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Charles Curtis

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Charles Curtis

Charles Curtis (January 25, 1860February 8, 1936) was a Representative and a Senator from Kansas as well as the 31st Vice President of the United States. Curtis was of American Indian ancestry. His mother was Kaw. He spent part of his early life on a Kaw reservation, and is the first person with acknowledged non-European ancestry to reach either of the two highest offices in the United States government.

Curtis was born in Topeka, Kansas, and was admitted to the bar in 1881. He commenced practice in Topeka and served as prosecuting attorney of Shawnee County, Kansas from 1885 to 1889. He was elected as a Republican to the House of Representatives of the 53rd Congress and to the six succeeding Congresses and served in the House from March 4, 1893 until January 28, 1907, when he resigned, having been chosen by the Kansas Legislature to serve in the United States Senate to fill the short unexpired term of Joseph R. Burton, who had likewise resigned. On that same day of January 28, Curtis was simultaneously tapped by Kansas' state lawmakers to the full Senatorial term commencing March 4 of that year and ending March 3, 1913. He was an unsuccessful candidate for re-designation in 1912. However, the Kansas Legislature again appointed him for the six-year term commencing March 4, 1915. In 1920, he was elected by Kansas voters (in compliance with the Constitution's recently-ratified 17th Amendment) and again in 1926 and served without interruption from March 4, 1915, until his resignation on March 3, 1929. During his tenure in the Senate, he was President pro tempore of the Senate as well as Chairman of the Committee on Expenditures in the Department of the Interior, of the Committee on Indian Depredations, and of the Committee on Coast Defenses, as well as of the Republican Conference. He was also United States Senate Republican Whip from 1915 to 1924 and Majority Leader from 1925 to 1929. It was during his Senatorial years that he—in concert with fellow Kansan, Representative Daniel Read Anthony, Jr.—offered in their respective bodies during December of 1923 the first rendition of the proposed Equal Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution.

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President-elect Calvin Coolidge, his wife, and Senator Curtis on their way to the Capitol building on inauguration day, March 4, 1925.

Curtis resigned from the Senate on March 3, 1929, having been elected Vice President on the Republican ticket headed by Herbert Hoover in 1928. The pair were inaugurated on March 4, 1929. Curtis served until March 3, 1933, because Hoover was an unsuccessful candidate for re-election in 1932.

In Washington, D.C., Curtis resumed the practice of law. He died in that city in 1936. His remains were returned to Topeka, Kansas, where he is buried at Topeka Cemetary.

The Curtis Act in 1898—passed while he served in the House—expanded the powers of the federal government over American Indian affairs. An Act of Congress in 1902 disbanded the Kaw, the tribe of his mother, as a legal entity and transferred 160 acres (0.6 km²) to the federal government and about 1,625 acres (6.6 km²) of Kaw land to Curtis and his children.

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Preceded by:
Charles G. Dawes
Republican Party Vice Presidential candidate
1928 (won), 1932 (lost)
Succeeded by:
Frank Knox
Preceded by:
Charles G. Dawes
Vice President of the United States
March 4, 1929March 3, 1933
Succeeded by:
John Nance Garner

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