Noted (and notorious) Kansans in history recalled

Roger Carswell, who retired in 2021 after a lengthy stint as the director of the Iola Public Library, shared tales with the Allen County Historical Society Tuesday about 60 Kansans who made their marks on history, both for good and ill.


Local News

May 17, 2023 - 2:17 PM

Roger Carswell speaks about noted and notorious Kansans through history at Tuesday’s spring meeting of the Allen County Historical Society. Photo by Vickie Moss / Iola Register

Roger Carswell’s favorite Kansan is one of its most accomplished: Dwight D. Eisenhower of Abilene.

But in Carswell’s estimation, Eisenhower is best admired not for his political achievements but for his military skill.

“He had a meteoric rise early in World War II and was Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe,” Carswell said at a meeting of the Allen County Historical Society on Tuesday evening.

“Both parties wanted him to run for president but he announced he was a Republican and would run as one,” Carswell said.

Eisenhower was elected twice by large margins. 

“He’s usually considered one of the top 10 presidents,” he said.

Eisenhower is “an easy pick” as his favorite Kansan, and he encouraged everyone to read the book “A Matter of Justice.”

“It kind of rehabilitated his reputation when it came to Civil Rights. He’d been thought of as sort of a laggard on Civil Rights, but if you read that book, I think it will change your mind.”

Carswell’s program included quick summaries of 75 “Noted and Notorious Kansans” as part of the historical society’s annual spring meeting at the Frederick Funston Meeting Hall, 207 N. Jefferson Ave.

Carswell is the former director of Iola Public Library and the Southeast Kansas Library System.

In college, Carswell earned a history degree with the intent of teaching. While that didn’t pan out, his love of history grew stronger, leading to his 29-year library career and the authorship of a book about the history of Osage County, where he grew up.

Since retirement in June 2021, Carswell has become an active volunteer for the historical society and calls himself “The Amateur History Guy.”

CARSWELL first developed his program about notable Kansans for a library presentation. 

The first question he answers is how to define what makes someone a “Kansan.”

He decided to include those who spent a significant part of their life in the state, either before, during or after they became famous — and the opposite, those who spent only a short time in Kansas but made a big impact while here.