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  • Last modified 72 days ago (May 9, 2018)

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When Marion was a political hotbed

From the 1890s to the 1940s, Marion was a hotbed of politics, home to leading statewide figures across a broad political spectrum.

Among Republicans, E.W. Hoch became governor, and Homer Hoch became a congressman and state Supreme Court justice. Judge Frank Doster was a leading member of the Populists, at the time a prominent third party. Among Democrats, W.H. and W.R. Carpenter, who served two terms in Congress, were leaders along with this man, Henderson S. Martin.

A transplanted Illinois resident who became a prominent Marion lawyer with offices in the Bowron Building at 3rd and Main Sts., Martin was chairman of the Democratic Central Committee for the 4th Congressional District in the 1890s.

In 1894, during the second presidential term of Democrat Grover Cleveland, he became Marion postmaster, at the time a patronage position.

Republican E.W. Hoch wrote in the Record: “For the little time Democrats are to hold offices of this kind, Republicans would just as soon Martin would have it as any of them.”

Three years earlier, when Martin had been rumored as a potential candidate for district judge, Hoch had written: “The Record, of course, prefers a Republican judge big enough to be unpartisan on the bench, but it can heartily join in eulogy of Henderson Martin in all respects except his abominable politics.”

A rumored candidate for Congress from the Populist Party in 1898, Henderson went back to the Democrats and became chairman of the state Democratic Central Committee in the 1900s.

In 1913, Democratic President Woodrow Wilson appointed him vice governor and commissioner of education for the Philippines, which had become a U.S. territory at the conclusion of the Spanish-American War and continued as such until its independence after World War II.

As vice governor, Martin was instrumental in founding the Philippine central banking system. Salary for his position, which was heralded by the Record as the most prominent to which any Marion resident had even been selected, was the equivalent of $383,000 a year in today’s money.

After his service, Martin returned to Kansas and moved to Lawrence, where he led Douglas County Red Cross during World War I and eventually was named presiding judge of the Kansas Court of Industrial Relations, a special body established to mediate labor disputes after strikes were declared illegal in the wake of a contentious shutdown of the southeast Kansas coal mining industry.

Martin became a Democratic candidate for governor in 1922, losing in the primary to farmer Jonathan Davis, who went on to replace right-leaning Republican Henry Allen, whose heavy-handed silencing of protest over the strike had led famed Emporia editor William Allen White to write his Pulitzer Prize editorial, “To an Anxious Friend.”

Although Davis won the election in the year White wrote his editorial, Davis’s tenure was marked by scandal. He was arrested the day after he left office and tried twice on bribery charges, though acquitted both times.

Martin remained active in Democratic politics and was involved with W.H. Carpenter in an unsuccessful attempt in 1928 to replace the Kansas delegation to the Democratic National Convention with one loyal to eventual nominee Alfred E. Smith.

Last modified May 9, 2018

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