Skip to main content

Robert Blackwell Docking papers

Call Number: RH MS 167


The papers of Robert B. Docking, governor of Kansas from 1967-1974, date from approximately 1955 to 1981 and reflect his official duties and activities as well as some of his campaign activities and personal endeavors. This includes correspondence with Kansas state agencies and departments, constituents, and state Democratic party officials. The collection also reflects Docking's involvement, as governor, in the legislative process and in a variety of regional and federal programs. There are also copies of his speeches and press releases.


  • Creation: 1955 - 1981


Conditions Governing Access

Patronage files restricted until 2044 under the Kansas Open Records Act, K.S.A. 45-221(a)(14).

Conditions Governing Use

The literary rights on any unpublished writings of Robert Docking in this collection are dedicated to the public.

Spencer Library staff may determine use restrictions dependent on the physical condition of manuscript materials.

Biography of Robert Blackwell Docking (1925-1983)

Robert Blackwell Docking served as the 38th governor of Kansas, holding the position for an unprecedented four two-year terms from January 1967 to January 1975. Docking was a Democrat, the first to unseat an incumbent Republican, which he did in 1966 by defeating Governor William Avery. Winning reelection (in 1968) he was only the second Democrat to serve two terms. The only other Democrat to serve as governor for two terms was his father, George Docking, who held the post from 1957 to 1961.

Robert Docking was born in Kansas City, Missouri, on October 9, 1925. He attended elementary and high school in Lawrence, Kansas. Following high school, Docking attended the University of Kansas and received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors in 1948. He later received a certificate of graduation from the Graduate School of Banking, University of Wisconsin.

Docking entered the family banking business in Lawrence in 1950. In 1956, he and his family moved to Arkansas City, Cowley County, Kansas, when Docking became vice-president of the Union State Bank. He was named president of the bank in 1959, a position he held until his election as governor. Prior to his entrance into state politics, Docking served as mayor and as city commissioner in Arkansas City.

Docking married Meredith Gear on June 17, 1950. She was also a graduate of Kansas University and a member of Chi Omega sorority. The Dockings had two sons, William Russell and Thomas Robert.


311.75 linear foot (313 boxes + 5 oversize folders + 7 oversize boxes)

Language of Materials


Scope and Contents

The Robert B. Docking gubernatorial records contain a wide variety of materials that document Governor Docking's years in office from 1967 to 1974. The inclusive dates for the collection are 1955 to 1976 with the bulk of the material dated from November 1966 to January 1975. Materials from November to December 1966 are filed with January 1967, and from January 1975 with December 1974, unless otherwise indicated.

The collection largely consists of correspondence, newspaper clippings, appointment books, weekly schedules, press releases, speeches, copies of legislation, working notes about legislative proposals, political newsletters, campaign materials, photographs, and notes on strategy.

These materials, in various combinations, form six major series of material which are as follows: 1) general filing (the term used by the Governor's office) which indicates correspondence, memoranda, and other material relating to the numerous state agencies and to communications with constituents; 2) legislative, which includes copies of all bills for each legislative session with related notes and correspondence; 3) political, which includes campaign material, political correspondence, and miscellaneous political material; 4) patronage, which contains information about appointments to the various state boards and agencies, correspondence concerning appointments, and general requests for non-appointive jobs; 5) speeches and press releases of the governor and his assistants; and 6) appearances and declines, which consists of requests for appearances by the governor and correspondence indicating his response.

The collection also contains several minor series which are as follows: assistant's files, which consist of the correspondence of several of Docking's staff members; Ozark Regional Commission files, which include information on the Ozark Regional Commission and other cooperative programs; Governors' Conference materials; files of the Legal Advisor, including pardon and extradition materials; policy files; and some miscellaneous materials that do not fit into any of the preceeding series.

Additionally, the collection has material from later additions to the collection. The 1991 addition has been given its own series while the 2022 addition, believed to have material from the original collection that remained unprocessed, has been incorporated into the previously stated series under a "Records shelved at RH MS 1555" subseries or into three new series: 1) photographs, which consist of photographs of Docking and events during his years in office; 2) personal files about personal and professional endeavors not connected to Docking's time as governor; and 3) oversize material.

