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William Allen White's Editorials

William Allen White wrote many innovative and inspiring editorials that caught the nation's attention. Below are excerpts from a few of his more memorable editorials. Click on the links to read the editorials in their entirety.

In 1886, one year after acquiring The Emporia Gazette, White wrote a powerful conservative editorial directed at the Populist party in the midst of the McKinley-Bryan campaign. White stated that his editorial, What's the Matter with Kansas, "represented conservatism in its full and perfect flower." The editorial was widely circulated in pamphlet form by the Republican campaign, catapulting White to national fame. Below is an excerpt from the editorial.

What's the Matter with Kansas? - August 15, 1896

Today the Kansas Department of Agriculture sent out a statement which indicates that Kansas has gained less than two thousand people in the past year. There are about two hundred and twenty-five thousand families in the state, and there were about ten thousand babies born in Kansas, and yet so many people have left the state that the natural increase is cut down to less than two thousand net.


White wrote many hard hitting editorials, but his style changed when he wrote of his daughter Mary White shortly after her death in 1921. This piece celebrates his daughter's life, which was tragically cut short at the age of sixteen. Below is an excerpt form the editorial.

Mary White - May 17, 1921

The Associated Press reports carrying the news of Mary White's death declared that it came as the result of a fall from a horse. How she would have hooted at that! She never fell from a horse in her life. Horses have fallen on her and with her - "I'm always trying to hold 'em in my lap," she used to say. But she was proud of few things, and one was that she could ride anything that had four legs and hair. Her death resulted not from a fall, but from a blow on the head, which fractured her skull, and the blow came from the limb of an overhanging tree on the parking.


In 1922, White faced arrest and a possible jail sentence due to a public argument about labor rights and free speech with then governor of Kansas Henry Allen. White wrote his Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial, To an Anxious Friend, after the charges against him were dropped. Below is an excerpt from the editorial.

To An Anxious Friend - July 27, 1922

You tell me that law is above freedom of utterance. And I reply that you can have no wise laws nor free entertainment of wise laws unless there is free expression of the wisdom of the people - and, alas, their folly with it. But if there is freedom, folly will die of its own poison, and the wisdom will survive. That is the history of the race. It is proof of man's kinship with God. You say that freedom of utterance is not for time of stress, and I reply with the sad truth that only in time of stress is freedom of utterance in danger. No one questions it in calm days, because it is not needed. And the reverse is true also; only when free utterance is suppressed is it needed, and when it is needed, it is most vital to justice.


During his career, White's Republican connections greatly helped him in the state's political, business, and editorial circles. His friends' help catapulted him to being one of the nation's most prominent progressives. During this period, White supported his good friend Theodore Roosevelt for President. In 1909, White wrote a tribute to Roosevelt - the man and the Politician - reflecting on his two terms as president. Below is an except from the editorial Roosevelt.

Roosevelt - March 4, 1909

What Theodore Roosevelt has done for this country – the laws he has pushed through Congress, the policies of administration he has inaugurated, the righteousness he has made public morals – all these form a most unique career in our history. But they are not chiefly the most important part of our heritage that Theodore Roosevelt has given to the people. The chief thing he gave was himself.

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