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Thursday, July 17, 2014

1951-1960: A Kansas son, a U.S. president

The Wichita Eagle

We liked Ike. As a small-town boy in Abilene, Dwight D. Eisenhower ran barefoot, chopped wood, gathered eggs and did all the things other boys his age were doing.

He knew what it was like to live in a low-income, close-knit family and to work and play in a community where everyone knew and cared about him.

That's how we grew up in Kansas — in the 20th century.

We could relate to him.

When World War II ended and he ran for president on the Republican ticket, "I like Ike" became a household slogan.

During his terms in office, Eisenhower earned the nickname "Father of the Interstate Highway System," for supporting the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, which established the program for funding and building interstate highways.

President Eisenhower was linked to the civil rights movement because of the Supreme Court's landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954 and because he ordered federal troops into Little Rock in 1957 to help integrate Central High School.

He signed a bill that changed World War I-linked Armistice Day into Veterans Day to honor all veterans.

As president, he signed an act making "In God We Trust" the national motto, and he established the practice of opening Cabinet meetings with silent prayer.

During a Flag Day speech on June 14, 1954, he signed a bill authorizing the addition of the words "under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance. While Ike was in office, other things were happening.

The food industry got a boost in 1957 when two brothers from Wichita, Frank and Dan Carney, borrowed $600 from their mother and opened a pizza place called Pizza Hut on South Bluff. And, after a devastating flood in 1951, a fervent pitch was made for large reservoirs throughout the state. The 1950s turned into a decade for building Kansas lakes.But one event, in late 1959, was the most unsettling of all. It was when Herb, Bonnie, Nancy and Kenyon Clutter were murdered on the night of Nov. 15, 1959.

The four shotgun blasts echoed beyond Holcomb.

They changed the way rural Kansans felt about their safety.

© 2011 Wichita Eagle and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.