Iola, Kan. Robert Talkington, former president of the Kansas Senate, died early Sunday morning from complications of a stroke at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan.
Talkington, 81, attended Kansas University on football and baseball scholarships. He lettered in both sports. He earned a bachelor’s in education in 1951 and his law degree from KU in 1954.
After service in the Army Counter Intelligence Corps during the Korean War, he began his legal career as a private attorney in Iola, the hometown of his wife, the late Donna Schmaus. They were married 58 years. She died in 2009.
Talkington’s career in the Kansas Legislature spanned 20 years. In 1968, he was elected to the Kansas House of Representatives, where he served two terms before his election in 1972 to the Kansas Senate. He served as vice-president of the Senate from 1977 to 1981; majority leader from 1981 to 1985; and was Senate president from 1985 to 1989.
Through his many leadership posts he helped define the budgets for the Kansas Regents Universities, the state’s transportation network and its judicial system.
He was a member of the Kansas Board of Regents from 1995 to 1999, serving as its chairman 1997-98. He served two terms on the Kansas Turnpike Authority, 1977-1985 and 1989-1993.
In 2002, U.S. Highway 169 in Allen County was designated the “Senator Robert V. Talkington Highway” in recognition of his years of service to Kansas.
Other awards include the Distinguished Government Award by the Kansas Bar Association in 2005 and The Outstanding Public Service Award in 1998 by Tyler Junior College. In 2009, Talkington was inducted into the Tyler Junior College Sports Circle of Honor for his outstanding achievements in athletics, professional activities and community service.
He was a KU booster and served on its Greater University Fund, on its Board of Governors for the School of Law and was a member of the Williams Educational Fund and Jayhawks for Higher Education.
He was a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, Phi Delta Phi, Masons, Shriners, Elks and the American Legion. He was a member of First Presbyterian Church and had served as an elder.
Survivors include five children: daughters, Jill and Dave McCaskill, Cypress, Texas, Jacki and Bob Chase, Iola, and Lisa and John Dreasher, Hutchinson; sons, Jim and Staci Talkington, Iola, and Tom and Sherlyn Talkington, Prairie Village; 11 grandchildren: Nathan, Claire and Sarah McCaskill, Allison and Eileen Chase, Holden, Robbie and Camden Dreasher, Jack and Camille Talkington, and Will Talkington.
His seven brothers preceded him in death as did a daughter, Jeanne Ann Talkington, and a son, Donald Patrick.
Visitation is from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at Waugh-Yokum & Friskel Memorial Chapel, Iola. Services will be at 11 a.m. Wednesday at First Presbyterian Church in Iola. Burial is in Highland Cemetery.
Memorials may be left to First Presbyterian Church, Friends of the Bowlus or the Allen Community College Endowment Association.
Online condolences for the family may be left at www.iolafuneral.com.