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Monday, April 21, 2014

William D. 'Bill' Anderson, former mayor, dies at age 83

BY ANNIE CALOVICH
The Wichita Eagle

A former Wichita mayor who was one of the people to first envision Century II died Thursday from complications from a fall at his home last weekend.

William D. "Bill" Anderson was a printer by trade, a Benjamin Franklin buff and mayor of Wichita during the turbulent years of 1968 and 1969. He was 83 years old.

During his mayoral term, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, resulting in riots around the country, including Wichita, where Mr. Anderson imposed a curfew to help quell the violence.

"He was a very civic-minded person," Mr. Anderson's son Brent, an assistant U.S. attorney in Wichita, said of his father. Mr. Anderson was elected to the Wichita City Commission in 1965.

"The hardest part for my dad" as mayor was when four firemen, including the fire chief, died in a fire at Yingling Chevrolet at 300 S. Topeka in 1968, Brent Anderson said.

"When that happened, my mom and dad went to the families that night," he said.

Before becoming mayor, Mr. Anderson had been a member of a group that was the first to promote a civic center for Wichita, his son said. That group was the Wichita Jaycees, and it also included Dee Hubbard, the man behind Safelite Auto Glass and AFG Industries.

The civic center that they championed eventually became Century II. As luck would have it, Mr. Anderson was mayor when the center opened, and he got to do the honors at the ribbon-cutting, Brent Anderson said.

"It was a big deal at the time," Anderson said, noting that Gov. Robert Docking had his 1969 inauguration at Century II, and then-Mayor Anderson was the host.

Said Mr. Anderson upon leaving office later that year: "Century II is, indeed, THE monument of our city, the culmination of the minds of men, of money, of machinery that make Wichita the great city it is."

Mr. Anderson was a Wichita native who went to North High then joined the Army. After that he joined his father's Anderson Printing Co. as a partner. The company was across from then-Lawrence baseball stadium, and Brent remembers he and his two brothers working there as boys and running programs for the NBC and other baseball tournaments across the street to the stadium.

Mr. Anderson later served on the Kansas Board of Tax Appeals and was Sedgwick County purchasing manager for 16 years before retiring in 1993.

He and his wife, Ruth, had four children, two of whom preceded Mr. Anderson in death. Their daughter, Brockie Headrick, died in 1985, and their eldest son, William III, died in 2008.

Because they were both printers, Mr. Anderson was a big fan of Benjamin Franklin, Brent Anderson said, and he collected Franklin memorabilia.

"He even had a little printing shop set up in basement" where he would hand-set type on a mini letter press, making cards with Franklin sayings on them.

"He enjoyed that," Brent Anderson said. "It was his way of talking about Benjamin Franklin but also reminding people how printing used to be done."

In the past few years, current Mayor Carl Brewer has involved former mayors in community activities, Brent Anderson said, and his father loved going to those events.

In addition to his wife and son Brent, Mr. Anderson's survivors include son Brice and brother Lawrence, both of Wichita.

Visitation will be from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at Resthaven Mortuary, 11800 W. Kellogg. The funeral will be at 11 a.m. Wednesday at Northside Church of Christ, 4545 N. Meridian.

Reach Annie Calovich at 316-268-6596 or acalovich@wichitaeagle.com.

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