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Charles Curtis: A Featured Biography


Photo of Vice President Charles Curtis

Kansas senator Charles Curtis was first elected to the Senate in 1907 to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Senator Joseph R. Burton. The first United States senator of known Native American descent, Curtis often expressed pride in his Kaw ancestry. He was the great-great grandson of White Plume, a Kansa-Kaw chief who had offered assistance to the Lewis and Clark expedition in 1804. Known for his pragmatism, Curtis rarely made profound or stirring speeches, but he was admired for his ability to greet constituents by name and his staunch support for the high tariff. Following an unsuccessful bid for reelection in 1912, Curtis ran successfully for the other Kansas Senate seat in 1914, becoming the state's first popularly elected senator following ratification of the Seventeenth Amendment. A Republican Party devotee, he often quipped that he was "one-eighth Kaw Indian and 100 percent Republican." In 1925 Curtis became the Senate's first majority leader.  Four years later, he was elected the 31st vice president of the United States.