Landon, Alfred M.
LANDON, ALFRED M.
Alfred Mossman "Alf" Landon (September 7, 1887–October 12, 1987) was the governor of Kansas and Republican presidential candidate in 1936. Landon was born in West Middlesex, Pennsylvania, received a law degree from the University of Kansas in 1908, and became a successful independent oil producer and Republican politician. He was active in Theodore Roosevelt's Bull Moose campaign in 1912, was secretary to Kansas Governor Henry J. Allen in 1922, assisted William Allen White's campaign against the Ku Klux Klan in 1924, and narrowly won the governor's race in Kansas in 1932.
As governor, Landon confronted the effects of the Depression in Kansas and instituted measures to regulate banks, insurance companies, and public utilities. He also moved to protect farmers from bankruptcy, and he developed programs to bring relief to the hard-hit oil industry. Landon's ability to work with the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration resulted in Kansas receiving greater funding from New Deal agencies than did other midwestern states. In 1934, Landon was the only Republican governor in the nation to win reelection. This, together with his moderate conservativism, secured for him the Republican presidential nomination in June 1936, with Chicago publisher Frank Knox as his running mate.
With Roosevelt's popularity at its height, Republicans hoped that Landon's down-home midwestern image as a "liberal Calvin Coolidge" would attract an electorate thought to be weary of the urbane Roosevelt. Landon's campaign initially charted a moderate course, endorsing conservation, farm relief, balanced budgets, efficient administration, business expansion, and fairness to the poor, the unemployed, and organized labor. However, Landon's campaign failed to energize the electorate and was damaged by the vicious attacks launched upon Roosevelt and the New Deal by conservative Republicans and big business. With the election looming, Landon himself made increasingly desperate and immoderate attacks on the president. On November 3, 1936, Roosevelt was reelected in a landslide, receiving 27,751,841 votes compared to Landon's 16,679,491. Roosevelt received 60.8 percent of the popular vote; the plurality (11,072,350) was the largest in presidential election history. Roosevelt won 523 electoral votes to Landon's eight, the biggest margin since James Monroe in 1820. In addition, Roosevelt's coattails brought Democratic majorities in the Senate (75–16) and the House of Representatives (331–88).
Following his election defeat, Landon never again ran for public office, though he remained active in Republican politics for rest of his life. His daughter, Nancy Landon Kassebaum, was elected to the U.S. Senate from Kansas in 1978. Alfred Landon died in 1987, a month after his 100th birthday.
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Michael J. Webber