Walter Roscoe Stubbs, eighteenth governor of the State of Kansas after it was admitted into the Union, is a native of the Hoosier State, born on a farm near the city of Richmond, Wayne county, Indiana, Nov. 7, 1858. His parents, John T. and Esther (Bailey) Stubbs, were of Quaker ancestry, brought up to despise shams and hyprocrisya trait which the governor has inherited in a marked degree. While he was still in his infancy his parents removed to Iowa, where they lived until 1869, when they settled at Hesper, Douglas county, Kansas. Here the future governor attended the common schools and was for a time a student in the University of Kansas at Lawrence. His youth was passed in various occupations. Sometimes he was engaged in farm work, sometimes as clerk in a store, and sometimes in driving a team. The last named seemed to have a special attraction for him, and shortly before he attained to his majority he obtained a pair of mules and took a contract for grading a mile or two of railroad. Securing another team in addition to his own he completed the work according to his agreement, made a little money in the transaction, and thus laid the foundation for a business which in a few years ran into millions of dollars annually. When the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad Company decided to build a line from St. Louis to Kansas City there was a spirited rivalry among contractors for the work of grading and bridging the roadbed. Mr. Stubbs entered the list of competitors and, with that careful attention to details that has made him so successful in his business enterprises, he drove over the proposed route, examining closely the nature of the work to be done, submitted a bid and secured the contract, which amounted to over $3,000,000. This work he completed on time, to the satisfaction of the company, and with a reasonable profit to himself. Being thus placed upon a sound financial basis he extended his operations in railroad construction until he became one of the best known contractors in the West, furnishing employment at times to several thousand men, with headquarters in Chicago, St. Louis, Kansas City, Los Angeles, and other important cities as occasion demanded. As a large employer of men his knowledge of human nature was increased to such an extent that he rarely makes a mistake in his estimate of those with whom he comes in contact, a faculty that has been of great benefit to him in his political career.
Governor Stubbs did not enter politics until 1902, when he was nominated by the Republicans of Douglas county for representative in the state legislature, and in November of that year was elected. This honor came to him without solicitation on his part, but having been elected he set about discharging the duties of the office with the same fidelity that has always been such a prominent trait in his character in his private business. Soon after the beginning of the legislative session he came to the conclusion that the state was paying a number of unnecessary employees and attacked the custom with such vigor and intelligence as to bring him into the limelight. The inherent qualities of his Quaker ancestrycourage, rugged honesty, and a love of fair playat once marked him as a man needed in Kansas politics. He was reëlected to the legislature in 1904, and at the ensuing session was made speaker of the house. While occupying the speaker's chair he advocated and secured an important reform in the methods of doing the state printing, and in other ways demonstrated that he believed public office to be a public trust instead of a source of private emolument. In 1904 he was chairman of the Republican state central committee, and in the campaign a number of pledges were made which he insisted should be kept. Before the beginning of the legislative session he had a number of bills in the way of reform legislation prepared, such as placing the state's charitable institutions under one board of control and inaugurating the civil service system among the employees in such institutions; to revise the methods of doing the state printing, and to provide for the nomination of all candidates by primary election. As speaker of the house he fought for the passage of these matters, and with regard to the number of employees by the house he appointed a committee to look after the matter, with the result that while in the legislature of 1903 there were 232 people on the pay roll, in 1905 the number was reduced to less than 70 without any impairment of the service. In 1906 he was a third time elected to represent his district in the legislature, and, true to the record he had previously established, made such a strong and vigorous fight for honest, decent government that he became the favorite candidate for governor of the state. In 1908 he was nominated by the people for this high office, being the first governor of the state to receive his nomination direct from the people at a state-wide primary under a law for which he had made a four years' fight to place upon the statute books of Kansas. His message to the legislature showed him to be a man of progressive ideas, and in 1910 the people of Kansas showed their sympathy with his views by again nominating him for governor in one of the most hotly contested primaries in the history of the country. He was elected for his second term in November, 1910, and entered upon the duties of his second administration the following January. A recent writer says of Governor Stubbs: "He holds the man above the dollar with great persistence and if he regards property highly it is because it is the product of human toil and not a mere possession of wealth."
The strong individuality of Governor Stubbs has made its impress upon Kansas affairs. As a member of the progressive wing of the Republican party he has been consistenteven if somewhat radical at timesin his advocacy of such measures as the initiative and referendum, public control of certain corporate interests, and the recall of unworthy or incompetent public officials. Not only has his individuality been made manifest in state affairs, but he fights also with equal force those moral ideas that are such vital necessities in the building up a great state. Education, civic righteousness, good roads, everything that contributes to comfort and success in life, finds in him a strong supporter. His inauguration as governor may be said to mark the beginning of an epoch in the history of Kansas. The primary law under which he was nominated is a long step toward placing the government in the hands of the people instead of delegate conventions, the members of which were so frequently chosen by corrupt and underhand methods. The measures advocated by the governor while in office have been of such character as still further to restore the institutions of the state to their pristine purityin other words, "to get back to the people." Such men make enemies, but the enemies they make are only additional evidences of the purity of their aims and a compliment to their courage. Governor Stubbs is a Thirty-second degree Mason; a public-spirited citizen; takes a keen interest in all questions relating to civic progress, and no doubt the history of the future will accord him a place as one of the truly great chief executives of Kansas.Pages 32-34 from volume III, part 1 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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