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Governor John Anderson capital punishment received correspondence

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Executive Office

State Of Kansas


John Anderson, Jr.



July 21, 1961

Mr. Milton Cohen

5025 Broadway

New York 34, New York


Dear Mr. Cohen:


Kansas has a capital punishment law.  It has been the policy of the present state administration not to use the Governor’s communication or pardon powers to overrule the courts of the state unless there is some very convincing reason to do so.




John Anderson, Jr.






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Dear Governor;

I am a student at the college of the City of New York and am presently undergoing a research assignment on the problem of capital punishment.


As governor of your state you have been faced with the question of whether to save a human life or not.


I personally believe that murders, kidnappers, etc. should not be given “light” jail sentences.  I feel that the U.S. should not abolish capital punishment.


In 1888 Italy did away with capital punishment but found it unwise and, therefore restored it in 1926.


South Dakota abandoned capital punishment, now they have returned to it.  (Electrocution).


Only six states in America do not have capital punishment.


J. Edgar Hoover pointed out the following facts:

1960 vs. 1959 11% increase in serious crimes.

1960 vs. 1950   69%      “        “      “          “

1960 vs.  1940  128%     “        “      “          “


I fell that this is one of the most serious problems that we have today.


I am writing to you and the governors of the 49 other states in an effort of establishing a “verdict” of my own.- “Should there be a restriction on the extent and use of Capital Punishment?”


I would appreciate it very much if you would inform me, as soon as possible, as to your opinions on this matter.

Thanks you,

Respectfully Yours,

Wilton Cohen

5025 Broadway

New York 34, N.Y.





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January 25, 1961


Dear Mr. Kuehl:


Thank you for your letter of January 18.


My knowing how you feel about capital punishment will make it much easier for me to make necessary decisions concerning this question.



John Anderson, Jr.



Mr. P. Kuehl

905 S. Broadway






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Wichita Kans

Jan 18 1961

Mr John Anderson as Gov of our State, you have the power to defeat the Bill by your decision[.]  I am going to Judge you a man of justes or a crimel protector it may not be a deterrent but a direct warning for crimels, what dose Mr Griffith mean by experts, crimels and crimels lovers.  I think so why don’t the law makers consult God and read the Bible God said to hell the murders Gen 9-6 and other laws see Exodus 22[.]  I am Crippeled or I would have sent a list of [singers] any man that beleves in justes would sing for a law for captal punishment[.]

Yours Resp

P Kuehl 905 S Broadway Wichita





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[Two Newspaper Articles]


Capital Punishment a Foofball?


To the Editor:  All I know is what I read in The Beacon and what I hear on The Jack Parr show but I am rather at a loss to understand the almost simultaneous expressions of opposition to Capital Punishment by the Democratic Governors of the states of California, Kansas and Ohio.  Can it be that this truly important problem is being made as a political football since the national and world wide publicity given the Caryl Chessman Case?  I do not recall having read or heard of these three honorable gentlemen ever having expressed such convictions before.  I certainly have never heard of our Governor Docking expressing himself on the need for change of our Capital Punishment Law during two regular sessions of the State Legislature. If memory does not fail me, The Beacon voiced strong approval when it was passed by the Kansas Legislature and signed by Governor Landon.


Some of the answers given recently in “Man on the Street” interviews, regarding the Capital Punishment Laws remind me of a story which I heard many years ago:


This problem bothered thinking citizens then as now and a reporter interviewing folks on their ideas on the subject, asked a woman whether she believed in Capital Punishment and she answered, “Yes, I sure do if it isn’t too severe.”


I am, and always have been, opposed to Capital Punishment and my reasons follow—


1.  It violates the Commandment – Thou shalt not kill.

2.  We have no right to ask our Civil Employees to do a job none of us, if mentally healthy, would do, that is, press the button that drops the trapdoor, spills the deadly gases or turns on the electrical current that fries and electrocutes and takes the lives of fellow human beings.

3.  Innocent people have been convicted of crimes in every court in spite of all our wonderful American safeguards, some without doubt legally murdered.

4.  We have no right to ask our public prosecutors, judges, juries or governors to make the decision, shall this person die?

5.  It has not been a deterrent to these crimes.

6.  It belongs to the Dark Ages and not in our modern Christian Republic.






Letters to the Editor

Shocked by Petterson


To the Editor:

I have read with amazement, Jim Petterson’s article concerning capital punishment concerning capital punishment.  It is difficult for me to believe that Him belongs to the society of “bleeding hearts” who express sympathy and grief about the execution of cold blooded murderers, but no grief or sympathy for their victims.


Now, in the first place, Petterson did not have to watch these two outlaws hanged but went because of his intense morbid curiosity.  It makes one wonder whether this same morbid curiosity would have lead him to witnessing the Clutter family being murdered by Hickock and Smith or just how “shook up” he would have been had he been permitted to watch Bobby Joe Spencer bludgeon the head of his 70 year old landlady and then slash her throat.


It is no more ridiculous to suggest that Petterson might have witnessed those murders than for him to suggest that people who believe in capital punishment should be forced to watch a legal execution.  He might as well have suggested that people, of any age, who believe that war in the defense of our country is sometimes justified and necessary be required to sit in bleachers on the battlefield to watch men being killed.  Or, following Petterson’s reasoning, a person who believed that death was inevitable should be required to go to the hospital room and witness a patient dying of cancer.  The foregoing doesn’t make sense, but it is no more asinine than Petterson’s suggestion that all people who believe in capital should “watch’em hang.”


Petterson states that the two young men he watched hanged appeared the same as any other young men.  Would he judge the guilt of innocence of criminals by how they appeared to him or does he believe that guilt or innocence and punishment should be determined by laws, courts and juries?


