Jonathan Fairbanks and Clyde Edwin Tuck

Past and Present of Greene County, Missouri

Early and Recent History and Genealogical Records
of Many of the Representative Citizens


KIRK HAWKINS. While yet a young man Kirk Hawkins, lawyer of Springfield and state senator, has won a brilliant reputation in one of the most exacting of professions and as a public servant, and he presents to the people of this senatorial district a record of which any man might well boast and an ambition and energy worthy of the highest emulation. He has built himself up by the sheer force of his character and his unswerving honesty of purpose. He has been thoroughly tried as a legislator and has won the best regards of his constituency while in that capacity, and, judging from his past achievements, the future must necessarily be replete with larger success and higher honors.

Mr. Hawkins was born at Ash Grove, Greene county, Missouri, July 19, 1880. He is a son of B. F. and Alice (Kirkpatrick) Hawkins. His ancestors emigrated from Virginia and North Carolina, by way of Tennessee, the family eventually establishing their home in Greene county, Missouri. His paternal grandmother, Elizabeth Littleberry Burnett, lived with her parents at their homestead near Ashville, overlooking the beautiful French Broad river, whose acres now form a part of the famed Vanderbilt estate--Biltmore, the old home having been torn away to make room for one of the most beautiful country residences in America. Her family being in comfortable circumstances, the brothers were tutored in Latin, Greek and mathematics at an early age, and were later prepared for the ministry and other professions. But following the customs of the times it was considered unnecessary to educate the girls and little Elizabeth was expected to pick up what knowledge she could from listening to her brothers recite and by associating with her elders until she was sent to a girls' seminary near Knoxville, Tennessee. It was while attending school there that she met the grandfather of the subject of this sketch. A tall, gray-eyed, sober-minded youth, apprenticed to a tailor was this William Pemberton Hawkins. His parents were either dead or in poor circumstances. Miss Burnett who was just the opposite type-small, dark of hair and eyes, vivacious and very attractive gave up her comfortable home and plighted her troth with the young tailor, and moved with him to the wild and hilly regions of southwest Missouri. The grandfather traveled around for some time selling goods to the Indians, and finally established a store at Stockton, Cedar county. During the latter fifties they located in Ash Grove, Greene county. Although our subject's grandmother reared a large family and endured the hardships of pioneer life and border warfare, she became quite a student of the classics, especially Shakespeare. The Bible was so familiar to her that she was able to quote at length chapter after chapter. This worthy old pioneer couple spent the remaining years of their lives at Ash Grove. Their youngest son was B. F. Hawkins, father of our subject.

He grew to manhood at Ash Grove, where he was born in 1859, and there attended the public schools, later spent a term in Morrisville College, in Polk county, and prepared to enter medical college in St. Louis, but gave up the idea. About this time he married Alice Kirkpatrick, a native of Tennessee, who came to Ash Grove when young in years. To their union three children were born, namely: Kirk, of this review; Maud, who has remained at home with her parents; and Norris, who died in childhood.

The grandparents of our subject lived with their son, B. F. Hawkins until their death, which occurred when Kirk was twelve years of age, and he is indebted to his grandmother for his early education. She had unlimited patience and took a great deal of interest in teaching the children. As a result of her skill and perseverance, and through his eagerness to learn, she had succeeded in teaching him to repeat the letters of the alphabet and to count when only a little more than two years of age. B. F. Hawkins and wife are still living in Ash Grove, where he is a successful merchant and a leading citizen.

When he became of proper age, Kirk Hawkins was sent to the public schools of his native town, between the ages of six and thirteen years. Later he attended the old Ash Grove College two years, then by virtue of financial sacrifice and self-denial on the part of his father and mother, the youth entered Drury College at the age of fifteen. He was there four years, completing the sophomore year in the college. He then entered the law department of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, where he made an excellent record and from which institution he was graduated in 1902 with the degree of Bachelor of Laws, and three days later he was admitted to the bar of the supreme court of Michigan. Returning to Ash Grove for a short visit, he intended to start to Texas to locate, but being without funds he remained at home and was later elected justice of the peace on the Democratic ticket, fall of 1902, although the township was normally Republican by about one hundred votes. He was the youngest justice of the peace in the state. About this time he was elected to succeed Alfred Page as principal of the Ash Grove schools. For the next three years he was very busy, being principal of the schools, justice of the peace, manager of the opera house and attorney-at-law. Mr. Page later became judge of the circuit court, He began his career as a lawyer about the same time as did Mr. Hawkins and he tried his first case before the latter as justice of the peace. At the end of three years young Hawkins, feeling that he had accumulated enough capital to justify him to go to Texas as he had originally planned, called on C. W. Hamlin, congressman from this district, for the purpose of securing a letter of introduction to certain members of Congress in Texas, but Mr. Hamlin offered him a law partnership, which seemed better than taking a chance in a strange country, so he located in Springfield and soon the law firm of Hamlin & Hawkins was established, which continued successfully for four years. Then Mr. Hamlin gave up the practice in order to devote his entire time to Congressional matters. Subsequently our subject was engaged in the practice of law with Judge T. J., Murray. He now occupies offices in the Woodruff building and has been most successful as a lawyer and has a large clientage.

