Politician, vice president of the United States. Republican. Born: January 25, 1860, Topeka. Died: February 8, 1936, Washington, D.C. Served in U.S. House of Representatives, Fourth and First Districts: March 4, 1893, to March 4, 1899; March 4, 1899, to January 28, 1907. Served in U.S. Senate: January 29, 1907, to March 4, 1913; March 4, 1915, to March 4, 1929. Served as 31st vice president of the United States: March 4, 1929, to March 4, 1933.
Charles Curtis was born January 25, 1860, in Topeka, Kansas, to Oren Arms and Ellen (Pappan) Curtis. His mother had American Indian ancestry—Kansa, Osage, and Potawatomi. Curtis’ mother died when he was three and his early life was spent with his maternal grandmother and other relatives on the Kaw Indian Reservation near Council Grove. Life was unsettled on the reservation. Due to conflicts among the Kaws, Cheyennes, and Arapahos, young Curtis was sent to Topeka in 1868 to live with his paternal grandmother.
As a youth Curtis worked at various occupations including as a jockey. He worked as a clerk for Topeka attorney A. H. Case and later as partner. He was elected county prosecutor in 1884 and became widely known for his strict enforcement of the prohibition law. Curtis married Annie Elizabeth Baird on November 27, 1884. They had three children.
Curtis rose to national prominence with his election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1892, an office he would hold for the next eight terms. He served on the prestigious House Ways and Means Committee and Committee on Indian Affairs and Public Lands. Curtis authored a bill that made changes to Indian Territory and sponsored other legislation that impacted the tribes. In January 1907 Curtis was elected to fill the unexpired term of U.S. Senator Joseph R. Burton from Kansas. He was subsequently elected to a full term, from 1907 to 1913. He ran an unsuccessful campaign in 1912, but regained the U.S. Senate seat in 1914. The Republican caucus elected him party whip in 1915. In this position Curtis worked to organize and coordinate the party. He served on many committees including Coast Defenses, Cuban Relations, the Five Civilized Tribes, Pensions, Fisheries, Committee on Rules (chairman), Finance and Appropriations, and Indian Affairs. Much of the legislation he sponsored related to agriculture and American Indians. He was elected majority leader in 1925.
At the 1928 Republican convention, with a popular stand on farm relief, Curtis was nominated as Herbert Hoover's vice presidential running mate. The team was elected to one term, 1929 to 1933. He retired from public office and continued an active interest in political affairs.
Curtis died February 8, 1936, in Washington, D.C., at the home of his sister. He is buried in Topeka Cemetery.
If you don't want the laws enforced, then don't vote for me.—Charles Curtis
View primary sources related to Charles Curtis in Kansas Memory.
Inducted into the Kansas Walk of Honor in 2012.
Entry: Curtis, Charles
Author: Kansas Historical Society
Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.
Date Created: June 2003
Date Modified: January 2014
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