Petterson, as a reporter, watched an execution by choice but the Clutter family and other victims of wanton murderers had no such choice.


If Petterson believes that wonton, merciless killers should be given life imprisonment instead of death then he should suggest a change in the present laws which have allowed Governor Docking to pardon and free five “lifers” during his term as governor.








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[Newspaper Articles]


Letters to the Editor


Praises Editorial

To the Editor:


That was a fine editorial “The Governor’s Wise Decision,” in Thursday’s Beacon!



Junction City


Volunteers to Be Executioner


To the Editor:

I am usually in agreement with the Beacon’s philosophy and most of the editorials.  But this “The Governor’s Wise Decision” sends me.  My blood pressure went up 40 points.  Why does he, “the Governor,” think he should decide what’s best for all Kansans? 


Capital punishment was in effect when he “The Governor” took office and he swore to uphold the laws of Kansas.  He is obstructing justice when he commutes sentence handed down by a twelve man jury.


As for your comment on whether capital punishment deterred crime, I can’t recall any instance where one so executed ever committed another crime.  And since a high percentage of crimes are committed by previous offenders, I can’t buy your argument.  And to prove I am not morally and intellectually dishonest in this respect.  I hereby volunteer my services, free of charge, to eliminate all such characters as the Bobby Jo Spencer and Clutter killers preferably by my own methods but with a rope if necessary, and I’ll save the state burial expenses by cutting them up in bait size pieces and feeding them to the fishes of the mighty Mo.  In case you print this I no doubt will hear from some of your lily-livered friends that take pleasure in poisoning their neighbors cats and dogs but couldn’t kill a baby raper and fiendish killers of Godly people.  Thanks to your welcoming Voxpopuli, my blood pressure is normal again.



Strong City


Votes for Capital Punishment


To The Editor:

Most of your editorials are very good but I can not to for the one “a wise decision by Governor Docking.”


Mr. H.W. Kinsey, Strong City, Kans., expressed by views completely, in his letter to The Editor in yesterdays Sunday Beacon.


It was nice of you to publish his letter in the beacon since he did not agree with your endorsement of Docking’ comutation of sentence to hang  Bobby Jo Spencer.


He could have requested that the law be changed.  The law was put on the statute book by the people of Kans. but he seems to think he is much wiser than all the people who felt such a law was necessary.


My vote is for capital punishment for those like Spencer and the murders of the Clutter family.



217 S. Illinois


Rather Watch Killings?


To the Editor:

Just read Jim Petterson’s article “Believers in Capital Punishment should have to watch Hangings.”  Perhaps you would have preferred to have seen these two boys mercilessly beat and kill two people who had been kind to them.  I have no desire to see a hanging but we would have more crimes if we didn’t have Capital Punishment.



536 N. 24th

Grand Junction, Colo.




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February 2, 1961

Dear Mr. Rich:


Thanks for your letter of January 28.


Your interest in capital punishment is appreciated.  We welcome your advice and counsel at all times.  When you come to Topeka, stop in.




John Anderson, Jr.


Mr. Ted Rich







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Lyndon Kans 1-28-1961 – AD

To Our Honorable Governor

Mr John Andson,

Dear Sir;  I Hear By Radio that you have stated that you would sign a bill to repeal the present law requiring, Hanging for first Degree Murder,


I am for Hanging as a penalty for First Degree -----


I agree that no person is in his right mind or sane when they Deliberately slay parents, sister, or brother or strangers, for instance the Clutter Family, yet the inoscent victims Parents Children, strangers were good useful Lawbiding





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People in our state, created of God in his image[.]  A little lower of thou the Angels.


And God, has Declared in his word, whoso sheds Mans Blood By Man shall His Blood be shed.


And so I am asking you as Governor to keep the law to Hang First Degree Murders in or on the Statute Books.  Please Reflect that to Sentence a Person Murderer to Life of for Prison, until They die ther, Nothing but Death can free one from those Prison Walls, is a Greater Punishment than Death By Hanging, Be surer  [XXXX]  Any Shadow of





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Doubt, of the covicted Persons Guilty,


I am Enclosing Some News Paper clippings that should Remind you of How low a state our Present day civilization is, Organized Labor that is a powerful Political organization working to their own Greedy desires Must be Satisfied, in Monetary Economical gain,  [XXXX]  Not Spiritual, Organized labor, are both American Organized, and Also foreign, in our Midst, there to Dictate our Industrial, Economy, Even they may threaten, or Destroy our National Solvency, What We Need Most is to Reorganize the truth





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We should strive to Comprehend is the great Need to understand, And strive to attain that Goal, And faviar with God.


Richeousness Exalts A Nation, A Community Home or State


Terry A Rich

Born April one 1880 AD

Native Born Citizen


Yet one of the least persons yet it is Mandatory that the litte influence I have should be for that which is Right

Ted Rich





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[News Paper Article]


Death Has No Meaning

Mother Says Boy Didn’t Understand




At the Shawnee County Detention Home, an Olathe mother watched her 13-year-old deaf mute son gently hug a delighted Chihuahua puppy.


“George never understood what death meant,” Mrs. George L. Martens said looking at the boy and shaking her head.  “And we never stopped to think about that until it was too late.”


That, she believes, is the reason her son stabbed to death a younger child, Steven Moscoe, Nov. 21 in a field near Olathe.


“It’s a nightmare.  You wonder when you’re going to wake up and find out it isn’t really true.”


Mrs. Martens believes the only explanations that her son did not comprehend the results of what he was doing.


