Biography of Walter Roscoe Stubbs
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Walter Roscoe Stubbs. The distinctive features of the service rendered by Mr. Stubbs as governor of Kansas from 1908 to 1912 had been described on other pages of this history. A few other details as to his work as governor and something as to his personality and career will be of wide interest to the citizens of Kansas.
Everyone knows former Governor Stubbs as a man of wonderful business ability and of absolute integrity. It is only natural that the resources of personal character should be partly explained at least by reference to ancestry. When it is explained that Governor Stubbs is of a Quaker family it will be understood how he came by his qualities of rugged personal honesty, simplicity and directness in business life and his public character.
Perhaps the greatest center of Quaker colonization in the Middle West was old Wayne County, Indiana, and on a farm near Richmond in that county Walter Roscoe Stubbs was born November 7, 1858. He is a son of John T. and Esther (Bailey) Stubbs. When he was a small child his parents removed to Iowa, and in 1869 came to Kansas, locating at Hesper in Douglas County. Thus Governor Stubbs had been a resident of Kansas nearly half a century and since he was eleven years of age.
He was educated in the common schools and for a time was a student in the University of Kansas. As a boy he did farm work, clerked in a store, and drove a team. The latter occupation should be emphasized, since it was really the opening of a door of opportunity to his chief business success. Before he was twenty-one years of age he had possession of a pair of mules. With these he took the contract to grade a mile or two of railroad line. He hired another team and did the work so satisfactorily that contracting, the handling of materials, and the organization of men into industrial groups became almost a part of his second nature as a result of many years of experience. Mr. Stubbs became one of Kansas’ foremost contractors, and his business in that line frequently involved contracts to the value of millions of dollars annually. At times he furnished employment to several thousand men, and his business headquarters and operations have been from Chicago west to the Pacific Coast. His first great contract was grading and building the line of the Rock Island Railway between St. Louis and Kansas City. Before submitting his bid it is said that he drove over the entire route and carefully examined it in detail and supplemented the technical routine of his bid with so much information gained through his personal observations that the railway company awarded him the contract over a large number of competitors. Perhaps this carefulness and thoroughness are his dominant characteristics whether in business or in politics.
Governor Stubbs first became known politically when he was elected on the republican ticket as state representative of Douglas County in 1902. He was re-elected in 1904. In the Legislature he first distinguished himself by his persistent attacks upon extravagance in the hiring of an unnecessary number of employes for legislative work. He also sought reforms in various other departments of the state’s business, and during his second term was speaker of the House. He sought the inauguration of a civil service system among the employes of the state’s charitable institutions and was one of the leaders in the fight for a general primary law which should abolish the old convention system and the boss control. During his third term, to which he was elected in 1906, he fortified the reputation he had made as a public leader and as one who believed in efficiency together with economy, and in 1908 he had the distinction of being nominated for governor and the first candidate to receive that nomination direct from the people instead of from the political convention. Governor Stubbs had been recognized as one of the most active men in Kansas in the prohibitive wing of the republican party.
It will not be out of place to mention here one of the outstanding facts of his regime as governor of Kansas. It was during his administration that prohibition in Kansas became a practical reality over the entire state. Up to that time drug stores had conducted a flourishing business by the sale of liquor and many drug stores over Kansas were only nominally for the sale of drugs, their real purpose being to cloak the liquor traffic. An unusually large contingent fund was given to Governor Stubbs, and he utilized it to enforce prohibition in every respect. It required several hard fought legal battles, but in the end illicit liquor selling was reduced to a minimum.