In the spring of 1907 he was elected a member of the Springfield city council from the first ward. During his term he prepared and introduced an ordinance creating a public utilities commission for the city of Springfield, and was made its first chairman. This commission was later superceded by the state utilities commission under an act of the Legislature. During a memorable deadlock over police appointments in Mayor Ernst's administration, Mr. Hawkins introduced a bill to create a board of police commissioners, the purpose of which was to take the Springfield police force out of politics and place it under civil service rules. He succeeded in passing the bill through the council, but it was vetoed by the mayor. Only one vote was lacking to pass it over his veto. In the fall of 1908 our subject was nominated and elected a member of the Missouri house of representatives from the first district of Greene county, which comprised the city of Springfield. This was then a strongly Republican county, and his opponent on the Republican ticket was a man of prominence who had been a member of the Legislature and of Congress. The majority given Mr. Hawkins was one hundred and fifty-seven. During his term as representative he assisted in establishing the Springfield court of appeals, also the second division of the Greene county circuit court, the state bureau of immigration at Springfield. As a member of the committee on revision of the laws, he assisted in revising the state statutes, which according to the provision of the constitution, are rewritten and republished every ten years.

In the primary election of 1910, Mr. Hawkins became a candidate for the Democratic nomination for state senator for the Twentieth district, and received the nomination by a majority of over sixteen hundred votes. He carried all the counties in the district except Vernon, losing it by only eighty-six votes. In the general election he received a plurality of nine hundred and thirty-three votes. He was the youngest senator, both in the forty-sixth and forty-seventh general assemblies. In both branches of the legislature he proved himself one of the most faithful and most capable servants Greene county ever had, being ever ready to protect the interests of the people and he seldom failed in an undertaking. He proved that he was abundantly capable of filling the positions with credit to himself and to all the people. He has always been very fortunate in his committee assignments. During the forty-sixth general assembly he was appointed a member of the committee on arrangements, which had charge of Governor Major's inauguration. He was also made chairman on the committee of municipal corporations, and was a member of the following prominent committees: judiciary, railroads and internal improvements, life, fire and other insurance, wills and probate law, labor and enrolled bills. He was also appointed chairman of a special committee on the conservation of water power sites. A great many important hearings were had by the municipal corporation committee, among others, the Springfield-Joplin charter; also the home rule bills for St. Louis. As state senator he was author of the new state depository law, saving the taxpayers a fourth of a million dollars in interest, and causing a half million dollars to be deposited in Greene county banks; also author of the special road district law; author and supporter of marry measures in behalf of organized labor; author of a law protecting fruit growers and shippers against unscrupulous commission merchants.

Several years ago our subject became vice-president of the Greene County Abstract and Loan Company, which success has been due in no small measure to his wise counsel.

Mr. Hawkins was married, October 4, 1905, to Nellie Nelson Viles, who was born, reared and educated in Bolivar, Missouri, her birth having occurred in 1884. She is a daughter of R. B. Viles, a banker and merchant of Bolivar, and for many years one of the leading business men of Polk county. Her mother was Amanda Nichols before her marriage. The union of our subject and wife has been without issue. They have a pleasant home in Springfield.

Mr. Hawkins is a member of the Young Men's Business Club, and was the first chairman of the same; also belongs to the Country Club, the Beta Theta fraternity, the Blue lodge of the Masonic Order, the Knights of Pythias and the Modern Woodmen; also the Springfield Club and the University Club. In all of the above social organizations he is popular, being a good mixer, a man of courteous and obliging address and exemplary habits.

[929-933]


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