Thursday, November 5, 2009

Kansans Mourn Avery

One-term Republican governor, William Avery, has died, the governor's office said Thursday. He was 98.

“Governor Avery led our state during a time of tragic loss and national attention. Kansas honors his long life and service to our state. Our thoughts and prayers are with his children and family,” Parkinson said in a statement.

Avery began a decade-long career as a congressman from the 2nd District before running for governor. Avery served his one term from 1965-66, when a governor's term was two years. He was defeated for re-election by Democrat Robert Docking, receiving 44 percent of the vote.

His most notable achievement as the state's 37th governor was recommending the establishment of a state income tax withholding system in 1965. It was part of a package of income and sales tax increases to improve public schools.

During his term, he denied a reprieve request from Perry Smith and Richard Hickock, who were hanged at Lansing State Prison on April 14, 1965, for the 1959 slayings of Herbert Clutter, his wife and two children, in Holcomb. The murders were immortalized by Truman Capote in his novel “In Cold Blood.”

Another controversy was a bill directing the state Board of Health to give out birth control information along with contraceptives to married couples. Avery said he was pressured to veto the measure but let it become law without his signature.

After being turned out of office, Avery moved to Wichita where he became an oil company executive. In 1968, he made a final bid for public office when he lost the GOP primary for the U.S. Senate to Bob Dole. In 1977, he returned to Wakefield to resume a role with the Farmers and Merchants Bank. In 2000, the post office in his hometown was renamed in his honor.

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