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May 6, 2014 by Jocelyn Wehr

Georgia Neese was born in 1898 in Richland, Kansas, to Albert and Ellen Neese. Gray attended school in Topeka and graduated from Washburn College in 1921. While attending the Sisters of Bethany College, Topeka, she was one of Miss Marguerite Koontz's students who performed in the college’s Alumnae May Fete. The performance took place in Central Park on Saturday, May 20, 1916. Georgia Neese is on the far left in the photograph.

During college, she developed an interest in acting and after graduation attended the Franklin Sargent School of Dramatic Art and spent nearly ten years acting with various stock companies. She married her manager, George M. Clark in 1929. They divorced in the mid-1940s. She started working at her father's Richland State Bank as an assistant cashier in 1935 and became president in 1937 following his death. She became active in the state Democratic Party and was elected National Committee Woman in Kansas in 1936, a position she held until 1964. She was an early supporter of Harry Truman. It was this support that brought about her nomination as the first woman to be Treasurer of the United States.  She served in that office from June 1949 until January 1953 when Truman left office.

Her name, Georgia Neese Clark, became known to millions through her signature on all U.S. currency issued while she was in office.

Reminiscing about her conversation with President Truman about taking the position, Gray said Truman pointed out the disadvantages of the job including low pay and asked her if she could afford to take the job. She replied, "Can I afford not to?" This is indicative of the zest and style with which she represented her position as first woman treasurer and her state.

 

 

Following her term, she returned to Kansas to work in the family's business. In the same year she married Andrew Gray and wished to become known as Georgia Neese Clark Gray. She remained active in national Democratic Party politics until 1964 when she resigned from the Democratic National Committee. Gray died in 1995.

 

Written by Pat Michaelis, Research Collections Division Director

Biographical information from Kansapedia

 

Mar 5, 2014 by Patricia Michaelis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The year was 1935.  Southwest Kansas was in the midst of the Great Depression but it was also suffering from a multi-year drought.  Rainfall in southwest Kansas was never plentiful but it normally averaged around 18 inches per year in western Kansas.  Between 1930 and 1940, the average was 15.25 inches with the lowest rainfall during that time period occurring in 1934 with an average of 11.14 inches.  Because of the prolonged drought, conditions were extremely dry and western Kansas suffered horrific dust storms in late March and April in 1935. It is difficult to imagine the intensity of these storms but, fortunately, photos and postcards of these clouds of dust have been preserved.  While most of the storms occurred in western Kansas, some of them reached eastern Kansas.

Lillian Foster kept a scrapbook that contains postcards, photos, newspaper clipping, and her own accounts of her experiences with dust storms in Ness City, Kansas.  The content of the scrapbook gives an excellent overview of the impact of the dust storms.  Lillian Foster scrapbook

The Kansas Emergency Relief Committee (KERC) was established to provide work relief in Kansas.  They undertook a number of projects across the state including a number of water conservation efforts.  The KERC produced an accomplishments movie that included footage of dust storms.  This film is available at KERC Accomplishments Film, segment 11.  A large population of jack rabbits created problems by eating the sparse vegetation so drives were organized to try to control them as illustrated in segment 10 of the KERC video.

 

Residents of western Kansas had to deal with the dust storms and their results.  Many people wore masks to keep from breathing in the dust and farmers had to deal with drifts of fine dust all over their farms.  Those who endured the dust storms and remained in western Kansas experienced a period of ample rainfall and prosperity during the 1940s.  We hope the current drought in western Kansas is broken long before dust clouds can be formed.

 

 

 


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