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Historical Honors Award Recipient

Kenneth A. Spencer

1995
Innovator, Industrial Developer Philanthropist
Photo of Recipient

Kenneth A. Spencer was born in Columbus, Kansas on January 25, 1902 but was raised in Pittsburg, Kansas.  He graduated from the University of Kansas.  His father, Charles F. Spencer, owned and operated The Pittsburg & Midway Coal Mining Company.

At the beginning of World War II, Mr. Spencer spent months in Washington, D.C. trying to persuade the Defense Department to locate war ordnance plants in the interior of the United States rather than on the coasts for security reasons.  He finally convinced them that this was an excellent plan and four plants were approved for the Midwest - The Kansas Ordnance Plant at Parsons, Kansas, the Sunflower Ordnance Plant at DeSoto, Kansas, the Ozark Ordnance Plant at El Dorado, Arkansas, and the Jayhawk Ordnance Works at Pittsburg, Kansas.  The government asked Mr. Spencer to be the prime contractor and operator of the Jayhawk Ordnance Works which he agreed to do.  Obviously the construction and operation of these plants created hundreds of job opportunities for Kansans.

Mr. Spencer moved to Johnson County, Kansas in 1940 because he was traveling to Washington, D.C. so much in developing plans for building and operating the Jayhawk Ordnance Works.  At the conclusion of the war Mr. Spencer organized the Spencer Chemical Company and purchased the Jayhawk Ordnance Works from the government in 1951.  The company was sold to Gulf Oil Corporation in 1963.

Mr. Spencer was on the Board of Directors of American Telephone & Telegraph Co., Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, Armco Steel Corporation, International Harvester, and a member of the Business Advisory council which consists of the Presidents and Chairmen of the Boards of most of the largest corporations the United States.  Members are appointed to the Board by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce to be advisors to him on economic conditions.

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