“People won’t believe this, but deaf children just don’t understand death.”


The slow process of teaching the deaf youngsters to communicate takes three years of preliminary work to before they can even begin school work where other children – already able to speak and hear – start learning, she said.


And as much difficulty as this communications problem causes in the deaf child’s ordinary learning, it is even more of a block to teaching him about abstract ideas such as death, Mrs. Martens said.


She spoke bitterly of television violence, of coming





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[News Paper Article Continuation of Above Article]


Mother Says Boy Didn’t Understand


home one night with her husband to learn her son George had been allowed to stay up and watch an old horror movie rerun on a late TV show.


“George would see an actor stabbed or shot on a TV show and appear dead, but the child couldn’t hear and couldn’t understand the plot.  The next night he would see the same actor alive on another show.


“I think that confused him about death.”


The day after the younger boy was killed, George asked when the boy would come and play again, she said.  (He had said the younger boy teased and tormented him.)


“We tried to explain that the boy was dead.  George said, ‘No, he couldn’t be, his eyes were wide open.’”


George spoke with his mother in the sign language of dear mute, then left the room.


He has a vocabulary of about 50 words, but most of them are unintelligible except to someone accustomed to the speech of children trying to pronounce words they cannot hear.


Johnson County has no parental home for juveniles, and after the stabbing the boy was kept for two weeks in a county jail cell.


“He was kept segregated from other prisoners there,” his mother said.  “The people of Olathe just went overboard in seeing that he had things to work and play with, and the officers did all they could to keep him occupied.


“But you can’t imagine what that does to a child,” she added.


By Juvenile Court order, George is in Topeka for a least two weeks to undergo psychological and psychiatric testing at the Kansas Children’s Treatment Center.


William Fansler, a local State Highway Commission employee and graduate of Olathe deaf school himself, is acting as interpreter between the boy and the Center’s clinical staff.


The boy burst into the room again, wearing a Halloween mask one of the other children had given him.  A handsome, animated boy.


The sad look left his mother’s face, but she motioned for him to be quiet.  The wife of a carpenter, she is carrying her seventh child.


George is the oldest at 13.  He is small for his age, however, and his mannerisms are those of a much younger child.  Still, he is a healthy appearing boy who loves outdoor sports, and has what Juvenile Officer T.V. Herron called “a winning smile.”


George weighed only two pounds when he was born, his mother explained, but it was not until one day 18 months later that she noticed he paid no attention to an object which had fallen loudly to the floor right behind him.


A doctor confirmed that the boy was deaf.  The cause has never been determined.


George hasn’t lacked either religious training or special help with his deafness.  When he was three his parents.  Kansas City residents then, sent him to a special course at the K.U. Medical Center.


When he was five the family moved to Olathe so he could attend Kansas’ nationally – recognized school there for deaf children.


His mother paints a picture of a boy overcoming his handicap gradually to approach normal life – church work, Boy Scout trips, pheasant hunting this fall with his father, swimming, building model planes and boats.


Until November 21, when he left the eight-year-old dead with three dozen stab wounds.


And what now?


“The boy needs help,” his mother said.  “He’s got to be sent someplace.  But where is that someplace?”


Normal procedure in a homicide involving a 13-year-old might send him to the Boys Industrial School, State Reformatory, or (if tests indicate it a mental hospital.  But none of those institutions are prepared for a deaf boy.


“No one could communicate with him,” his mother said, “He’d be like a stick.”


George will be here through December 18, perhaps longer, then presumably be returned to wait in the Johnson County jail until the Juvenile Court there can dispose of the case.


His mother Says:  “Right now, my biggest worry is Christmas.  George still believes in Santa Claus—no one has ever told him and he keeps asking how Santa is going to find him if he’s not at home for Christmas.”





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[Newspaper Article]


Non-Strikers Threatened With Death


Albert Lea, Minn. – (UPI) – Non-strikers at a strife – torn Wilson & Co. meat-packing plant told police Thursday they had been abducted, beaten, and threatened with death.


Violence and tension has mounted here since National Guardsmen ended a 25-day vigil at the plant last week.


Thursday, two non-strikers said they were beaten up while breakfasting at a café.  Another Wilson employee said he was abducted and beaten.  The cars of at least four non-strikers were found burned, tipped over, or submerged in water.


The operator of a rooming house where non-strikers live said she received at least 10 threatening telephone calls.


One of the callers, she said, told her “you’d better get rid of those scabs or we’ll kill you.”


The wife of a non-striker said a man told her over the telephone that she and her husband would die unless he quit his job.


More violence was reported at Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the site of another Wilson plant.  Non-striker Vernon C. Nelson’s barn burned to the ground and 23 head of cattle, two tractors and cars, 800 bales of hay, 900 bushels of corn and other farm equipment were lost. 


Nelson’s wife charged that the fire was started by men in a car which twice cruised slowly past the farm home early Thursday.  Although officials could find no evidence of arson, a state investigation was ordered.


In Chicago, the executive board of the United Packinghouse Workers of America said settlement of the steel strike would “unleash new energies” in its strike against seven Wilson plants across the country.


More than 5,000 UPWA members have been on strike against Wilson since Oct. 29.






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February 15, 1961

Dear Reverend Robinson:


Thanks for your letter of February 8.


Your interest in the Griffith bill on the abolition of capital punishment is very much appreciated and your comments will be given consideration.

We will need your continued support in the new administration at Topeka.  Your advice and counsel will be welcome at all times.





