Charles Curtis was born in
Topeka, on January 25, 1860. His mother was of American Indian
ancestry. Through his mother's side, Curtis was a
great-grandson of a Kansa (Kaw) Indian chief. His mother died
when Charles was only three. After her death, he lived the early
portion of his life with his maternal grandmother and other
relatives on the Kansa Indian Reservation near Council Grove.
During this time the Kansa were having conflicts with the
Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians. In 1868, young Charles was sent
back to Topeka to live with his paternal grandmother.
As a youth he worked at various
occupations and even had a local reputation as a jockey. His
knowledge of the law was obtained in the office of Topeka attorney
A. H. Case, where he served first as clerk and later as partner.
In 1884, he was elected county prosecutor and became widely known
for his strict enforcement of the prohibition law. His rise to
national prominence began with his election to the House of
Representatives in 1892, an office he would hold for the next
While in the House he served on the
prestigious Ways and Means Committee and Committee on Indian
Affairs and Public Lands. Curtis was the author of a bill which in
1898 made changes in the Indian Territory as well as several other
pieces of legislation that affected the tribes. In January 1907,
Curtis was elected by the legislature to fill the unexpired term
of Kansas Senator Joseph R. Burton and subsequently to his own
full term, March 4, 1907 - March 3, 1913. Although an unsuccessful
candidate for reelection in 1912, Curtis regained a seat in the
U.S. Senate in the election of 1914. Recognizing his abilities,
the Republican caucus made him party whip in 1915.
Curtis worked tirelessly in this
position. Behind the scenes he was continuously active in
organizing and coordinating the party's strength. He served on
many committees including Coast Defenses, Cuban Relations, the
Five Civilized Tribes, Pensions, Fisheries, Committee on Rules
(chairman), Finance and Appropriations and Indian Affairs. Much of
the legislation he sponsored related to agricultural and Indian
questions. He succeeded Senator Henry Cabot Lodge as majority
leader in 1925.
1928, his western popularity, due to his stand on farm
relief, made him a presidential prospect. After the dust
settled at the Republican convention, he emerged as
Herbert Hoover's vice presidential running mate and served
the nation in that capacity for one term, March 4, 1929 -
March 3, 1933. The Hoover-Curtis ticket failed in its 1932
reelection bid and Curtis retired from public office but
he continued an active interest in political affairs.
Curtis died at the Washington, D.C. home of his sister on
February 8, 1936. He is buried in the Topeka Cemetery.
Information Kansas Historical Society
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