Back to top

From the Director: Influential Missourian Alexander Doniphan

Published on Wed, 08/15/2018 - 10:31am
Alexander Doniphan

Who is the most well-known Missourian? Sheryl Crow or Brad Pitt? How about the most influential Missourian? Harry Truman or Chuck Berry? For many years, I have believed that the least recognized but most influential Missourian is Alexander Doniphan

It is true that the Doniphan name has resurfaced in Clay County, and people recognize the highway and school that bear his name. However, why is he important to people today? Regardless of his personal opinion, Doniphan always seemed to do what was needed even if it was not popular. Doniphan embodied these qualities, which I believe were unique in the 19th Century but equally unique today. 

In the 1830s, Doniphan, who was also a general in the Missouri militia, was ordered in the field to carry out an order to exterminate the leaders of the Mormon Church in Missouri. Although under orders, Doniphan refused to execute these men. Doniphan, who was not a Mormon, defended these men in court and secured their safe passage out of the state. For Doniphan, it wasn’t about fearing someone different from you, but about doing what was right.

When America went to war against Mexico in 1846, Doniphan responded to the call. He commanded a military campaign of over 5,000 miles and helped secure the trade routes to Santa Fe, New Mexico. To this day, much of the New Mexico code of laws is based on the code Doniphan wrote for the area following the war. Under direction from General Kearny, Doniphan wrote a code in English and Spanish for all the people of the new territory. For Doniphan, it was about creating a set of rules that everyone could understand—not just the winners.

Doniphan believed in education. In 1849, the Missouri Baptist Convention decided to establish a college in Boonville, Missouri. Doniphan, who was not Baptist, joined with several prominent Baptists in Clay County to persuade the founding of William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri. Doniphan also served as the first superintendent of the Liberty Public Schools. For Doniphan, it was about supporting education—not just supporting people who thought as he did.

We need more people like Alexander Doniphan. We need people that can abandon their “tribe” and do what is right for the community…even if it is unpopular. 

A small committee of people celebrate and remember Alexander Doniphan by finding individuals who exemplify these important characteristics and recognizing them with the Doniphan Community Service Award. This year, the award will be presented to Former U.S. Senator John Danforth. Mid-Continent Public Library is proud to be able to cosponsor this award, which will be given during a ceremony at the Harry S Truman Library and Museum on September 11, 2018, at 6:00 p.m. The event is free, but you need to register online.

I hope you will join us in celebrating Senator Danforth and remembering the extraordinary Alexander Doniphan.

Steven V. Potter
MCPL Director & CEO

Add new comment

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.

Resources You May Also Like

Events You May Also Like

Titanic

Wed, Jan 22 2020
2:00pm - 3:00pm
Registration Required
Join Barbara Hughes as she portrays Mrs. Mahala Douglas and brings the events of April 14-15, 1912, and the sinking of the Titanic, to life through first-person accounts and stories.

Cathey Williams: Buffalo Soldier

Thu, Jan 9 2020
2:00pm - 3:00pm
Registration Required
Discover the story of Cathey Williams, the only documented female Buffalo Soldier, and learn about her service in the 38th U.S. Infantry from 1866 to 1868.

Cathey Williams: Buffalo Soldier

Thu, Jan 9 2020
4:00pm - 5:00pm
Registration Required
Discover the story of Cathey Williams, the only documented female Buffalo Soldier, and learn about her service in the 38th U.S. Infantry from 1866 to 1868.

Cathey Williams: Buffalo Soldier

Wed, Nov 6 2019
6:30pm - 7:30pm
Registration Required
Discover the story of Cathey Williams, the only documented female Buffalo Soldier, and learn about her service in the 38th U.S. Infantry from 1866 to 1868.

Blogs You May Also Like

Woman reading a book in an ebook

Learn History Through Travel…. Books!

Mid-Continent Public Library’s annual
Read More
Missouri 2021 Logo

Add Your Story to Missouri’s History

Have you ever wanted to be a small part of something really big? I have a great opportunity for you!
Read More
family tree

6 Tips for Celebrating Family History Month

Discovering your family history can enrich your life in many ways.
Read More
Peoria State Hospital

Hidden Away

When researching your family history, have you ever come across someone who seems to disappear?
Read More

Was this page helpful? Yes No