Reverend Forrest J. Robinson

Derby Methodist Church

487 South Riverview

Derby, Kansas





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Feb. 8, 1961


Governor John Anderson

Kansas State Capital Building

Topeka, Kansas


Dear Gov. Anderson:


The purpose of this letter is to communicate to you the action taken by both the Derby Methodist Church and the Kiwanis Club of Derby concerning the Griffith bill on the abolition of capital punishment.


Both of these bodies voted to fully endorse this bill and to do whatever we could to assist in its favorable consideration by committee, and passage by the legislature.


In reporting this to you I am acting as minister of the church, fulfilling the request of our official board, and as chairman of the Public and Business Affairs Committee of the Kiwanis Club of Derby.


As a church we have by letter recommended to Bishop Eugene Slater, bishop of the Kansas Area of the Methodist Church, that this matter be given consideration and be suggested to our churches in the Kansas Area for their consideration.  As a Kiwanis Club, we are contacting other clubs in the area, urging their own action on this bill.


We trust that this information will be of value to you.  May God grant us all increased wisdom, as we all in a united seek to establish ever higher levels of justice in our great democracy.


Sincerely yours,


Forrest J. Robinson






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February 28, 1961


Dear Miss Voth:


Thanks for your letter of February 22.


Your interest in capital punishment is appreciated and your comments will be taken into consideration.





Miss Elvera Voth

North Newton, Kansas





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North Newton, Kans

Feb 22, 1961


Governor Anderson

State of Kansas

Topeka, Kansas


Dear Governor Anderson,


As a Citizen of Kansas may I protest against the practice of capital punishment in our state.


Perhaps a fitting celebration of our Centennial would be to abolish this pagan practice, and I, for one, would bless your efforts toward this end.



Elvera Voth





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March 3, 1961


Dear Miss Landell:


Thanks for your letter of February 27.


I appreciate very much receiving your thoughts concerning capital punishment and you may be assured that I will give proper consideration to the views you have expressed.






Miss Grace Landell

2900 North 72nd

Bethel, Kansas





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2900 No. 72nd, Bethel, Ks.

February 27 – 1961 –


Mr. Anderson, Governor – State Ks.

Dear Sir,


I have a very strong feeling against Capital Punishment, and wish as a citizen to voice my protest to you.


It does not stop crime, and brings us all nearer to savages.  Before an execution we are dragged by newspapers and T.V. through the last hours of the condemned, until life is a torture.


The young man who is to be executed in March has been judged insane by two doctors from Menninger Hosp.  He must be insane and I feel should be put away for life if necessary.


Feeling as I do, I must write you and protest in my small way against the execution.


Yours truly, Grace Landell, Bethel, Ks.





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March 3, 1961


Dear Miss Shannon:


Thanks for your letter of February 27.


I appreciate very much receiving your thoughts concerning capital punishment, and you may be assured that I will give proper consideration to the views you have expressed.



John Anderson, Jr.


Miss Mary D. Shannon

Clearwater, Kansas




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Clearwater, Ks

February 27, 1961


Dear Sir:

Please do not hang the four men on “Death Row,” instead give them life imprisonment, or something else, but please, no death sentence.


Surely you have read and studied the Bible and in there you have read, “Thou shall not kill.”  These men have broken this law, but “we should not judge lest we ourselves should be “judged.”  (These verses may not have the right words but at least you should get the right idea.)


I believe one of your campaign issues which influenced the people to vote for you was that of capital punishment.  I’m sure that you dislike capital punishment as much as I do, so please, save these men.


In arguing for capital punishment, the only point would be it is cheaper to have a hanging.  True, but what is money compared to a life?


Should one of these men be in-


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nocent, you and the men who work with you, would be committing a murder.  (You’re committing murder anyway even if they are guilty.)


Please try, and perhaps, under your guidance, capital punishment can be abolished forever in the state of Kansas.


Thank you,


Mary D. Shannon




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March 7, 1961


Dear Mr. Wedel:


Thanks for your letter of February 25.


I appreciate very much receiving your thoughts concerning capital punishment, and you may be assured I will give proper consideration to the views you have expressed.


Sincerely yours,

John Anderson, Jr.



Mr. Arnold M. Wedel

Professor of Mathematics

Bethel College

North Newton, K




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Box 245

N. Newton, Kansas

Feb 25, 1961


Governor Anderson:


I would like to urge you very strongly to abolish capital punishment in Kansas.  I can see no reason for it.  In particular I would like to ask you to commute the sentence of Mr. Andrews to life imprisonment.


I voted for Mr. Docking principally because of his stand on capital punishment.


We are all sinners in the sight of God and thus it seems ridiculous for us to stand in judgment of another individual to the extent of taking his life.


I have appreciated your administration so far and I hope & pray that it will not be marred by these useless murders.


Sincerely yours,

Arnold M. Wedel, Ph.D.

Professor of Mathematics

Bethel College

N. Newton, Kansas





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March 7, 1961


Dear Mr. Mills:


Thanks for your letter of March 1.


I appreciate very much receiving your thoughts concerning capital punishment, and you may be assured that I will give proper consideration to the views you have expressed.


Sincerely yours,

John Anderson, Jr.



Mr. D.E. Mills

Inn Hotel

Butler, Missouri




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Butler Mo

Mar. 1-61


Mr. Governor John Anderson,

This is Happy Mills, wrightting you, remember I made a Golf Corse at Olathe, and, run it for ten years, when you as a young Buck were coming up, while I am a Democrat I like all good Republicans just the same.  And I want to you make a good Governor and Democrats and Republicans all alike, all along the line have their eves on good watching if you will pass up all these killers as Docking did from Kansas City

Hickman Mill

Grandview Mo





Rich Hill


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John did see by K.C. Star what that sucker in California did to that little girl 4 years.


