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John Whitnah Leedy

Gov. John Whitnah Leedy

  • January 11, 1897 - January 9, 1899
  • Populist
  • March 4, 1849
  • March 24, 1935
  • Ohio
  • Married Sarah J. Boyd; three children
  • Army


JOHN W. LEEDY, the fourteenth governor of Kansas, was born near Belleville, Ohio on March 4, 1849. Due to the death of his father, his education was very limited. He worked as a farm hand and store clerk in lieu of attending school. During the Civil War, he tried to enlist, but was rejected, after his mother protested that at fourteen he was too young to fight. However, he ignored the dismissal, and joined a troop, serving until the end of the war. In 1872, Leedy changed his political allegiance from the Republican party to the Democratic party, however, when the People’s party was formed in 1890, he switched parties once again. He entered politics in 1892, serving as a member of the Kansas State Senate. After the Democratic party merged with the Populist party, Leedy won the 1896 gubernatorial nomination. He was sworn into the governorship on January 11, 1897. During his tenure, a state schoolbook commission was organized, a state printing plant was established, and a state grain commission was authorized. Also, four regiments were organized for service in the Spanish-American War, and the management of the prohibition and metropolitan police laws were contested. After losing his reelection bid, Leedy left office on January 9, 1899, retiring briefly from politics. After working in the mining industry and serving as director of the Leedy Mining Company, Leedy moved to Valdez, Alaska in 1901, where he served as mayor for two years. He later became a naturalized citizen of Canada. Governor John W. Leedy died almost penniless, on March 24, 1935. The Kansas Legislature donated $1,000 to mark his grave and pay his funeral expenses. He was buried at the Edmonton Municipal Cemetery in Edmonton, Alberta.


Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 2, Westport, Conn.; Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.

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