Nancy Landon Kassebaum, former U.S. Senator from Kansas, is home for good at her ranch near Burdick after the death of her husband, former Senator Howard Baker of Tennessee, in 2014.
She lives in a renovated limestone house that was on the ranch when she purchased it in 1983. She lives on a gravel road and walks a half-mile to her mailbox.
Kassebaum said Howard loved coming out to Kansas. He rode with her son, Bill, to check cattle. Howard was with her when her granddaughter, Theo Kassebaum, graduated from Centre High School in 2012.
“This has always been my favorite place,” she said. “The Flint Hills has its own beauty. The only sounds you hear at night are coyotes and the wind.”
She spoke Sept. 22 at the Sunflower Fair in Salina and voiced strong support for small communities and places where senior citizens can gather to visit.
Kassebaum and former Kansas Senator Bob Dole had a special booth prepared for them Sept. 19 at the Kansas State Fair, where they greeted friends and well-wishers for several hours. They have a longstanding relationship, having served together during Kassebaum’s entire Senate career. She was his national co-chairman when he ran for president in 1980.
Later in the afternoon, they went to another building, where Dole sought donations for the construction of an Eisenhower Memorial in Washington, District of Columbia.
“I left at 4:30,” Kassebaum said. “I was tired, but Bob was loving it. Here I am, at 83, and he’s 92, and he has more energy than I do.”
Kassebaum was four months old when her father, Alf Landon, was elected Governor of Kansas. It was 1932, and the Great Depression was in full swing. Four years later, he was nominated as the Republican candidate to run against President Franklin Roosevelt, who was re-elected by a landslide.
Back then, campaigning didn’t start until after Labor Day, Kassebaum said. Her father traveled around the country by train, often speaking to crowds from train platforms.
She surmises her father got the nomination because he was the only Republican governor west of Mississippi who was re-elected in 1934. He served two two-year terms.
Landon was a graduate of the University of Kansas and had his own oil-drilling business. The Landon Lecture Series at KU was named after him.
Kassebaum said she didn’t plan to run for political office, but growing up in a political family, she naturally developed an interest in politics.
“We always talked about it around the dinner table,” she said. “We didn’t have air conditioning or television, so we often sat outside on the front porch in the evening while my father listened to baseball on the radio.”
She was married to Philip Kassebaum for 23 years and had four children who grew up at Maize — John, Linda, Richard (now deceased), and Bill.
She served on the board of education of the Maize school district before defeating Bill Roy of Wichita in the 1978 general election to become the first woman to represent Kansas. She was 48 years old and served as Senator until 1997.
“I wanted to come back to Kansas to be near my grandchildren,” she said.
She was married to Baker for 18 years. They lived four years in Japan, where he served as U.S. Ambassador.
“Howard always said that Tennessee was the center of the universe,” Kassebaum said, “but I said, ‘No, no, Kansas is