My God help all of us, but how are going to get along with that kind of stuff.


We all know down here there is something ahead for you on March 9.  I am an old and I am going to enclose a stamp, hoping you will put it on envelope, and if you don’t do anything but say Hello and write your name I’ll be Happy.  May God Bless you.

This is D.E. Hap Miller

Inn Hotel

Butler Mo.





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March 10, 1961


Mr. Walter Finks

801 North York

Oberlin, Kansas


Dear Mr. Finks:


Governor Anderson has asked us to reply to your letter addressed to Governor Docking on February 26, which has been delayed.


We do not have good debate material on capital punishment in our office, but I am enclosing a copy of the statement issued by Mr. Heim, assistant director of penal institutions, which reviews the situation somewhat.  Then I find two old items in 1939.  They both seem to be adverse to capital punishment but you might like to have them.


The Extension Library at the University of Kansas does have some packets of material on various debate subjects.  Consequently, I am sending your letter on to them to see if by any chance they might have more material.


Very truly yours,


F.H. Guild, Director





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March 15, 1961


Dear Mr. Kukuk:


Thanks for your letter of March 8th.


I appreciate very much receiving your thoughts concerning capital punishment, and you may be assured that I will give proper consideration to the views you have expressed.



John Anderson, Jr.


Mr. William E. Kukuk

819 Adams Street

Topeka, Kansas





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Lawrence, Kansas

March 8, 1961


Governor John Anderson

State House Building

Topeka, Kansas


Honorable Governor:


I am writing this letter hoping, that you have had a change of mind on capital punishment and want to encourage you to think deeply over the matter.


As long as our country does not progress we cannot progress to compete with our enemies of other countries.  Nothing is being accomplished as long as we follow present trends and until we enter situations with open hearts, both our state and our country will be benefited.


I know you realize all of this and since you are a public servant you want to know other voters viewpoints.




William E. Kukuk





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March 17, 1961


Dear Dr. and Mrs. Wiens:


Thanks for your letter of March 13.


I appreciate very much receiving your thoughts in this matter and you may be assured that I will give proper consideration to the views you have expressed.




John Anderson, Jr.



Dr. and Mrs. J.W. Wiens

4013 Adams

Kansas City 3, Kansas





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4015 Adams

Kansas City 3, Kansas

March 13, 1961


The Hon. John Anderson

Office of the Governor

State House

Topeka, Kansas


Dear Sir:


Our minister has called to our attention the fact that there is now legislation pending regarding the abolishment of capital punishment.  I hope it is not too late to voice a personal concern for the action you will take on this matter.


Generally speaking, there does not appear to be good evidence that capital punishment is an effective deterrent for commiting crimes now punishment by death.  Furthermore, numerous cases have been solved after a person’s life was taken by the state in which it was determined that such person was innocent.


Speaking specifically from the standpoint of a follower of Christ’s teachings, I can find no basis for taking another man’s life.  Moreover, Christ would admonish us to make every effort to reform this life which is just as worthy of forgiveness as you and me.


I would ask you to seriously consider what the state gains from taking lives – when it has no God-given right to do so.  Would it not be wiser to improve our means of recreating these misguided lives?




Mrs. Norma J. Wiens





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4015 Adams

Kansas City 3, Kansas


March 13, 1961


The Hon. John Anderson

Office of the Governor

Topeka, Kansas


Dear Sir:


It was brought to my attention that legislation to abolish capital punishment in Kansas is now or will soon be considered by you.  As a resident of Wyandotte County, I feel you can best represent the wishes of the people if you know what our opinions are in this matter. 


Because of my religious convictions; my recently completed study in the field of medicine; and a year spent in the employment of the National Training School for Boys in Washington, D.C. (1951-52), I feel that nothing can be gained by putting criminals to death.


I therefore stand in favor of abolishing capital punishment in Kansas and instituting more vigorous rehabilitative measures.




John Wendell Wiens, M.D.





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December 1, 1962


The Honorable John Anderson

The Governor of Kansas


Topeka, Kansas


Dear Governor John:


This is a draft of a letter.  It is what I think but it isn’t all that I think.  I don’t think the Governor ought to be put on the spot, time after time, regarding the life and death of a man.  As you know, I feel strongly against capital punishment, just as many felt about slavery a few generations ago.  I think it is morally wrong, and I have to speak out.  But I want to be helpful to you, too.


If you do not think this will hurt you in any way, I would like to send it to the press.  But I won’t do so unless you unofficially give me permission.  I won’t quote you as having given me permission unless you would like me to do so.


Sincerely yours,






Please use Enclosed stamped envelope.





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November 30, 1962

The Honorable John Anderson

The Governor of Kansas


Topeka, Kansas


Dear Governor Anderson:


According to the newspapers, it took eighteen minutes for the State to strangle the Andrews boy yesterday.  That’s a long time.  If we have to go on killing people up in Lansing, I think it would be more humane to shoot them.


I wrote you recently urging clemency because as a physician, I oppose all killing and certainly the killing of sick people, no matter how obnoxious they may be.  I did not get a reply from you, but I understand that your position is that this is the will of the people – that they got this law passed and if this is what they want, you are duty-bound to enforce their wishes.  Any state employees at Lansing not wanting the job of choking people to death can resign.


You have a good point; maybe this is what the people of Kansas want.  But I doubt it.  Have any of them watched one of these hangings?  Read what Warden Duffy of San Quentin says –


“I hate the death penalty because of its inhumanity …

“I hate the death penalty because it is a brutal spectacle …

“I hate the death penalty because it is a terrible waste of human energy …

“I hate the death penalty because it does not allow for examination, mental aberration or psychological disturbance …

“I hate the death penalty because it makes mockery of our moral code …

(In his recent book entitled, “88 Men and 2 Women”)


If a warden who has killed 90 people for us, one by one, can say all that about the wretched business, does the public really want it?


