Alfred Landon

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Alfred M. Landon
Alfred Landon

26th Governor of Kansas
In office
January 9, 1933 – January 11, 1937
Lieutenant(s) Charles W. Thompson
Preceded by Harry H. Woodring
Succeeded by Walter A. Huxman

Born September 9, 1887
Flag of Pennsylvania West Middlesex, Pennsylvania
Died October 12, 1987 (age 100)
Flag of Kansas Topeka, Kansas
Political party Republican
Spouse Margaret Fleming, Theo Cobb
Profession banker, oilman, politician
Religion Methodist

Alfred "Alf" Mossman Landon (September 9, 1887 – October 12, 1987) was an American politician who served as Governor of Kansas from 1933-1937. He was a banker and oil-well operator before he ran for public office. Landon was a key figure in the United States Republican party in the 1930s. He was best known as a Republican Presidential Nominee, defeated in a landslide victory by Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1936 presidential election. The Republican party, among other motives, overplayed their hand to the degree that they decried the Democratic party proposed Social Security system. Across the United States the election was expected to be close. Literary Digest, a leading publication, had famously predicted a Republican victory, and in the days before reliable polling, no one knew how the Republican tactics would play. When the early election results came in, Roosevelt asked for confirmation; the differences were so large. However, they were clearly accurate. Roosevelt, defeating Alf Landon, was the first president since George Washington to gain the presidency by such an overwhelming victory.[1]

Early Life

Landon was born in 1887, to John Manuel and Anne Mossman Landon. The family lived in West Middlesex, Pennsylvania, at the time of Landon's birth. Later they moved to Ohio where Landon attended Marrietta Academy. Finally they settled in Kansas. Landon graduated from the University of Kansas in 1908 with a law degree. He first pursued a career in banking, but in 1912, he became an independent petroleum producer. He married Margaret Fleming on January 9, 1915, but their union was short lived. She died in 1918. Twelve years later, in 1930, he married Theo Cobb. During World War I, he served in the United States Army as an officer (first lieutenant) in a chemical warfare unit. Following the death of his first wife, Landon immersed himself in his work and became a millionaire in the oil industry by 1929.

Political career

Landon's interest in politics began early in his life. He supported Theodore Roosevelt's Progressive Party bid for the United States presidency in 1912, when he was 24 years old, and, in 1922, he served as private secretary to the governor of Kansas. He later became known as the leader of the liberal Republicans in the state. He was elected chairman of the Republican state central committee in 1928, and directed the Republican successful presidential and gubernatorial campaigns in Kansas in that year.

Landon was elected Governor of Kansas in 1932. He was re-elected governor in 1934, the only Republican governor in the United States to be re-elected that year. He served as governor from 1933 until 1937. As the Governor of Kansas, Landon gained a reputation for reducing taxes and balancing the state budget. Landon is often described as a fiscal conservative who believed that government must also address social issues. He supported parts of the New Deal but openly opposed labor unions.

1936 election

In 1936, Landon sought the Republican presidential nominee opposing the re-election of FDR. At the Republican National Convention in 1936, Landon's campaign manager, John Hamilton, mobilized the younger elements of the party against the faction led by Herbert Hoover. Landon won the nomination on the first ballot; the convention selected Chicago newspaper publisher (and future Roosevelt administration Secretary of Navy) Frank Knox as his running mate.

Landon proved to be an inept campaigner who rarely left his front porch and did not participate in the Republican primaries. Most of the attacks on FDR and social security during the 1936 election were developed by Republican campaigners rather than Landon himself. In the first two months following his nomination he made no campaign appearances. Columnist Westbrook Pegler lampooned, "Considerable mystery surrounds the disappearance of Alfred M. Landon of Topeka, Kansas…. The Missing Persons Bureau has sent out an alarm bulletin bearing Mr. Landon's photograph and other particulars, and anyone having information of his whereabouts is asked to communicate direct with the Republican National Committee."[2]

Landon respected and admired Roosevelt and accepted much of the New Deal but to the rest he objected that it was hostile to business and involved too much waste and inefficiency. Late in the campaign, Landon accused Roosevelt of corruption. Landon declared that Roosevelt was acquiring so much power that he was subverting the Constitution. He said:

The President spoke truly when he boasted… "We have built up new instruments of public power." He spoke truly when he said these instruments could provide "shackles for the liberties of the people … and … enslavement for the public." These powers were granted with the understanding that they were only temporary. But after the powers had been obtained, and after the emergency was clearly over, we were told that another emergency would be created if the power was given up. In other words, the concentration of power in the hands of the President was not a question of temporary emergency. It was a question of permanent national policy. In my opinion the emergency of 1933 was a mere excuse…. National economic planning—the term used by this Administration to describe its policy—violates the basic ideals of the American system…. The price of economic planning is the loss of economic freedom. And economic freedom and personal liberty go hand in hand.[3]

The 1936 presidential election was extraordinarily lopsided. Although Landon gained nearly 17 million votes and obtained the endorsement of track star Jesse Owens, he lost the popular vote by more than 10 million votes. He lost his home state Kansas and carried only Maine and Vermont for a total of 8 electoral votes to Roosevelt's 523. FDR's win was the most crushing electoral victory since 1820. The overwhelming Roosevelt victory prompted Democratic party boss James Farley to joke, "As Maine goes, so goes Vermont."[4]

Later life and legacy

Following his defeat, Landon finished out his term as governor of Kansas and returned to the oil industry. He did not seek public elective office again.

The Republicans' defeats in 1932 and 1936, plunged their party into a period of bitter intra-party strife. Landon played an important role in ending this internal bickering in 1938, in helping to prepare a new group of leaders for the presidential campaign of 1940, and in trying to bring about a compromise between the isolationist and internationalist viewpoints in foreign policy. Landon failed to enter Franklin Roosevelt's Cabinet because he made his acceptance contingent upon the President's renunciation of a third term.[5]

After war broke out in Europe in 1939, Landon fought against isolationists such as America First, who supported the Neutrality Act. He feared it would mislead Nazi Germany into thinking the United States was unwilling to fight. In 1940, he spoke out against lend-lease, urging instead that Great Britain be given $5 billion outright. After the war, he backed the Marshall Plan, while opposing high domestic spending. After the communist takeover of China, he was one of the first to advocate recognition of Mao Zedong's government, and its admission to the United Nations when this was still a very unpopular position among the leadership and followers of both major United States political parties.

In 1961, he urged the U.S. to join the European Common Market. In November 1962, when he was asked to describe his political philosophy, Landon said: "I would say practical progressive, which means that the Republican party or any political party has got to recognize the problems of a growing and complex industrial civilization. And I don't think the Republican party is really wide awake to that." Later in the 1960s, Landon backed President Lyndon Johnson on Medicare and other Great Society programs.

On December 13, 1966, Landon gave the first "Landon Lecture" at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas. Landon's lecture, titled "New Challenges in International Relations," was the first in a series of public issues lectures that continues to this day and has featured numerous world leaders and political figures, including seven U.S. presidents (Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush).

Landon died October 12, 1987, in Topeka, Kansas, 34 days after his 100th birthday. When he died, he was the earliest born U.S. governor of any state still living, a title he assumed in 1984, on the death of George Alexander Parks, the Governor of the Alaska Territory from 1925 to 1933, who died 18 days short of his 101st birthday, another centenarian. When Landon died, the title went to Albert B. Chandler of Kentucky. Alf Landon is buried at Mount Hope Cemetery, Topeka, Shawnee County, Kansas.

His daughter, Nancy Landon Kassebaum, was a United States Senator from Kansas. Elected to the U.S. Senate in 1978, she was re-elected in 1984 and 1990. Her second husband is her former senatorial colleague Howard Henry Baker, Jr., of Tennessee.


  1. Ben Brothers,As Maine goes, so goes Vermont: A history of GOP attempts to kill Social Security. Retrieved December 17, 2007.
  2. Time Magazine, Livingstone's Travels. Retrieved December 11, 2007.
  3. Time Magazine, Going Places. Retrieved December 11, 2007.
  4. Ben Brothers, A history of GOP attempts to kill Social Security Retrieved December 11, 2007.
  5. Mayer.

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Mayer, George H. 1966. Alf M. Landon, As Leader of the Republican Opposition, 1937-1940. The Kansas Historical Quarterly. 32, no. 3.
  • McCoy, Donald R. Landon of Kansas. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1966.
  • Thornton, Willis. The Life of Alfred M. Landon. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1936.

External links

All links retrieved July 20, 2023.

Political offices
Preceded by:
Harry H. Woodring
Governor of Kansas
January 9, 1933 – January 11, 1937
Succeeded by: Walter A. Huxman
Party Political Offices
Preceded by:
Herbert Hoover
Republican Party presidential candidate
Succeeded by: Wendell Willkie
Honorary Titles
Preceded by:
George Alexander Parks
Earliest serving US governor
1984 – 1987
Succeeded by: Albert B. Chandler


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