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Hon. Edward Alexander Enright. Distinguished as a statesman as well as for his achievements at the bar, Edward Alexander Enright is an honored, valued and admired citizen of Kansas City. For almost a quarter of a century he has been a prominent factor in the law and in public affairs, and his name stands foremost among the leaders who have organized, fathered and vitalized many of the progressive movements which have made Kansas the great commonwealth it now is.
Edward Alexander Enright was born September 17, 1858, at West Burke, Vermont, the seventh in a family of nine children born to Rev. Joseph and Katherine (Woir) Enright.
Rev. Joseph Enright was born at Kilrush, in County Clare, Ireland. He attended school there and being of studious habits and serious mind, very early dedicated himself to the ministry, accepting the faith of the Methodist Episcopal Church. It is probable that at that time but small encouragement was given in County Clare to the missionary efforts of the young preacher and naturally his thoughts turned to another country, in which he had learned there was a wider field of opportunity. Hence, in 1840, with little capital except faith, hope and innate goodness, he embarked for Canada on a sailing vessel, and after a weary voyage was safely landed in the Province of Quebee and settled in the hamlet of Waton, near Danville. There he not only preached the gospel but lived it, doing all in his power to bring comfort and happiness into the lives of people who had seldom experienced either. It was there that he met the admirable woman who became his wife, Katherine Weir. Her father was Rev. Alexander Weir, who was also a Methodist minister. In many ways the Weir family has been prominent in English history, not only in religious bodies but in public affairs and some of its members have sat in the Parliament.
About 1850 Mr. Enright removed with his family to Vermont and became a member of the Methodist Conference in the district in which the Town of West Burke was situated. He accepted the hard, laborious life of the itinerant Methodist preacher and as the conference decided he moved his home from place to place and thus served many churches in Vermont before his useful life came to a close, at Windsor, Vermont, in 1895. He was a self made man but during his long life attracted men of high scholarship; he never sought a public office of any kind, but so won the confidence of public men that they sought his advice and followed his counsel, this notably being the case on many occasions when an honored senator of the United States laid legislative plans before him before giving them support. Following the Golden Rule and ever allying himself with movements for the betterment of humanity, Mr. Enright never accumulated a large amount of worldly goods, but, through prudence and industry in conducting a farm, was able to give his family a comfortable home and to lay aside enough to assure the education of his children, this being one of the ambitions of his life. During the progress of the Civil war he gave a great deal of time to administering to the sick and wounded and although not connected officially with any military body, he held himself ready for any emergency and through his agency sorrowing families far from the battle field many times derived comfort from the knowledge that he had tenderly performed the last rites over the hero soldier’s grave. He was a man of simple, unaffected dignity and his memory still lingers in the section where his life of devotion was mainly spent.
Edward Alexander Enright attended first the public schools of Windsor, Vermont, and in 1878 was graduated from the high school and entered the University of Vermont, from which institution he was graduated with the highest honors of his class, in 1882. This made him an honorary member of the Phi Beta Kappa Greek letter fraternity. After graduation he taught school until 1883, at Cavendish, in Windsor County, Vermont, and then came as far west as Iowa and for one year was principal of the Smithland schools, in Woodbury County, going from there to Albion, Nebraska, where he was principal of the high school and one year later was elected county superintendent of Boone County and continued to fill that office for four years. During his teaching years he had devoted his leisure time to the study of law and had been admitted to the bar.
Although it would be a matter of pride to claim that Mr. Enright chose Kansas City as his home after considering the advantages of many others, the truth is that he located here in an accidental way, as it were. A beloved sister was a resident and she fell ill and Mr. Enright left excellent prospects in Nebraska in order to remain at her bedside. This was in 1890 and he soon determined to open a law office and enter into practice here and from that day to the present his name and fame have belonged to Kansas City.