Sincerely yours,


Karl Menninger, M.D.






[Image 37]


November 9, 1962

The Honorable John Anderson

Governor of Kansas

State House

Topeka, Kansas


Dear Governor John:


I think you would take a great forward step for penology in Kansas and for humane government and for intelligent leadership if you would up and commute this fellow Andrew’s sentence.  I mean this clumsy, queer, crazy K.U. boy who shot his parents and sister. Nothing is going to be gained by executing a man as sick at this.  It won’t do him any good and it won’t do anyone else any good.  Mental illness is not prevented by public execution of any of its victims.


There will be a few bloodhounds in the state who will criticize you for it, but I think there are more intelligent, humane-minded people than there are bully boys.  However, even if it would hurt you politically – which I don’t think it would – I do advise you to do it.




Karl Menninger, M.D.






[Image 38]


May 18, 1961

Dear Mr. Sims:


I appreciate very much receiving your thoughts regarding capital punishment.


I would suggest, since you think it is wrong that you contact your Representative and Senator to the Legislature for only they can change the law.




John Anderson, Jr.




Mr. Orville Sims

2234 North Market

Wichita, Kansas





[Image 39]


Orville Sims

2234 N. Market

Wichita, Kansas

May 13, 1961


Dear Governor Anderson:


There is no such thing as a righteous execution.  The death penalty in Kansas is legal, but by no stretch of the imagination is it righteous.


“If righteousness come by the law then Christ is dead in vain.”  “There is one lawgiver who is able to rave and to destroy.  Who art thou that judgeth another.”


We aren’t living under the Mosaic Law of the Old Testament, but rather under the Grace of God of the New Testament.


If legal executions in Kansas and in other states in this country are righteous; then the firing squads in Russia, China, & Cuba are righteous too; they are legal.


Executions pollute the steam of justice and redicule the Grace of God.



Orville Sims




[Image 40]


April 10, 1961


Dear Miss Groseth:


Thanks for your letter of April 5.


I appreciate very much receiving your thoughts on capital punishment.  The members of the Legislature make the laws under which you an I, as Kansas citizens, have to live.  Therefore, I would suggest that if you want this law repealed that you contact your Representative and Senator to the Kansas Legislature before the next regular session.




John Anderson, Jr.




Miss Nancy D. Gorseth

5229 Nall Avenue

Mission, Kansas





[Image 41]


John C. Anderson

Governor of Kansas

Topeka, Kansas


April 5, 1961


Governor Anderson;


Americans claim that if an individual doesn’t approve of something “their” government does, they can take action to have this particular thing stopped or changed.


I am a twenty-five year old housewife and mother living in Mission, Kansas.  Ever since my teens I have been bothered by the thought that some states still have capital punishment.  Living most of my life in my home state of Minnesota, there seemed to be nothing I could do about it, but now that I am a resident of Kansas, where this practice prevails, I am hoping I can be a part of it’s abolishment.


Capital punishment goes against everything I’ve been taught and everything I and my church are trying to teach my children.  It seems odd that in a primarily christian  country, we should practice such a barbaric and unchristian law.  I don’t feel I have the authority to decide when another man’s life should end, and don’t think that authority was ever given to any other human being either, since life itself is a divine gift.  To kill our criminals is to say that two


[Image 42]


wrongs make a right.  This type of revenge is not the answer, in my opinion.


I watched and followed your campaign, since my husband and I are strong republicans.  I’m still waiting for you to state your own personal views on the subject.  At any rate I’m hoping you can give me some instructions on how to go about doing this.  Any suggestions will be appreciated.


Very respectfully,

Nancy D. Groseth.





[Image 43]


Coyville, Kansas

May 15, 1962


Honorable John Anderson

Governor of Kansas

Topeka, Kansas


Dear Sir:


During the Eisenhower Administration a National Health Insurance Plan for older citizens was enacted into law.  As we understand this plan, it was to be implemented by each state.  It is not compulsory.


Thirty-three states have taken advantage of this plan for their older people.  Why has Kansas not done so?


The program is one many of our people gravely need.  It is one that makes a fine start toward care of our elderly people.  Why do we hesitate to follow the other states in accepting this plan?



Millie Cummings

Norma Fischer

Cora Willoughby

Isla Mead

Mrs. Charles R. Knox

Mrs. Dell Findley

Mrs Dolie Claiborne

Mrs Maggie Dixon

Mrs. Alta Willhite

Mrs Blanche Anderson

Mrs c W Mevey

Mrs George Bell

Mrs. Edna McVey

Mrs. Myrtle Sullivan

All of Coyville, Kansas




[Image 44]


The Hutchinson News

Hutchinson, Kansas


Nov. 30, 1962


Dear Governor:


A story in Friday’s Kansas City Kansan reports that there were six witnesses to the Andrews execution, but that “Warden Crouse would not reveal identity of the representatives.”


I can understand the desire of the state for maximum secrecy concerning this senseless and barbaric execution.  But I was under the impression that the law provides for official witnesses in order that the public, which ordained the execution may be physically represented at its carrying out.  Representation is meaningless unless the public knows by whom it is being represented.


I have asked the Associated Press to provide us with the names of the witnesses.  I trust you will instruct the prison officials to cooperate in the request.