This collection not only documents the actions of Robert B. Docking as governor of Kansas, but also reflects the issues that were important to Kansans during Docking's eight years in office. Concern about specific issues, with the exception of legislative matters, is generally found in the general correspondence division of the general files. Docking's first years in office correspond to the last years of the United States involvement in Vietman. The collection, in the "Adjutant-General" portion, contains correspondence from Kansans reacting to American involvement and to the activation for duty in Vietnam of a unit of the Kansas National Guard. Campus protests of the war and the accompanying security problems are reflected in the "Regents," "Kansas Highway Patrol," and "Civil Disorders" files of the general correspondence. A growing concern about pollution is reflected in "Department of Health" files until the creation of an "Environment" file under "Health" in 1969. Concern about the proposal to establish an atomic waste disposal plant in Kansas is reflected in "Atomic Energy" files. The Governor's Committee on Criminal Administration was established in 1968 and was involved in improving law enforcement in the state and in handling drug abuse education programs. The "Social Welfare" files contain correspondence that illustrates some of the problems of low income families and, in 1971, contain protests about a wage reduction for employees in state health institutions. The general correspondence in 1971 and 1972 includes a file for "Wage-Price Freeze," which consists primarily of information about federal guidelines for implementing the freeze. The issue of cross-busing is reflected in the "Education" files for 1972. The fuel allocation problems of 1973 and 1974 appear in the "Kansas Department of Economic Development" files.

Correspondence from national politicians and officials on specific issues (excluding election congratulations and get well messages) are filed either in "U.S. Officials," "U.S. Senators and Representatives," or in the appropriate subject files (such as Volpe--"Highway").

For the most part correspondence concerning such items as taxes, liquor by the drink, education funding issues, and daylight savings is in the legislative files.

No major gaps exist in the papers. Newspaper clippings are fairly sparse for 1969-1972 and "Appearances and Declines," with a few exceptions, before 1970 were disposed of by the Governor's staff because of storage problems. Some materials in the 1968-1969 files were damaged and others were destroyed during a water leak in the basement of the State Capitol. This accounts for the deterioration of some of the materials in these two years and for any gaps that might be apparent.

Physical Location

RH MS 167

Physical Location

RH MS 753

Physical Location

RH MS-P 167(f)

Physical Location


Physical Location

RH MS 1555

Physical Location

RH MS Q488

Physical Location

RH MS R499, RH MS R500

Physical Location


Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gifts, Robert Docking, 1975; Marvin Harder, 1985; unknown, 1991.

Related Materials

Marvin Harder Collection, RH MS 759, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas.

George Docking papers, RH MS 920, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas.

Virginia B. Docking Collection, RH MS 468, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas.

Norbert Dreiling Collection, RH MS 836, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas.

Governor Docking's staff

Administrative Assistant

  1. Paul Pendergast, November, 1966-September, 1968
  2. John Ivan, September 1968-February, 1974

Executive Assistant

  1. Patrick Burnau, , February, 1969-January, 1975

Personal Secretary

  1. Mary Hanfelt, November 1966-January, 1975

Press Secretary

  1. Max McDowell, January 1967-August, 1967
  2. Patrick Burnau, August 1967-February, 1969
  3. James Shaffer, February, 1969-December, 1974

Special Assistant to Governor on Education

  1. George Simpson, , December, 1966-September, 1967
  2. Marvin A. Harder, December, 1967-May, 1972 and January, 1974-January, 1975
  3. Calvin Williams, November, 1971-March, 1974

Special Assistant to Governor on Urban and Community Affairs (includingOzark Regional Commission)

  1. James H. DeCoursey, Jr., December, 1966-February, 1968
  2. John Ivan, February, 1968-September, 1968
  3. Darold Main, September, 1968-May, 1970
  4. Ted Sanborn, June, 1970-January, 1975

Legislative Liaison

  1. Vincent Bogart, January, 1967-December, 1968
  2. Thomas Van Cleave, January, 1968-January, 1975
  3. Charles Joseph, January, 1968-January, 1970
  4. Don Matlack, January, 1970-January, 1975

Processing Information

This finding aid was modified in February 2022 by Spencer staff to include an addition to the collection believed to have material from the original donation that had not been previously processed. Materials at RH MS 1555, RH MS Q488, RH MS R499, RH MS R500, and RH MS S77 represent this addition to the collection. Materials at RH MS 753 reflect the 1991 addition.

Guide to the Robert Blackwell Docking Collection
Robert Blackwell Docking papers
Finding aid prepared by mh, pm, jw, am,1975-1977; amc, aw, 2006. Finding aid encoded by amc, aw, 2006. Finding aid revised by skt, 2010; vej and mwh, 2020; and cmp, 2022.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Finding aid written in English.
Finding aid permalink
Preferred citation
Robert Blackwell Docking papers, Kansas Collection, RH MS 167, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas

Repository Details

Part of the University of Kansas. Kenneth Spencer Research Library Repository

1450 Poplar Lane
Lawrence KS 66045-7616 United States