IT STARTED WITH A TRAIN RIDE TO TOPEKA IN 1881
GSEP NAME HISTORY
Bennett R. Wheeler
Slonecker, Wheeler & Switzer
Wheeler & Switzer
Wheeler, Switzer & Hunt
Wheeler, Bruster & Hunt
Wheeler, Brewster, Hunt & Goodell
Wheeler, Hunt & Goodell
Goodell, Casey, Briman & Sewell
Goodell, Casey, Briman, Rice & Cogswell
Goodell, Casey, Briman & Cogswell
Goodell, Cogswell, Stratton, Edmonds, Palmer & Wright
Goodell, Stratton, Edmonds, Palmer & Wright
Goodell Stratton Edmonds & Palmer
NOTABLE GSEP ATTORNEYS
John L. Hunt, Assistant U.S. District Attorney
Marla Luckert, District Judge in Shawnee County, a Chief Judge of the 3rd Judicial District and second woman to be appointed ot the Kansas Supreme Court in 2002
Kansas Governor Sam Brownback worked with the firm for a few years in the early 1990’s
WORKING IN 1930
Starting salary for a secretary at the firm in 1933 was $60 per month, with a top salary of $125 per month that could be reached within a few years.
A regular work day in the 1930’s was 9:00am to 5:00pm with an hour and a half lunch break.
Equipment used in the 1930’s were L.C. Smith manual typewriters equipped with brass rollers. The brass roller would be utilized when making carbon copies on tissue-fine paper for the court.
The firm was among the first organizations in Topeka to utilize an Executive IBM typewriter.
When the State of Kansas was just 20 years old her capital city was going through a time of tremendous growth. Just three years earlier “Ho, for Kansas” advertisements had spread around the country encouraging people to make a new start out West and many bought into the idea. A mass exodus from the South brought freed men and women to the new free state to make their home. The Capitol Building, which at the time was only the East and West wings, received authorization from the legislature for the construction of a central building with a stunning dome. The last round was called and Kansas became the first state in the U.S. to adopt the Constitutional amendment prohibiting all alcoholic beverages and ushering in a time of prohibition.
Topeka was certainly the place to go if you wanted to be where things were happening. And this is the environment that greeted Bennett R. Wheeler as he stepped off the train in Topeka shortly after graduating from Boston University in 1881.
Wheeler established his law practice in Topeka, and in 1882 he made an alliance with the mortgage loan company of Eli Chandler, growing his practice by four lawyers: Eugene Hagan, W.H. Rossington, J.G. Slonecker and Joseph Waters. At this time the Bar Association of Topeka was formed with the help of Rossington and Slonecker. A January 29, 1882, letter records that not only were they forming the Bar Association in the city, they were working on the formation of a State Bar Association.
In 1892 Slonecker and Wheeler formed a partnership with John F. Switzer. The resulting firm, Slonecker, Wheeler & Switzer, held offices at 525 Kansas Avenue.
“Ho, for Kansas” was a campaign orchestrated by Benjamin “Pap” Singleton, a leader of the Exodus Movement and President of the Tennessee Real Estate and Homestead Association. This campaign was driven by posters, flyers and even had its own theme song. The sheet music for Ho, for Kansas can be found today in Kansas State Archives.
Margaret McGurnahan joined the firm as a secretary in 1902 and retired as a partner of the firm in 1960. Washburn Law honored her with a posthumous Law Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009.
The firm was housed on the fourth floor of the Columbian Building from 1902 to 1970. The Columbian Building is still standing and is listed among Kansas Historic Landmarks.
THE FINNEY BOND SCANDAL OF 1933
The State of Kansas was in a bad spot. The Great Depression and the Dust Bowl had taken their toll. Spirits were already low when news of a bond scandal in Topeka sent the people of Kansas reeling.
Ronald and Warren Finney, father and son, were both considered to be members of Topeka's elite. They were wealthy, belonged to the right societies and were highly respected businessmen in the community. It was exposed that Ronald had been forging bonds and depositing them into the state treasury, brokerage houses and banks in order to finance high-end living and business ventures. What upset the public even more was the culpability of his father, Warren Finney, who was a close friend to both William Allen White and Governor Alfred Landon.
So serious were the allegations that the integrity of the state government was questioned. Many high office holders in had abetted the Finney fraud through unknowing negligence or complicity, with serious repercussions on the state's finances. Governor Landon vigorously persecuted the offenders, overlooking a long friendship and solidifying his reelection and the 1936 Republican presidential nomination.
The man responsible for exposing the Finney Bond Scandal and in turn stopping a massive hemorrhage of money from the state of Kansas was Sardius M. Brewster, a member of the firm. The Shawnee County Attorney who assisted Brewster in the case was Lester M. Goodell. In 1938 Brewster passed away and Goodell joined the firm in his place.
SARDIUS M. BREWSTER
LESTER M. GOODELL
ALFRED M. LANDON
BROWN V. TOPEKA BOARD OF EDUCATION 1954
In December of 1952 the U.S. Supreme Court docket held cases from Kansas, Delaware, South Carolina, Virginia and the District of Columbia, all of which challenged the constitutionality of racial segregation in public schools. It had been decided that it was better to have representative cases from all over the country so the issue did not appear to be solely a Southern one. Accordingly, the five cases were consolidated under one name, Oliver Brown et al. v. the Board of Education of Topeka.
Famously, the Supreme Court ruled that separate but equal access to education was unconstitutional. Lester Goodell would gain national attention as the lead trial attorney for the school board in the famous Brown V. Board of Education lawsuit.
Linda Brown, seen here at age ten, with her sister Terry Lynn, age six. Under segregation laws they were not allowed to attend the nearby New Summer School but had to walk six blocks through the dangerous Rock Island Switchyard in order to catch a bus to all-black Monroe School.
Sisters Linda and Terry Lynn Brown sit on a fence outside of their school, the racially segregated Monroe Elementary School, Topeka, Kansas, March 1953. The Monroe school building is now home to the Brown v. Topeka Board of Education National Historic Site.
On May 17, 1954, the Supreme Court ruled on Oliver Brown et al. v. the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas and ended legal public-school segregation in the United States.
URBAN RENEWAL 1962-1964
In the 1960’s the Federal Government issued an Urban Renewal program to rehabilitate aging and decaying inner cities by massive demolition, slum clearance or development. Between 1962 and 1964 multiple buildings were removed from central Topeka in an effort to revitalize it. Goodell Stratton Edmonds & Palmer LLP represented the Urban Renewal Agency during this project and assisted in the acquisition of multiple neglected properties.
During this time period the firm also represented the City of Topeka in the negotiations and acquisition of the four-square block at 9th & Quincy for the purpose of constructing a new Santa Fe building.