This week’s Images celebrates a Kansas legend, Alf Landon. Twenty eight years ago today, Landon passed away at the age of 100. The Republican Party’s nominee for the President of the United States, Landon run against President Franklin Roosevelt in 1936.
The results were historically disastrous. Landon lost the popular vote by more than 10 million votes. Even the state of Kansas voted for Roosevelt. The electoral vote proved to be down right ugly, 523 – 8. How then did defeated candidate go on to become one of the state’s most beloved legends? Frankly, I am not sure. Yes, Landon served as Governor for two terms. He balanced the state’s budget in the difficult times of Depression, and always spoke out on a variety of issues with the good of Kansas at heart.
Historians note Landon was averse to campaigning, but his thoughts on the changing times during his long life proved to be profound for young politicos. His series of Landon Lectures at Kansas State University hosted seven Presidents and continue today. His second daughter, Nancy, served three terms as a United States Senator.
Yet, the way Landon lived his life with joy and conviction I believe made him so popular. He aged gracefully. On a beautiful spread of land in west Topeka, Landon continued to ride his horses in a stately manner until late in his life. He became a wondrous character and a perfect subject for a long list of photographers from the Topeka paper.
By the time I began my work at the paper, I was too young and inexperienced to be granted time with Landon. As I matured both personally and professionally, certain photographers had grown popular with Landon. I was happy for them. Blessed by a long list of other politicians and sports figures I photographed, the excellent work of the others worked wonderfully for our paper.
That is not to say I never photographed Landon and did make photographs the very particular man enjoyed. The image of Landon emerging from the voting booth in his riding attire after voting for his daughter, Nancy Kassebaum, was one. I photographed the Senator more than her father over the years, including the image of the state house funeral service after the passing of Landon in 1987.