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Franklin K. Lane

Secretary of the Interior

Centurion, 1920–1921

Full Name Franklin Knight Lane

Born 15 July 1864 in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada

Died 18 May 1921 in Rochester, Minnesota

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Proposed by Thomas Ewing and George W. Wickersham

Elected 5 June 1920 at age fifty-five

Century Memorial

It is only a little more than a year since Franklin K. Lane was welcomed to the Century’s roll. He seldom if ever had the opportunity of crossing the threshold of the Club; yet the Century membership undoubtedly felt that it knew him. There was that in Lane’s individuality which was as far removed as is possible from the traditional bureaucrat; which, indeed, made the public office that he held a part of himself. We have had many other chairmen of the Interstate Commerce Commission and many other Secretaries of the Interior, but those who had once known Lane in either place could never afterward think of the office except in association with his personality.

In analyzing the complicated railway questions which came before him as commissioner, he had the power of going so quickly to the heart of the matter and of drawing his conclusions with such unanswerable common sense, that the simplest outsider could grasp them. Firm as he was in his application of the Commission’s restrictive power to the excesses of the railway leaders of 1902 and 1906, the most obstinate railway autocrat never failed publicly to recognize his fairness. The period in which the Commission interpreted the law in such way as to fasten a straight jacket [sic] on the transportation industry came after Lane had gone into President Wilson’s Cabinet; it was not an inheritance from his leadership; it was in fact an affront to his clear common sense. His constructive work as Secretary of the Interior nobody has forgotten. Every one of our systems of national parks bears the imprint of his constructive imagination. To him more than to any one man of our time the credit belongs for that extension under federal auspices of irrigation, water power and reclamation which made his annual reports read like a story of romance, and which will play a part in the country’s industrial history during the new economic era which is presently to begin.

To those who knew him personally, the man himself was more than his achievements. His robust patriotism, his absolute belief in his country’s future, were known to the general public; but the calm and sane view of public questions, brightened by homely wit, which one would get when the day s work was over and the Secretary, leaning back in his office chair, had lighted his pipe and started a train of reminiscence, came only with closer intimacy. It gave a picture of one phase of official Washington which would never be forgotten by those who came in contact with it.

Alexander Dana Noyes
1922 Century Association Yearbook