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MEMORIES IN FOCUS: A home with a history in politics years ago

MARION HISTORICAL MUSEUM PHOTO

Upon returning from World War I in 1919, Marion lawyer Randolph Carpenter, later to become a two-term congressman, built this stately home, now owned by Justin and Wendy Youk, at the north end of 3rd St. in Marion. The next year, he married fellow Marion resident Helen Frances Williams.

Marion was a hotbed of politics through the 1930s, with leading statewide figures of every political ilk.

Fiery Populist, later socialist, Frank Doster (1847-1933) was the state’s chief justice from 1897 to 1903.

Anti-populist Republican E.W. Hoch (1849-1925), publisher of this newspaper, was governor from 1905 to ’09.

Son Homer (1879-1949), who also served as state chief justice from 1938 to ’49, was a seven-term congressman from 1919 to ’33.

And then there was this man, the Marion Democrat who defeated Hoch in 1932: Randolph Carpenter (1894-1956), who served two terms in Congress from 1933 to 1937.

Later U.S. attorney for Kansas from 1945 to ’48, he was an unsuccessful Democratic candidate for governor that year and eventually became a member of the U.S. Motor Carrier Claims Commission from 1950 to ’52.

Born April 24, 1894, in Marion, Carpenter graduated from Marion schools and, along with local attorney D.W. Wheeler, attended law school at the University of Michigan, returning to Marion to practice law just as American involvement in World War I was beginning.

He organized Company M, the area’s National Guard unit, serving as its second lieutenant. He was promoted to first lieutenant and acting captain after the unit was activated as part of the 35th Infantry Division and send to the Argonne offensive in Belgium.

Returning to Marion in 1919, Carpenter helped organize the local American Legion post, built a stately home, shown above, at the north end of 3rd St., and the next year married fellow Marion resident Helen Frances Williams (1896-1994).

Despite being active in state Democratic Party politics, his first try for elective office was not successful, narrowly losing a state representative race in 1922 despite what otherwise was a Democratic sweep of local offices.

At the time, the Democratic-leaning Marion Review, which later merged with the Record, wrote:

“Carpenter is a man unusually well fitted for this office. He is one of the county’s rising young lawyers, being a partner with his father, W.H. Carpenter. Another sterling qualification is his overseas record.”

During the war, the Review’s pages frequently featured lengthy letters he wrote from the front, informing hometown readers of Company M’s progress.

“If he did not have these qualifications,” the Review wrote, “his everyday friends and acquaintances could heartily recommend him as a man to be trusted to work for the best interests of his constituents.”

After his defeat by 26 votes, the Review concluded: “Democrats and Republicans alike united in regretting this unfortunate result.”

His subsequent campaigns went better.

Before unseating Homer Hoch for Congress, he was secretary of the chamber of commerce, a member of the school board from 1925 to ’33 and state representative from 1929 to ’33.

Despite Democrat Franklin Roosevelt’s resounding victory over Kansas Republican Alf Landon in 1936, Carpenter did not seek renomination that year and resumed the practice of law.

He died July 26, 1956, in Topeka and was buried in Marion Cemetery.

Last fall, rural Marion resident Judy Houdyshell posted to YouTube almost 26 minutes of digitized home movies Carpenter captured of Marion street scenes in 1938. They can be viewed at:

http://mnks.us/1938video.html

Last modified April 4, 2019

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