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Georgia Neese Clark

Georgia Neese Clark Gray (January 27, 1900, Richland, Shawnee County, Kansas – October 26, 1995 ) was the first woman Treasurer of the United States, serving from 1949 to 1953. After Clark, every subsequent Treasurer has been a woman.

Early life

Georgia Neese was the daughter of Albert Neese, a farmer and businessman, and Ellen O'Sullivan Neese. Her father, a self-made man, had prospered in the years before her birth and become the town's leading citizen, owning much of its property as well as the bank and general store. Although a Presbyterian, Neese briefly attended a small Catholic college in nearby Topeka after graduating from high school in 1917, then transferred to Washburn University.

She majored in economics at Washburn and was a member of several student organizations. She was president of the drama club and a member of the Upsilon chapter of Alpha Phi. Determined to become an actress, she moved to New York City following graduation in 1921 and enrolled at the Franklin Sargent School of Dramatic Art.

Acting career

Georgia Neese began her acting career with various stock companies. Gray pursued an acting career from 1921 to 1931, living in New York City, getting to know Helen Hayes and Charlie Chaplin, touring the country and earning $500 a week. When the Depression and the onset of "talkies", motion pictures with sound, cut short her stage career, she returned home to care for her ailing father.

Family Business

Gray started working at her father's Richland State Bank as an assistant cashier in 1935. At the death of her father in 1937, she inherited control and the presidency of Richland State Bank, as well as the family's general store, grain elevator, lumber yard, insurance agency, many farms and other real estate.

Political Background

Gray was active in the state Democratic Party and was elected Democratic National Committee member from Kansas in 1936, a position she held until 1964. She was an articulate and well-liked representative of the party and an early supporter of Harry Truman. It was this support that brought about her nomination as the first woman to be Treasurer of the United States from 1949-1953.

Marriages

She acquired a manager named George M. Clark, who became her first husband in 1929. Although the marriage ended in divorce in the mid-1940s, she continued to be known as Georgia Neese Clark throughout her professional life. She married Andrew J. Gray, a journalist and press agent, in 1953.

She had no children from either marriage.

Posthumous

Gray died October 26, 1995, aged 95, and is interred at Pleasant Hill Cemetery in Richland, Kansas.

The Georgia Neese Gray Performance Hall at the Topeka Performing Arts Center is named after her.

The Georgia Neese Gray Award is reserved for presentation to Kansans who have served in elected office at the municipal and/or county level and who have performed outstanding service to their local community in the pursuit of the principles of the Kansas Democratic Party. Such service commends a lengthy and broad participation in public service endeavors to the city, county and state. This award shall be considered the highest honor which can be bestowed by the Kansas Democratic Party to its municipal and county elected officials.

On February, 6th 2008 she was inducted into the Topeka Business Hall of Fame.

References

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