Willard Mitt Romney may not get the big party in Washington, DC, but he will have his own inauguration on January 21, 2013.No, it’s not the Kansas way of making sure its winner takes all, but instead a tradition in Norton of recognizing the men who tried for, but lost the run for the White House.
One half hour before President Obama renews the oath of office in the nation’s capital, Mr. Romney will be officially inducted into the town’s “They Also Ran Gallery.”Local politicians and guests will take a few moments to recognize Romney as the 60th entry into the fraternity of those who have been challengers for, but lost the Presidency of the United States.
There have been 44 presidents, but Romney will be the 60th person placed on the walls of the gallery. Major party candidates, as well as some third party contenders are featured along with the stories of their political lives, campaign promises and presidential bids.
Visitors will find the faces of men such as Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford and Theodore Roosevelt, who all held the office, but lost re-election bids. Of course, Kansas native also-rans Alf Landon and Bob Dole are also featured.
The gallery was conceived in 1965 after First State Bank owner and president William Walter Rouse read a book called They Also Ran by Irving Stone. He was so inspired by the stories of the people who had the vision, but lost the election, that he decided to create a permanent place to recognize their efforts inside the lobby of the bank.
Current curator Lee Ann Shearer says they still believe the gallery is the only one of its type in the country. A Smithsonian exhibit in the 1970s focused on a similar theme, but at the time the curators there actually recognized the idea as Rouse’s and called to ask permission before they put the exhibit together.
While the space for the gallery allows for little more than the photos and biographies of the “Also Rans,” Shearer will give tours upon request, explaining in more detail about the two faces in the gallery with a special connection to the area, Landon and Dole. Hundreds of people visit the gallery each year, but Shearer says they have yet to have an Also Ran come to see his own picture.
Visitors to Norton can also stop by a replica of a stagecoach station stop where Horace Greeley once stayed, an adobe house museum that features a real slice of pioneer life and the Norton County Museum that features information about the largest meteor strike in the country (which took place in Norton County) as well as the history of the many ghost towns in the area.
They Also Ran Gallery is open during bank hours or by appointment. You can check out their website.
Karen Ridder is a freelance writer living in Topeka. A former News Producer for KSNW-TV in Wichita, her work can also been seen in print publications including: Topeka Magazine, TK Magazine and the Topeka Capital-Journal. She has written for several national blogs and was recently recognized as one of the 2011 winners in the Annual Kansas Factual Story Contest. Karen has lived in Kansas for 15 years and married a native Wichitan. Together they are raising three little sunflower boys and a dog named George.