Austin McCreary Keene

AUSTIN McCREARY KEENE. The subject of this sketch is one of the prominent and successful attorneys of Southeastern Kansas. He was born at Middletown, Ohio, September 4, 1865, the son of Marshall B. Keene and Jennette McCreary Keene.

Marshall Keene was born in 1823 at Keensburg, Illinois, a village in Wabash County named for his forbears. The Keenes of Keensburg have been men of prominence in that locality, having served as members of the Illinois Assembly, and been notable physicians and manufacturers. Jennette McCreary was born in Monroe, Ohio, in 1836, and was married to Marshall B. Keene in 1861. Mr. Keene was at that time a manufacturer of carriages in Monroe. He had at different times maintained factories in Cincinnati, in Hartford, Connecticut, and later in Monroe. Three children were born to them: Mary, now residing in Fort Scott; George W., living at Carthage, Missouri, a shoe manufacturer; and Austin M. In 1890 Mr. and Mrs. Keene removed to Kansas, settling in Fort Scott where their son Austin had been a practicing attorney since 1887. Here they are passing the evening of their days watched over by their children and grandchildren.

A. M. Keene spent his boyhood days in and about Middletown, his birthplace. His education was begun there. Later he attended a country school for some years, but graduated from the Middletown High School. He then entered the University of Michigan, at Ann Arbor, where he was graduated from the law school in 1887. Looking about for a place to settle and begin the practice of his profession he turned to Fort Scott, Kansas, where he went the year he completed his legal education. With Daniel F. Campbell young Keene formed a law partnership which lasted some three years. He then became associated with William Chenault, a partnership continuing five years. At the termination of this arrangement the law firm of Keene & Gates was formed, E. C. Gates being the junior partner. This continued for seventeen years, and the firm came to be recognized as one of the ablest in all Southeastern Kansas, having the largest and best appointed law offices in Fort Scott. In September, 1913, this partnership was dissolved, and since that time Mr. Keene has been in individual practice.

From the days of his early practice Mr. Keene has been an indefatigable worker, a hard student and a deep thinker. His law library is one of the finest and most complete in the state. Fitted by natural aptitude, and conscientious in his efforts, he has built for himself a most enviable reputation as a lawyer. His forensic ability is well known, and has established him in a foremost place among the legal talent of Kansas. It has also served him well in his legislative career. In 1911 he was appointed by the Kansas Supreme Court a member of the State Board of Law Examiners and is still a member of this board. And in his long practice as an attorney he has been frequently distinguished in recognition of his ability.

From his inheritance Mr. Keene could hardly fail to hold ideals of republicanism since he was reared in the tenets of the republican faith and party, and all his study along lines of political science and governmental functions has but served to crystallize the teachings of his youth. He has been stanch in his adherence to the republican party and has long been actively interested in political affairs being regarded as an exceedingly effective campaign speaker. His first political office was when he was elected to represent the Fort Scott District in the legislative session of 1911. Since then he has been re-elected to the sessions of 1913, 1915 and 1917. His first term proved his mettle, his common sense, the quality of justice which his profession had developed, and his great ability as a forceful and concise speaker brought him immediately to the fore. In the session of 1911 he served as chairman of the committee on assessment and taxation, and there was instrumental in bringing about tax reforms in the tax laws of the state. He was also an influential member of the judiciary committee which prepared the Public Utilities Act, through which all railroads, telegraph companies and other public utilities of Kansas are controlled. It was during this session of the Legislature that the Employers' Liability Act was passed and Mr. Keene was its author.

After his work in the House of Representatives of 1911 Governor Stubbs appointed him a member of a committee to investigate the state schools, as well as universities and colleges in other states, with a view to the formation of a central controlling board for all Kansas educational institutions. Of this committee Mr. Keene was made chairman and through his initiative a bill was drawn and presented to the Legislature of 1913 which provided for a State Board of Administration for the state schools. In this board is centralized the control of the eight state schools and the result has been both efficient and economical.

In the Legislature of 1915 Mr. Keene was floor leader for the republicans, and it was due to his generalship that republican measures were put through the House. In the sessions of 1915 and 1917 Mr. Keene was a power for constructive legislation. In 1917 he was speaker by acclamation. His legislative service has been of a character to increase his already large circle of friends and to bring him a state wide recognition as a leader. He is looked to as a logical candidate for governor and would bring to that office qualities which would reflect credit upon the state.

Mr. Keene is a graceful and finished speaker, possessing the gift of oratory in a high degree, is logical, forceful and clear in the expression of his thoughts, and has an exceptional command of language. He is in frequent demand as a speaker both at home and abroad, and never fails to delight his audience. He is a Knight Templar and Thirty-second degree Scottish Rite Mason, a member of the Mystic Shrine and belongs to the Loyal Order of Moose and the Order of Elks. In religious faith he is a Presbyterian

On May 15, 1889, Mr. Keene was married to Miss Mamie Chenault at Fort Scott. Mrs. Keene was born in Stanford, Kentucky, the daughter of Edward K. and Elizabeth (Hughes) Chenault, both natives of Kentucky. As the name indicates, the Chenaults are of French origin, while the Hughes branch is of Scotch descent. The Chenaults have long been identified with Fort Scott, Mr. Chenault having been a pioneer banker of that city. Mr. and Mrs. Keene have two children, Elizabeth Louise, now Mrs. Orlando Cheney; and Ruth Jeanette, the wife of William Buzzard. They both were born in Fort Scott, and both still reside there.


A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company, copyright 1918; transcribed October, 1997.
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