By Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.
Today marks a first. Today we begin a weekly blogpost which describes examples of innovative Kansans from every corner of our state. One such special leader was Huck Boyd.
Who the heck was Huck? In short, he was a newspaperman who loved rural Kansas. McDill “Huck” Boyd came from the northwest Kansas town of Phillipsburg. After college at K-State, Huck came back into the family newspaper business where he became editor and publisher of the Phillips County Review. With support from his family, he became deeply involved in his community, working on issues of economic development, rural health care, and more.
Huck got involved. He became county chairman of his political party, and worked his way up the ranks to become national committeeman for Kansas. Senators and Presidents would call on him for advice. He was nationally influential yet he lived in a rural setting. After all, Phillipsburg is a community of 2,602 people. Now, that’s rural.
In the1980s when the Rock Island Railroad took bankruptcy, it proposed to abandon 465 miles of rail line across the heartland — including Huck’s hometown. Loss of the rail line would have been devastating to the region.
I was working in Washington, D.C. at that time, as a rookie staff member for Senator Nancy Kassebaum. She introduced me to a man who was visiting from Kansas: Huck Boyd. He was in Washington leading the fight to maintain rail service for his region. The “experts” in Washington DC said it couldn’t be done, but Huck set out to find a way. He came up with an idea to create what was called a port authority to buy the line and continue rail service. Again, the lawyers stopped the idea in its, um, tracks. “No,” they said, “such ownership is unconstitutional in Kansas.” For most people, that would have ended the fight right there, but Huck was a man who would not give up. His answer to the lawyers was simple: “Well then, let’s change the Kansas Constitution.” As unlikely as that sounds, Huck led a bipartisan coalition which proposed amending the Constitution to make this change possible. It was overwhelmingly approved by the voters of Kansas. Continue reading “Kansas Profile: Now, That’s Rural – Huck Boyd – Phillipsburg”