Politically a republican, in 1897 he was elected chairman of the republican central committee. In 1898 he was elected county attorney for four years and it was during this time that he had arrested one William Atkins for violating the eight-hour law of the state and personally conducted this as a test case, advising therein with the attorney general of the state. By appeal this case was taken to the Supreme Court, which affirmed the constitutionality of the act, thus causing Mr. Enright to win his case. Another widely heralded case was that in which he gave his name as plaintiff in prosecuting a suit of injunction to prevent the Metropolitan Railway Company from securing a franchise which failed to secure to the citizens of Kansas City their just rights. He also gave his name in suit of mandamus compelling the board of county commissioners of Wyandotte County, Kansas, to raise the personal taxes of large corporations in the county.
Mr. Enright was first elected to the State Legislature in 1903, serving in the special session of 1904, and in 1907 was again elected a member of the Legislature and served through the special session. During his legislative period he was the father of numerous most important bills and through his earnest support and hard work many admirable laws were placed upon the statute book. He introduced bills concerning prison reform; for protecting cities against dishonest paving contractors and to guarantee factory protection for laborers. He was entrusted by labor commissioners of the state with special labor legislation and through his efforts many advantageous and labor reform laws were formulated. He supported the primary law; the anti-pass law, and introduced and had charge of bills authorizing Kansas City, Kansas, to purchase the franchise of the Metropolitan Water Company, thus establishing municipal ownership in the city. He was especially interested in the passage of bills protecting policy holders in insurance contracts, and in all measures that brought about right and justice especially to the oppressed.
Mr. Enright had been put forward as his party’s candidate for governor in 1902. He held other public offices than those mentioned and during the administration of President Theodore Roosevelt served four months as Indian commissioner at Checota, Indian Territory. He resigned this office in order to return to his law practice, which had grown to large proportions. Having given much attention to insurance law he has done a large amount of court business for fraternal organizations in which insurance is a feature. He is known all over the country as an able representative of leading fraternal orders in the courts of the land, not only because of his powers as a public speaker, but because of his absolute understanding of every technicality of the law. Aside from his other interests, Mr. Enright is interested in various prospering industries of the state and is a director of the Home State Bank and the Minn Avenue State Bank, both of Kansas City.
Mr. Enright is a thirty-second degree Mason. He belongs to the Knights of Maccabees of the World; to the Brotherhood of American Yeomen; to the Knights of Pythiss; to the Royal Neighbors, in which he was chairman of the beneficiary committee for five years; and has been a member of the law committee of the Modern Woodmen of America for a longer time than any other individual; and has held committee appointments and been a delegate to the Supreme conventions of the order of Ben Hur and other bodies.
Mr. Enright was married July 26, 1888, to Miss Myra Belle Brewer, who is a daughter of H. W. and Martha Brewer, of Red Cloud, Nebraska, and they have one daughter, Myra Alice, a most attractive young lady and a social favorite. Mrs. Enright is a member of the Methodist Protestant Church.
Mrs. Enright’s parents were pioneers in Wisconsin. From there they removed to Stark County, Illinois, and afterward to Red Cloud, Nebraska, where Mr. Brewer was a grain buyer for forty years and was also in business at Kansas City, Missouri. His death occurred March 27, 1900, after which Mrs. Brewer made her home with Mr. and Mrs. Enright until her death, on May 22, 1912.
Perhaps no woman in the United States is better known in the great fraternal order of the Royal Neighbors than is Mrs. Enright. She has been officially identified with the Eastern Star, the Yeomen and the Young Women’s Christian Association, but her special work has been with the Royal Neighbors of America. She is a charter member of Laurel Camp No. 84, of Kansas City, Kansas, which now has a membership of 700 and increasing each year. She has been officially connected with this organization since 1897, having served two years as supreme chancellor; two years as a member of the law committee; two years as supreme receiver; eight years as a member of the board of supreme managers, being its chairman for three years and continuing officially after the terms were changed from biennial to triennial. She has been supreme oracle or president of the national organization since 1911, receiving at the time of her first election, three-fourths of the vote cast and at her second election the vote was unanimous. During her administration membership has increased from 200,000 to 375,000.
It is a law of the Royal Neighbors that only women shall fill the offices. Mrs. Enright takes an interest in everything looking toward betterment and uplift and is active in civic clubs and associated charities.