Charles Curtis

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Charles Curtis (January 25, 1860 – February 8, 1936) was a United States Representative, a longtime United States Senator from Kansas later chosen as Senate Majority Leader by his Republican colleagues, and the 31st Vice President of the United States. He was the first person with significant acknowledged Native American ancestry and the first person with significant acknowledged non-European ancestry to reach either of the two highest offices in the United States government's executive branch. His maternal ancestry was three-quarters' Native American, of ethnic Kaw, Osage and Pottawatomie ancestry. Curtis spent years of childhood living with his maternal grandparents on their Kaw reservation.

As an attorney, Curtis entered political life early, winning multiple terms from his district in Topeka, Kansas, starting in 1892 as a Republican to the US House of Representatives. He was elected to the US Senate first by the Kansas Legislature (in 1906 and 1914), and then by popular vote (in 1920 and 1926), serving one six-year term from 1907 to 1913, and then most of three terms from 1915 to 1929 (when he became Vice President). His long popularity and connections in Kansas and national politics helped make Curtis a strong leader in the Senate; he marshaled support to be elected as Senate Minority Whip from 1915–1924 and then as Senate Majority Leader from 1925–1929. In these positions he was instrumental in managing legislation and accomplishing Republican national goals.

Curtis ran for Vice-President with Herbert Hoover as President in 1928. They won a landslide victory. Although they ran again in 1932, the population saw Hoover as failing to alleviate the Great Depression, and they were defeated by Franklin D. Roosevelt.


Early life and education

Born in January 1860 in Topeka, Kansas Territory prior to the arrival of statehood in January 1861, Vice President Curtis is notable as an Executive Branch officer born in a territory rather than state of the Union. Curtis was nearly half American Indian in ancestry. His mother, Ellen Papin (also spelled Pappan), was one-fourth French, one-fourth Kaw, one-fourth Osage, and one-fourth Pottawatomie. His father, Orren Curtis, was an American of English, Scots and Welsh ancestry. On his mother's side, Curtis was a descendant of Kaw Chief White Plume and Osage Chief Pawhuska.[1]

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