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William Henry Avery

Politician. Republican. Born: August 11, 1911, Wakefield. Served in U.S. House of Representatives, first and second districts: January 3, 1955, to January 3, 1965. Served as 37th Governor of Kansas: January 11, 1965, to January 9, 1967. Died: November 4, 2009, Wakefield.

William AveryWilliam H. Avery was born in Wakefield, Clay County, Kansas, on August 11, 1911, to Herman W. and Harriet Maria Coffman Avery. After attending Wakefield High School, he graduated from the University of Kansas in 1934. He married Hazel Bowles on June 15, 1940. They had two sons and two daughters.

He engaged in business as a farmer and stockman near Wakefield and was director of the Wakefield Rural High School Board of Education.

A Republican, Avery was elected to the Kansas House of Representatives in 1950 and served to 1955. In 1954 he campaigned for the Republican nomination for the U. S. House of Representatives on an “anti-big-dam” platform, opposing the Tuttle Creek Dam project on the Blue River. He won both the nomination and election, beginning a congressional career, which would span the next 10 years.

Highlights of Congressman Avery’s legislative activities include membership on the House Interstate and Foreign Commerce Committee (1957-1960), House Committee on Rules (1961-1964), Select Committee on Small Business (1959-1965), Republican Policy Committee (1955-1957, 1961-1965), and was ranking Republican on the Private Calendar Committee (1955-1965). In addition, Avery chaired the Missouri River States Committee and was a member of the President’s Civil Defense Advisory Council.

After a decade on Capitol Hill (he served, January 3, 1955-January 3, 1965), Avery chose to return to Kansas and run for governor. In 1964 he was elected 37th governor of Kansas. He served one term as governor, losing a re-election bid to Robert Docking in 1966. In 1968 he was an unsuccessful candidate for the Republican nomination to the U. S. Senate. Avery returned to private life and settled in Wichita, Kansas. He was with Garvey Enterprises (1967-1968), the Clinton Oil Company (1969-1971), and later served as president of the Real Oil Company.

He served on the Kansas Historical Foundation Board of Directors. Avery died on November 4, 2009, in Wakefield.

Entry: Avery, William Henry

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.