Sincerely yours,


John McCormally





[Image 45]


January 16, 1963


Mrs. Theodore Valine

923 East Sherman Avenue

Hutchinson, Kansas


Dear Mrs. Valine:


I appreciate very much receiving your thoughts regarding capital punishment and also regarding Wichita University.  You may be assured that I will give consideration to the views you have expressed.




John Anderson, Jr.





[Image 46]


923 East Sherman Ave.,

Hutchinson, Kansas,

January 9, 1963


Gov. John Anderson, Jr.,

State Capitol Bldg.,

Topeka, Kansas


Dear Mr. Anderson:


First of all, I wish to commend you for allowing the law to take its course in the case of Lowell Andrews and I hope that Perry Smith and Richard Hickok will soon be accorded the same treatment, which is their just due.  It is a sad commentary on our civilization if the life of a murderer is more precious than that of his victims, who are usually upright law-abiding citizens, minding their own business and trying to make the world a better place in which to live.  It is dangerous to society to permit wanton murderers to remain alive.  This is true whether the murderer is sane or not.  I have never heard of a criminal-insane person being cured, but if I am wrong on that point, I will be glad to be corrected.  I firmly believe that we must have some form of capital punishment but it does not necessarily have to be by hanging—that form does seem gruesome, yet not more so than the horrible deaths inflicted on their victims, sometimes after prolonged torture!  However, the object is to remove these dangerous characters permanently and if a better way than hanging is found to accomplish this, that is fine.  Perhaps they could be chloroformed or given an over-dose of sleeping pills or something of that nature.  No one can convince me that capital punishment does not deter crime.  For every one who murders in spite of the consequences, there must be dozens who decide against it.  We need to strengthen our laws so that no one could murder without forfeiting his own life.


Secondly, with respect to admitting the Wichita University to the state system of higher education, I am in favor of doing so.  It should not become merely a “center” connected with either Manhattan or Lawrence but retain its identity and be under direct control of the state on the same basis as other state schools.


With every good wish for our state and our nation I remain


Yours respectfully,


(Mrs.) Frances Valine




[Image 47]


January 21, 1963


Miss Debby Lou Penny

2038 Canterbury Road

Emporia, Kansas


Dear Miss Penny:


I appreciate very much receiving your letter.


Laws are passed by members of the state legislature and these members are elected by the people they represent.  We have a capital punishment law, therefore it would seem that a higher percentage of people in the state favor this law than those who oppose it.  I do feel it would be an abuse of my authority to set aside a court order for any other reason than that it was unlawfully given.  These things are hard to understand, but as you grow older perhaps you will more fully comprehend my position.  As Governor, it is my duty to see that the laws are upheld.




John Anderson, Jr.






[Image 48]


Dear Governor:


I’m only 10 years old but I want to talk to you in writing.  Please don’t get mad, but you’re kind of murdering people.  What I’m talking about is when a person murders another person why is the murderer killed?  If so, you just might set too many examples.  Kill off all the people in the State and have very few left.


Please write an answer to my letter.


Your Friend,

Debby Lou Penny





[Image 49]


January 25, 1963


Mr. and Mrs. J.F. Cox

Box 265

Attica, Kansas


Dear Mr. and Mrs. Cox:


I appreciate very much receiving your thoughts regarding capital punishment and the selling of alcoholic beverages by the drink in Kansas, and you may be assured that I will give consideration to the views you have expressed.




John Anderson, Jr.






[Image 50]


Attica Kansas

Jan 22 – 1963

To the Honorable John Anderson

Dear Sir,


I’m writing to you about several things I can’t seem to understand, I see in the paper where a bill to abolish Capital punishment.  Now I’m not a killer but I believe the Word of God, read Ecclesiastes 8 ch – 11-12 & 13 v.  The 11 verse is, “Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of man is fully set in them to do evil.”  Read the other 2.  Seems the law is so slow and in a few yrs. sentence them, & then its not long, say 5 yrs. & they are loose to do it all over again.  So I hope that


[Image 51]


law still stands.


Smith and Hitchcock are a good example.


The Alcoholic beverage is another evil.  Its to awful the way it is by the package, but by the drink any kid would be able to drink, and the age limit should be 21 yrs.


We are also against our boys being in the U.N. Army all under the U.N.  That will about be the final blow, to bring us in to Communism as the Nation that forgets God will parish.  God help the heads of our nation to wake up and turn to God, before it’s to late.


I’m glad for a R. State.


God Bless you


Mr & Mrs J.F. Cox Box 265

Attica Ks.





[Image 52]


March 18, 1963


The Reverend Milo J. Paulin

Wesley Methodist Church

21st & Jackson

Wichita 14, Kansas


Dear Mr. Paulin:


I appreciate very much receiving your thoughts regarding Capital Punishment, and you may be assured that I will give consideration to the views you have expressed.




John Anderson, Jr.






[Image 53


March 12, 1963


Governor John Anderson,

Topeka, Kansas


Dear Sir:


The Assembled ministers of the Wichita District of the Central Kansas Conference of the Methodist Church, at their March 8 meeting held in the Brookside Methodist Church in Wichita, Kansas, directed “our Secretary to write to the Governor of the State of Kansas, State Senator Fayette Rowe, and Representative George Griffin, affirming this position:  We stand for the abolition of capital punishment in accordance with the 1960 General Conference of the Methodist Church:  Section 3 of the declaration of Social Concerns.  (Paragraph 2020, Statement D) entitled ‘Treatment of Crime’:


“We stand for the application of the redemptive principle to the treatment of offenders against the law, to reform of penal and correctional methods and to criminal court procedure.  For this reason, we deplore the use of capital punishment.”


