John J. Conard Sr.
Topeka It was the kind of bipartisan spirit John J. Conard Sr. would have enjoyed.
Republican and Democratic leaders came together Tuesday to honor the former House speaker who died Oct. 12, 2007, in Lawrence at the age of 86.
"We are so honored that our representatives would do this," said Conard's son, John Jr.
Conard's wife of 60 years, Virginia, and grandchildren Katie, 13, and Spencer, 10, all of Lawrence, were in the House chamber as lawmakers approved a resolution in honor of Conard and gave the family a standing ovation.
A Navy pilot in World War II, newspaper publisher and politician, Conard served in the Kansas House as a Republican from Greensburg for 10 years, becoming speaker during his final term from 1967 through 1968.
He earned two degrees from Kansas University and a doctorate from Sorbonne University in Paris.
House Minority Leader Dennis McKinney, D-Greensburg, noted Conard "supported veterans all through the years." McKinney quipped that Conard never had trouble getting his columns published in the Kiowa County paper that he owned.
State Rep. Tom Sloan, R-Lawrence, described Conard as "one of the most thoughtful gentlemen I have ever known."
Sloan said Conard prized policymaking and civility over ideology. He served in an era when legislators often dined together and lived in the same hotel during the session, Sloan said. They thought of one another as friends instead of opponents, he said.
After his tenure in the House, Conard served as director of University Relations at KU, was an assistant to three chancellors, served as chief of staff to Gov. Robert Bennett and then as executive director of the Kansas Board of Regents before retiring in 1982.