mined coal at Litchfield, but later he decided to visit various states and while on that trip he worked in the mines of Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Illinois. In commenting on that tour of investigation Mr. Doyle intimates that at certain stages of the journey he was not adverse to an occasional ride in a "sidedoor sleeper" when finances were low and the walking was bad. After satisfying himself that the lot of a miner was as well conserved in the State of Kansas as anywhere else in the country, he located at Mineral, and soon became actively identified with the miner's local at that place. Being a man of excellent address, an earnest and logical debater and a good mixer, he soon became a local leader in the United Mine Workers of America, and was chosen to fill various offices in his local. For two succeeding years he served as president and chairman of the grievance committee of the big local at Mineral, known throughout the district as the Giant Local, owing to its large membership. He was elected several times to represent his local in district, state and national conventions and wherever placed he always acquitted himself with becoming dignity and honor. In 1898 the state legislature created the State Society of Labor and Industry, which has proved a blessing to organized labor throughout the state. In the same act the legislature also created the office of State Labor Commissioner as well as that of assistant state labor commissioner, and provided that each of these officials should be chosen by the organized labor of the state in a convention made up of delegates from each local in the state. While Mr. Doyle had become recognized as one of the leaders in the miner's organization still he had never cast longing glances beyond the honorary positions conferred on him by his many loyal brother workers in his local, for all of which he felt most grateful to his host of friends. It was not until 1907 that Mr. Doyle was finally persuaded to enter the domain of practical politics, when he was so urgently requested by his friends to become a candidate for assistant labor commissioner, that he could not refuse their wishes in the matter. After deciding to make the race he entered the field to win and although he was opposed by several very popular candidates he won out and was duly installed as assistant state labor commissioner. He filled that responsible position for four years, giving entire satisfaction, not only to organized labor, but to every class of civilians within the confines of the state. After successfully filling the above named position two successive terms his friends, believing that he had made good, urged him to become a candidate for the office of State Labor Commissioner to succeed the efficient retiring commissioner, W. L. A. Johnson, who refused a reëlection. At first Mr. Doyle declined to consider the opportunity offered to be elected to the office, until his friends assured him forty loyal votes, that he could count on in the convention from start to finish. This support was tendered to Mr. Doyle while en route to the convention, and came with such a unanimity from his home local that he could not decline it, although being at a great disadvantage in the race, due to the fact that several other candidates who were very popular had been in the field for some time, and as might be expected had set their stakes to win. However, when Mr. Doyle consented to make the race he felt confident that his record as assistant commissioner for the past four years would certainly give him a prestige that would easily offset any advantage his opponents might have gained by an earlier canvass of the field, and with this heart-felt assurance, as the result showed, he won an exceptionally hard fought victory, although every subterfuge and scheme that could be honorably employed was taken advantage of by the opposition in its efforts to defeat him. It was when nominations were in order in that convention that the opposition endeavored to play their trump card, which they had figured on as a sure winner, provided Mr. Doyle had the nerve to refuse to follow suit, and right then and there Owen Doyle demonstrated the sort of stuff he is made of, by refusing in a straightforward and manly manner to be bound by any cheap vote-getting pledge in order to secure his election. It had all been well planned, and was sprung on the convention just before the balloting was about to begin, by one of the candidates arising and pledging himself to resign the office, if elected, provided he did not fill it satisfactorily to the electors. Another candidate went him one better by agreeing to place his signed, but not dated, resignation in the hands of the convention, to be used in case he was caught dealing from the bottom of the deck. Others followed suit, and many of Mr. Doyle's supporters and friends urged him to also make a similar pledge. But in the midst of that trying ordeal Mr. Doyle manifested an independence of spirit that was typical of all of the best traditions of the Irish race, by absolutely refusing to be bound by any pledge other than his oath of office and his word of honor to fill the office with impartial justice to all, be he friend or foe. He stood squarely on his four years' record as their assistant labor commissioner, and if he was elected, it must be wholly on his record and not from any pledge or promise, possessing an implication that he might go wrong. While on the spur of the moment many of his friends thought he had erred, now they frankly admit that he did the only manly thing to do, and instead of losing prestige and support, he has gained it in the estimation of every one. Under tense excitement the vote was taken and counted, and when it was announced that Owen Doyle had won by two majority there was a general shout of approval, even by many who had opposed him. It is needless to say that since he became the state's labor commissioner he has made good, and today is recognized as one of the best friends that organized labor ever had in any capacity in the great State of Kansas.
Mr. Doyle is one of the youngest of the state officials, and only recently, on Sept. 6, 1911, was united in marriage with Miss Catherine M. Kane, of St. Louis, Mo., where she was born, reared and educated. Mr. and Mrs. Doyle have taken up their residence in Topeka, where both will be welcomed in church and social circles. Politically, Mr. Doyle may be classed as a progressive independent, and gives his support to the men and measures that he believes will best conserve the interests of the people. Fraternally he is a member of the Knights of Columbus, and at present holds the office of deputy grand knight in Topeka Council, No. 34. He is also a member of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, and the Woodman of the World, and both he and Mrs. Doyle are members of the Catholic church. Mr. Doyle belongs to that type of self-made men who believe that the opportunities for the young men of our day are as many and as alluring as in the days of old, and that all that any young man needs to start him on the road to success is honesty, sobriety, perseverance and industry.Pages 883-886 from volume III, part 2 of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed December 2002 by Carolyn Ward. This volume is identified at the Kansas State Historical Society as microfilm LM195. It is a two-part volume 3.
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