Charles Curtis (1860-1936)

As the thirty-first Vice President of the United States under Herbert Hoover, Charles Curtis was the first American Indian and the first person of non-European ancestry to be elected to the second highest office in the U.S. government’s executive branch. It is also interesting to note that Curtis was the last Vice President (or even President) to wear a beard or mustache—in his case, a mustache—while in office.

Curtis spent part of his early life on an indian reservation, attended Topeka High School and was admitted to the bar in 1882. He served as prosecuting attorney of Shawnee County, Kansas from 1885 to 1889. He was elected as a Republican to the House of Representatives in 1893 and served until January 28, 1907, when he resigned to serve in the United States Senate. During his tenure in the Senate from 1907 to 1929, he was President pro tempore of the Senate as well as Chairman of the Committee on Expenditures in the Department of the Interior, and of the Committee on Indian Depredations. Senator Curtis was also Senate Republican Whip and Majority Leader. He resigned from the Senate on March 3, 1929 to assume the office of Vice President, following the landslide 58% - 41% victory. After he at 72 and President Hoover at 58 were defeated for a second term in 1932, Curtis resumed the practice of law in Washington, D.C. He died from a heart attack in that city in 1936 at the age or 76. His remains were returned to Kansas, where he is buried at the Topeka Cemetery.

Editor’s Comments: Barack Obama became the first black person to become the President of the United States, but Charles Curtis had already made political history when he was elected to important government offices here in the United States of America.