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George J. Barker
Hon. George J. Barker
Hon. George J. Barker, who became a resident of Lawrence in 1867 and
was identified with that city and the state until his death on October 12,
1912, thoroughly earned a right to rank among the finest legal minds of
Kansas during the last half century. He was not less a great citizen,
especially in his work and devotion to his home community at Lawrence.
George J. Barker was born November 6, 1842, near Springfield,
Massachusetts, son of Cyrus E. and Eliza (King) Barker. He was of English
lineage and of New England stock. When he was seven years of age in 1849
his parents removed to Wisconsin, and he grew up in that state being
educated in the common schools and in Allen's Grove Academy. When a young
man he went to Chicago and became a student in the Chicago Law School,
where he was graduated in 1864. Mr. Barker located in Lawrence, Kansas, in
1867 and his career from that time forward was marked by growing influence
and practice as a lawyer and by numerous positions of trust and
responsibility. He was elected county attorney in 1874, elected to the
same office in 1882 and 1884, was elected mayor in 1887, became a member
of the State Senate in 1885 and again in 1891, was sent to the lower house
of the Legislature in 1897 and, in 1900 and 1902, was speaker of the House
in 1900, became postmaster of Lawrence in 1903, was again chosen mayor in
1907, and thus for nearly forty years he was almost constantly employed
with some public duty or responsibility.
||Better than the bare facts just
outlined is an analysis and appreciation of his services as given
editorially in a local Lawrence paper. His life, in the words of
this editorial, was one of service. The honors that came to him were
few indeed compared to those he had helped his friends to reach. He
was ambitious, but time and again when his brilliant equipment would
have fitted him to aspire any office, he sacrificed his interests to
those of others.
It was during his second term as county attorney, after his election
in 1882, that people became aware of his sterling qualities as an
official. The prohibitory law had not long been on the statute
books; Judge Barker had been an attorney for the liquor men to
prevent the enforcement of the law in Kansas, and following
immediately upon that relation he was elected county attorney. He
enforced the prohibitory law. It was the first time it had been
successfully enforced in Kansas.
His success brought his re-election in 1884, and so gratified were the
temperance people at his stand for law enforcement that he was presented
with a handsome solid service which he prized most highly as long as he
When he was elected mayor in 1887 it was the first election at which the
women of Kansas had been permitted to vote in the choice of municipal
offices. He served one term–it was all he wanted, but city progress was
great. In 1907 he was again elected mayor, this time too against his own
personal desire and by the vote of the women. This time was featured by
the closing of the drinking clubs of the city for the last time and for
good, and by the granting of the franchise for the building of the
electric street railway, which is now in operation.
In his election to the State Senate in 1884 he defeated Governor Robinson.
The passage of the Quantrill raid claims bill was an accomplishment in
which he took great satisfaction. Judge Barker's service was of
inestimable value to the university at a critical period, and his
influence in shaping desirable legislation throughout his time was most
creditable. In 1897 he was elected a member of the lower house, in 1901
was chosen a second time, and this was followed by a third term. Here
again his work was of incalculable value and its impress is written in
many of the laws of the state. Of the 1901 House he was the speaker. His
influence was such that it was spoken of as "his" house and the feeling of
loyalty among both democrats and republicans was never so demonstrated as
it was through the love he aroused by his splendid courtesy, his perfect
consideration, and his absolute standards of right and wrong. Even when
not in the Legislature he exercised a power over law making in the state.
Every legislator from Douglas County invited and secured Judge Barker's
counsel and assistance.
His success as a lawyer was remarkable. Judge Barker was connected with
many important cases and conducted many long drawn out legal battles. He
was attorney for the Union Pacific in the early days of the railroad in
Kansas, and spent a year in the West looking after the company's
interests, sitting in the courtroom beside armed men who were fighting the
railroad in all its advances. He was the chief attorney for the insurance
companies in the Hillmon case, and conducted for the companies every
examination of witnesses. His was the legal mind that successfully
defended the great bond suit of the state against the City of Lawrence. He
also declined a place as lawyer for the insurance companies in the Perkins
cases. His brilliance and success were remarked wherever he appeared in
court, but they were the result of the hardest kind of deep study, for he
mustered every detail of every case entrusted to him with a carefulness
that was always reflected at the trial and in the result. Judge Barker
built up one of the finest law libraries in Kansas. It was destroyed by
fire about two years before his death.
|Judge Barker was always keenly interested in
politics as a republican, and knew the republican leaders
throughout Kansas. His participation was active in younger days,
and as he grew older his delight in the political game was as
great as ever and his advice was always sought. He saved many a
friend from political error, did much to bring about partisan
success, but never sacrificed a principle nor the consideration of
the public good.
His friendships were many and deep, his love for his fellow man
was unbounded. Brilliantly endowed by nature with an active and
acquisitive mind, aided by education in school and of the world,
he was a most congenial companion and one that won that warmth of
feeling from mankind in general that is given to but few to enjoy.
Judge Barker was married February 4, 1867, to Lucene Sheldon Allen,
of Allen's Grove, Wisconsin, a graduate of Rockford College and a
musician of no mean ability. To her the judge attributed a great deal of
his success. Judge Barker was survived by four daughters: Anna (Mrs.
Charles B. Spencer), Lucene Allen (Mrs. Luther North Lewis), Frances
(Mrs. Hugh Means), and Bernice (Mrs. Russel Bigelow Caples).
Source: "A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans",
compiled by William E. Connelley, Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago, 1918.
The above biography is held at
Access Genealogy. Permission
has been granted to republish here.
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