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Charles W. Fairbanks, 26th Vice President of the United States

Indianapolis native Charles Warren Fairbanks was the 26th Vice-President of the United States from 1905 until 1909, serving under the colorful Theodore Roosevelt. Before that, he was Indiana’s representative in the Senate for nearly twenty years. Charles W. Fairbanks’ name ranks high on the list of famous people from Indianapolis, as well as those from Alaska, where the fair city of Fairbanks was named after him.

The Charles W. Fairbanks family heritage may be traced back to the historic epoch of Oliver Cromwell and his Puritan followers. The first Fairbanks ancestor to come to American, Jonathan Fayerbankes, arrived in 1632. During the Civil War, the young Charles Fairbanks watched as his parents hid runaway slaves in the family’s Ohio home.

Moving from Ohio in 1874 as a young reporter, Fairbanks settled in Indianapolis and became the manager of the Indianapolis, Bloomington and Western Railroad. During his mid-thirties, new career avenues opened up for Fairbanks, and he entered the sometimes murky, always exciting world of politics.

He became a U.S. Republican Senator in 1896, at the relatively young age of 44, and served there for eight years. Highlights of his senatorial career include his position as a top adviser to McKinley on the important decisions made during the Spanish-American War. Fairbanks also chaired two committees, on on Public Buildings and Grounds and the other on Immigration, and received an appointment on the U.S. and British “Joint High Commission,” then addressing questions about the boundary of Alaska.

Charles W. Fairbanks‘ years as Vice President under “Teddy” Roosevelt were followed by his bid for the presidential nomination in 1916, which was unsuccessful. He was, however, named the vice president nominee for presidential candidate Charles Evans Hughes, though as it turned out, the team lost to Democrats Woodrow Wilson and Thomas Marshall in a close match.

Here is a short video clip with footage from Crown Hill, the Indianapolis cemetery that contains Fairbanks’ grave.

 

Charles W. Fairbanks then returned to Indy to practice law, but within two short years, passed away of nephritis. Born in Ohio in 1852, Fairbanks died in his long-time home town, Indianapolis, in 1918, having lived a full and remarkable life. His body is buried at the stately Crown Hill Cemetery, inside the bounds of Fairbanks’ beloved Circle City.


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