Dodge City Daily Globe - Dodge City, KS
  • Local attorney remembered by friends

  • Dodge City has had its share of characters over the years. In the early days they were businessmen, lawmen and cowboys. More recently they've been businessmen, amatuer historians, even a mayor or two.

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  • Dodge City has had its share of characters over the years. In the early days they were businessmen, lawmen and cowboys. More recently they've been businessmen, amatuer historians, even a mayor or two.
    Byron G. Larson, known to most as Skip, was certainly one of Dodge City's characters. The Globe recently spoke to his widow, Janette, some of his friends. His journal, which he had started shortly before his death was also full of anecdotes and memories.
    "Skip took me under his wing and we've been friends ever since," said George Voss, who worked for Larson and attorney Jim Williams.
    According to Voss, Larson was a great storyteller.
    "Of course, you had to hear his stories 25 times, so you already knew most of them," Voss said.
    "In fact, Jack Dalton told me he used to wait for Skip to laugh at the end of one of his stories, then Jack would laugh, whether he'd been listening or not."
    But a love of storytelling was just one of Larson's enduring qualities.
    "He had a knack for being in the right place at the right time," said Larson's wife, Janette.
    He once found himself in an airport bathroom with Bob Hope and Joe Bologna.
    An avid pilot, Larson was once forced to make an emergency landing because of an onboard fire and found himself greeted by the secret service on the LBJ's private air strip.
    And when a friend in Washington took him next door to visit Bob Dole, Larson was dissapointed that Dole wasn't home. But Dole soon arrived, tired from a long session. They had passed Civil Rights legislation that day.
    Larson was born on Oct. 12, 1923 in Muskegon, Mich.
    As a young man of 13, he worked on the celery farms, where his pay was 75 cents per day.
    "My first paycheck was spent on a baseball glove and a Mickey Mouse watch," Larson wrote.
    He graduated from high school in 1941, lettering in football following an undefeated senior year.
    In December of 1942, Larson enlisted as a cadet in the Navy pilot program. Four months later he was called to active duty.
    Larson's unit was stationed in San Diego when World War II ended, ready to ship out to the Phillipines.
    "The United States, at that time, was concerned with the Russians moving into the South Pacific. We flew 10 to 12 hour patrols every third day," Larson wrote.
    Following service, Larson entered college, then law school, and graduated in December of 1950.
    Larson married Phyllis McKinley in 1948. The couple moved to Dodge City in march of 1951, bringing their children Ted and Eric. Lora and Charles were born in Dodge City.
    Page 2 of 3 - Larson worked with Jim Williams and C.W. Hughes and became a partner in 1952.
    Larson married Beverly Wiseman in 1970.
    "I was divorced from Beverly in 1977 and married my secretary in 1987," Larson wrote.
    "He was 63 and I was 28 when we married," Janette said. "We had a wonderful life together."
    Larson's interest in flying never waned. After military service, he transferred to the National Guard as a captain in the Army and flew L-19s for the artillery headquarters.
    He later joined the Army Reserve and was General Parrish's pilot until May of 1967.
    Often, as a favor to crews based in Topeka, Larson and his friend, Joe Berkely, would help put some hours on the planes by flying to Indiana to visit Joe's parents and to Michigan to visit Skip's parents.
    "Skip would land on the Interstate to drop me off," Berkely said.
    "He'd take off again as quick as he could and nobody ever turned us in because it was a military plane."
    As an attorney, Larson was mainly a defense lawyer for insurance companies but he also had a general practice.
    Interested in local politics, Larson ran for county attorney in 1952, but he was defeated thanks to a Republican sweep that also elected Eisenhower for the White House.
    In 1953, Larson became City Attorney for Dodge City.
    In that position, he condemned land from 7th Avenue to the city limits to widen West Chestnut Street, which became Wyatt Earp Blvd.
    "I was very much hated by the residents for taking away their front yards and beautiful trees," Larson wrote.
    He also drew the ordinance that changed Walnut Street to Gunsmoke.
    Larson was chairman of the longhorn steer drive that brought 150 longhorns from San Antonio to Dodge City in 1966.
    "Gov. Bill Avery on a horse got into quicksand while crossing the river and had to be lassoed and pulled out," Larson wrote.
    "Skip always had time for everyone," Janette said.
    "It didn't matter if your were a Kansas City attorney or a maintenance worker at the bank, he had time."
    And he cared about people that might be otherwise overlooked.
    "One evening after supper, he went for a walk and was gone a long time. When I asked where he'd been, he said he stopped by both nursing homes. He just felt sorry for those people. He was the kindest man I'ver ever known."
    But he also loved to string people along a little.
    When PM Magazine was in town doing a piece on Stan Herd's mural on the bank, Larson made sure they interviewed him.
    He proceed to explain to the camera how Herd would "get in his Jeep and drive down to south Second and hold up his finger like this, then drive back and continue painting."
    Page 3 of 3 - Larson loved the music of the 1940s.
    "He learned to love my disco and I learned to love his 40s," Janette said.
    Larson used to love singing "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter," with Lonnie Sands at the Spur Club.
    And sometimes he'd also do a hearty version of "Amazing Grace."
    In another lucky coincidence, Larson once found himself in a bar with Hoagy Carmichael, the composer of one of his favorite songs, "Stardust."
    Before Larson could introduce himself to the musician, his buddy approached Carmichael and said "I love your music, Mr. Gershwin."
    Larson fell ill Feb. 21 and was taken to the local emergency room, then ICU and eventually to Wesley in Wichita.
    He fought back from massive blood transfusions and bouts of pneumonia.
    "When the technicians were having trouble drawing blood and we knew he wasn't going to make it, I asked him if he really wanted them to poke him again and he said 'yes,'" Janette said.
    "To him, every day was good and he was a fighter."
    Larson died on May 2.
    A service is planned for 10 a.m. June 25 at the First United Methodist Church. Inurnment with full military honors will follow at the Kansas Veterans Cemetery at Ft. Dodge.
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