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Former Kansas Lt. Gov. Tom Docking Dies At 63

Photo coutesy of the Kansas Historical Society's Kansas Memory project
Lt. Governor Tom Docking (left) and Governor John Carlin in a photo taken sometime in the 1980s.

Former Kansas Lt. Gov. Tom Docking died Thursday night at age 63. Docking served with Democratic Gov. John Carlin from 1983 to 1987. He was the Democratic nominee for governor in 1986 but lost to Republican Mike Hayden.

The Associated Press reports that Docking was living in Wichita and had been fighting cancer.

“He was an extraordinarily valuable member of the Carlin administration and, most importantly, a strong and dignified public servant for the State of Kansas,” former Gov. Carlin said.

In the post on Facebook, Carlin said Docking was lost "far too soon."

“We are a better state because of the contributions of Tom and the entire Docking family, who have given so much to Kansas," he said.

State Rep. Brandon Whipple, a Wichita Democrat, recalled Friday how Docking donated his time and shared his experience with new candidates. Whipple sought that advice when he was first running for office.

“Nobody knew who I was,” Whipple said. “He actually took the time, met with me and gave me some really good advice on how I could be a better servant to my community.”

Whipple said Docking was generous when it came to helping others.

“He led by example,” he said. “Tom was always one of those people who didn’t mind taking time out and giving back.”

Docking’s father and grandfather were both former governors of Kansas. His father, Robert Docking, was governor from 1967 to 1975 and his grandfather, George Docking, had the job from 1957 to 1961.

His wife, Jill Docking, ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate in 1996 and lieutenant governor in 2014.

Docking’s death was confirmed by the law firm where he worked, the Morris Laing office in Wichita.

“Tom was the definition of a gentleman and a wonderful partner,” said A.J. Schwartz, CEO of the firm.

Earlier this year, the University of Kansas Law School gave Docking the Distinguished Alumni Award, calling him a “dedicated community servant.” The award noted his work on downtown development in Wichita and water conservation.

“He used his law degree to further the interests of his community and the state of Kansas. His contributions will be felt for years to come,” KU Law School Dean Stephen Mazza said after learning of Docking’s passing.

A celebration of life is set for 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday, August 29, at Botanica.


Stephen Koranda is Statehouse reporter for Kansas Public Radio, a partner in the Kansas News Service. Follow him on Twitter @KPRKoranda.