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Lyman Underwood Humphrey

Lyman HumphreyPolitician, governor. Republican. Born: July 25, 1844, New Baltimore, Ohio. Died: September 12, 1915, Independence, Kansas. Served as 11th Governor of Kansas: January 14, 1889, to January 9, 1893.

Lyman Underwood Humphrey was born July 25, 1844, at New Baltimore, Stark County, Ohio, to Lyman and Elizabeth A. (Everhart) Humphrey. The younger Humphrey had one brother, John. Their father died in 1853 when Lyman was only nine years old. He was a student at Massillon High School when the Civil War erupted. He quit school and joined Company D of the 76th Ohio Infantry; later he transferred to Company I. The latter unit participated in battles at Fort Donelson, Shiloh, Corinth, Arkansas Post, and Jackson; the siege of Vicksburg; a march from Memphis to Chattanooga; conflicts at Lookout Mountain, Missionary Ridge, Ringgold, Resaca, and Kenesaw Mountain; the battle near Atlanta; Sherman's march to the sea; and fighting at Savannah and in the Carolinas. Humphrey was wounded several times but none seriously. He was mustered out in July 1865 at Louisville, Kentucky. He attained the rank of first lieutenant. 

Afterward he attended Mount Union College in Alliance, Ohio, and studied law at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. He was admitted to practice law in Ohio in 1868, but soon went to Shelby County, Missouri. There he taught school, worked at a newspaper, and continued studying law. He was admitted to the Missouri Bar in 1870. The following year, he came to Kansas, settling in Independence. He founded the Commercial Bank of Independence and the South Kansas Tribune as well as practiced law and operated a land business with Colonel A. M. York.

On December 25, 1872, he married Amanda Leonard; they had two sons, Lyman Leonard and A. Lincoln. An ardent Republican, Humphrey ran unsuccessfully for the Kansas Legislature in 1872, losing because of his opposition to the issuance of railroad bonds. Four years later he was elected by a large majority; there he served on the judiciary committee. Before his term was over he was appointed lieutenant governor and elected to the post in 1878. He served in this capacity from 1877 until 1881. In 1884 he successfully ran for the Kansas Senate; during his tenure he was elected president pro-tem.

Humphrey ran for governor in 1888 and was elected by the largest plurality to that time, defeating John Martin, P. P. Elder, and J. D. Botkin. He carried all but two counties.

A hallmark of Humphrey's administration was his enforcement of Kansas' prohibition laws. At the time, to ensure that local opposition to prohibition did not prevail, the governor appointed police commissioners for all first-class cities. Unlike some of his predecessors, Humphrey appointed men who would uphold the law, thus making himself unpopular with opponents of prohibition. He was re-elected in 1890 over Democratic, Prohibition, and People's Party candidates, though by a lesser majority than in 1888.

In his second term Governor Humphrey promoted the successful passage of a law establishing Labor Day as the first Monday in September, the first state to do so, and issued the first proclamation making the day an official holiday. Other states followed suit. He was responsible for starting a grain inspection program. He personally visited state institutions to ensure they were being governed prudently. He spent little of his expense allowances and took almost no time away from his work. His administration, lasting from 1889 until 1893, was one of quiet efficiency.

Humphrey ran for the U.S. House of Representatives from the Third District of southeast Kansas in 1892 at the close of his second gubernatorial term but was defeated by T. J. Hudson, the Populist candidate.

He returned to Independence at the end of his term and supervised farm loans in Kansas and Oklahoma for the Union Central Life Insurance Company. He also continued his business interests in the community, later in partnership with his son Lyman L. as Humphrey & Son, Humphrey & Humphrey, and Humphrey Investment Co. He was a Mason and a member of the Grand Army of the Republic, the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States, and the Congregational Church.

Humphrey died on September 12, 1915, in Independence and was buried there in Mount Hope Cemetery.

Entry: Humphrey, Lyman Underwood

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 2011

Date Modified: February 2017

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.