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William Purnell Lambertson

Politician. Republican Born: March 23, 1880, Fairview, Kansas. Died: October 26, 1957, Fairview, Kansas. Served in U.S. House of Representatives, 1st District: March 4, 1929, to January 3, 1945.

William Lambertson was born in Fairview, Brown County, Kansas, on March 23,1880, and educated in the public schools there. He then attended Ottawa University and the law school of the University of Chicago, but returned to Kansas to engage in agricultural pursuits. A "self-styled dirt farmer," Lambertson served in the state house of representatives (1909-1911 and 1919-1921), where he was speaker pro tempore during the 1911 and speaker during the 1919 sessions, and the state senate (1913-1915). Lambertson was chairman of Kansas State Efficiency and Economy Commission in 1917, a member of Kansas State Board of Administration from 1923-1925, and an unsuccessful candidate for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in 1922 and for Congress in 1924 and 1926. Finally, persistence paid off, and Lambertson achieved election to the latter in 1928, serving from March 4, 1929, to January 3, 1945. During his tenure on Capitol Hill, Lambertson earned the ire of organized labor and the New Deal administration, and much criticism from back home. At the dawn of World War II, Emporia editor William Allen White criticized the Brown County congressman for voting against the lend-lease bill contrary to "the public sentiment of his state." Although Lambertson remained White's "favorite congressman because of his great courage and picturesque language," the editor believed that the lawmaker frequently exhibited too many "guts" and not enough "gray matter." In 1944 the controversial, conservative Republican failed to gain renomination and returned to his Brown County farm, but Lambertson remained active to the end. He served as mayor of Fairview and on the county commission, 1953-1956, but he was thwarted in frequent bids for higher office. Lambertson unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination to Congress in 1944, 1946, and 1954, and for governor in 1948. The colorful character that one Topeka paper called "the office-holdingest man in Kansas politics" died in Fairview on October 26, 1957.

Entry: Lambertson, William Purnell

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: April 2013

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