In summary, we believe capital punishment is contrary to moral logic:  it involves the people not in righteous vindication, but in the further incurance of an ever growing corporate guilt:  It destroys the possibilities of rehabilitation and redemption of the criminal; and in very principle is repugnant to the human conscience, all because it challenges the law of the sovereign God who has decreed, “Thou shalt not kill.”




Rev Milo J Paulin, Secretary.

Box 2382, Wichita, 14, Kansas.





[Image 54]


May 14, 1963

Mrs. Charles Reece

723 Dexter Street

Clay Center, Kansas


Dear Mrs. Reece:


I wish to belatedly acknowledge and thank you for your kind letter which you sent in March and in which you enclosed an editorial concerning Mr. J. Edgar Hoover’s opinion concerning capital punishment.


Thank you for taking time to convey to me your feelings in this respect.


Very truly yours,


John Anderson, Jr.






[Image 55]


Clay Center Kans

Mar 1 – 63.


Governor Anderson

Topeka, Kansas


Dear Sir: - now while the death penalty is being discussed I thought it might be timely to send this Editorial which to me seems is right and from such an authority.  I have been at Garden City many times and felt the gloom from the awful deaths of the Clutter family, there are times, as Hoover says that we need supreme protection, and a lighthouse not to be torn down.


Yours truly

Mrs. Chas Reece

723 Dexter

Clay Center Kans





[Image 56]




Favors Death Penalty


Federal Bureau of Investigation Director J. Edgar Hoover has spoken his piece on the capital punishment issue.


In short, he favors it.


‘We must never allow misguided compassion to erase our concern for the hundreds of unfortunate, innocent victims of bestial criminals,” Hoover stated.


He used the words of a judge who once said:  “The death penalty is a warning, just like a lighthouse throwing its beams out to sea.  We hear about shipwrecks, but we do not hear about the ships the lighthouse guides safely on their way.  We do not have proof of the number of ships it saves, but we do not tear the lighthouse down.”


Hoover sees capital punishment as an instrument with which man may guard the righteous against the predators among men.


While society demands legal safeguards, nothing is so precious in our country as the life of a human being – whether he is a criminal or not.


For this reason, society must make certain no is put to death until proven guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt of a crime for which the law provides the death penalty.


Mr. Hoover’s opinion does not make capital punishment the acceptable penalty for major crimes.  But his arguments in favor of it are difficult to refute.


Just as a Power transcending man is the final Judge, this same Power gave man reason so that he night protect himself.





[Image 57]


March 18, 1964


Governor John Anderson

Kansas State Capitol

Topeka, Kansas


Dear Governor Anderson:


The question of capital punishment has long concerned me.


I have examined the question of deterrence from both sides, but believe there are deeper considerations:  The Governor of one of our largest states told me that “the man with money does not get the death sentence”.  A warden told me to look at those executed in his large Western penitentiary:  Impoverished whites and Negroes, mostly.


In my work with news media I once met young ex-gang members in the Bronx.  One told me that of 21 youths on his block, 14 were on heroin and 2 had died from overdoses.  Projecting such youth into adult crime with possible homicide resulting, and then to execute them – even if it were possible they knew right from wrong – would be to execute “victims”.


“But I came out of such an environment”, a prominent man told me.  Yet, as we conversed, he mentioned the “wisdom” his father – from an old country – had imparted to him, and I believe this was an advantage to strengthen him.


I believe if the lives of criminals were traced, either external or internal causative conditions would be found – not to condone their crimes, but to explain them – and that they should be disciplined, isolated, and treated whatever the length of time.  I believe when a criminal gains insight and is made aware of his spiritual-mental-physical capacities, he will respond to fulfill them.


Having witnessed an execution (during wartime), I believe this is a horrible practice for man in our time and that, unless I protest it, I share a responsibility in it.


I wanted to express my views to a person of your prestige, in the hope you may be instrumental in eliminating this practice.




Howard Brodie

4006 Ben Lomond Drive

Palo Alto, California


Letters to other governors.





[Image 58]


Hillsboro High School

Hillsboro, Kansas

April 1, 1964


Governor Anderson




Dear Governor Anderson:


Our Senior government class has divided into groups on different subjects to discuss problems of today’s world.  My group is discussing Capital Punishment.  I would like to know if you could send us any information on the subject, any personal opinion, or similar information.  One question we have is “Has crime decreased since Capital Punishment has been reinstated in Kansas?  Do you think Capital Punishment controls crime?”  I would appreciate an answer as soon as possible.


Sincerely yours,

Charlotte A. Kennedy





[Image 59]


November 19, 1964


Mr. Allan Berg

608 Luzon Avenue

Tampa 6, Florida


Dear Mr. Berg:


As Governor of the State of Kansas, I am bound to uphold the laws of the state, and at the present time we do have capital punishment.  Because of this, I do not wish to comment on this matter.




John Anderson, Jr.






[Image 60]



Tampa 6, Florida


November 1, 1964


Governor John Anderson:


I am a senior at the University of Tampa majoring in Psychology and Sociology.  Presently, I am conducting a cross-country survey concerning Capital Punishment.  By contacting our country’s leaders, I hope to establish a point of view as to whether Capital Punishment should be continued or banished.  This information will be compiled and turned over to the University of Tampa Sociology Department by myself and three other co-workers.  Also, is Capital Punishment a deterent to crime and if so, how could we make this means of criminal control more fullproof; and if not, what would your suggestions be towards establishing a better means of control.


Would you please send your reply to my home address:  608 Luzon Avenue, Tampa 6, Florida.


Thank you very much for taking the time to read this letter.


I am anxiously awaiting your reply.


Yours truly,


Allan Berg





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