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Friday, October 01, 2010

Iowa's Governor From Russell - Nathan E. Kendall

This article was taken from the 1967   Landmarks In History 
Centennial History Book written by Charles Wright

     Two of the thirty-eight governors who have served the state of Iowa have come from our own Lucas County.  The thirty-fifth governor, Republican Leo Hoegh, who served Iowa from 1955-57 was from Chariton.  And although the histories list Albia as the home of Iowa's twenty-fifth governor, Republican Nathan E. Kendall, he was actually born south of Russell in the neighborhood known as Greenville in 1868.  "Nate", as he was called, worked on his father's farm and attended rural school in this neighborhood until early manhood.  His parents were early settlers in the county and the few books that they owned were read and re-read by the future-governor until they were worn and dog-eared.  Having learned shorthand he then entered a law office in Albia where his career began.    In 1887 he was admitted to the Iowa Bar.  He later served for a term as city attorney in Albia and then became the Monroe County Attorney.  He became known as a brilliant speaker and, when he was 31, was elected to the Iowa House of Representatives.  He served there for ten years and was named Speaker of the House for the 32nd General Assembly. 
     Next Kendall became a member of the United States House of Representatives from 1909-13, serving the old 6th district of Davis, Jasper, Keokuk, Mahaska, Monroe, Wapello and Poweshiek Counties.  Here, too, he was a recognized debater and orator.  In earlier life he wrote and memorized his speeches but in later years he abandoned that practice and even spoke without notes.  Kendall was re-nominated to run for Congress in 1913 but withdrew from the race following an attack of heart disease.  He was not active in politics again until he ran for governor of our state in 1919.
     Kendall was elected Governor of Iowa in 1920 and was re-elected to a second term in 1922.  The First Lady of Iowa was the former Belle Woden of Centerville, Iowa, whom he married in 1896.  She died in 1925 in Naples, Italy, while the couple was on a world tour.  Traveling had been one of Kendall's favorite activities and it was on another of his trips that he met Mrs. William F. Bonnell of Cleveland, Ohio, who became the second Mrs. Kendall.
     Kendall had two hobbies--red neckties and horseshoes.  Early in his career he had formed the habit of walking along Albia's country roads and he never passed up a horseshoe along the way.  They were kept for good luck and displayed in his Albia law office.  The Governor also loved baseball and fishing.
     His sense of humor was well known and many anecdotes are told about him.  One of the Governor's favorite stories on himself concerned his sixty-third birthday.  On this day he ate lunch as was accustomed at a certain table in Younker's Tearoom in Des Moines.  The management somehow learned it was his birthday and a large bouquet of roses was on the table with birthday greetings.  The waitress who took his order asked, "Governor, is this your birthday?" He replied that it was.  "How old are you, Governor?" she asked.  He related that he looked her straight in the eye and coolly replied "83 years old".  "My goodness," she replied, "I wouldn't have believed it--you don't look a day over 73!"
     Kendall died suddenly at his home in Albia in November 1936.  He was sitting in his chair listening to the election returns with his dog lying asleep beside him when apparently stricken by a heart attack.  After services in Des Moines his body was cremated and his ashes buried in Albia.

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Among the illustrious citizens of Russell was one to receive the highest honors of our state.


     Nathan E. Kendall (known as "Nate") was born March 16, 1868 and raised in the Greenville neighborhood east of Russell.  Taking his school teacher's word for it, Miss Susan Day, Nate was the most mischievous youngster in the school as well as the most brilliant.  Later in life this spontaneous good humor and energy made him into the man that the whole nation admired.
     Mr. Kendall married Belle Wooden of Centerville, and started as an attorney at Albia, later serving two terms as prosecuting attorney for that county.  He served ten years in the Iowa Legislature from Monroe County and four years as Member of Congress from the old Sixth District.  In 1920 he was elected Governor of Iowa, and served four years in that capacity, being a strong, fearless executive.

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