Longtime Johnson County Congressman Larry Winn, Jr., passes away at age 98

Larry_WinnLarry Winn, Jr., the man who represented suburban Johnson County in Congress for nearly two decades, died in the early hours of New Year’s Eve at the age of 98.

A Republican during a period in American history when the House was dominated by Democrats, Winn was remembered for his efforts to build strong relationships with his peers in Congress regardless of their party, as well as his focus on communicating with constituents. He was first elected in 1966 and served nine terms, through 1985. His tenure spanned the presidencies of Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan.

In Congress, he served on the Foreign Relations Committee, the Science and Technology Committee and the District of Columbia Committee. Throughout the 1970s, he led efforts to create a national park in Kansas that would protect tens of thousands of acres of native tallgrass prairie. Though the national park never came to fruition, Winn’s work is largely credited with helping build momentum toward the eventual creation of the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve in 1994.

On Tuesday, Rep. Kevin Yoder, who now occupies Winn’s seat in Congress, said Winn had served as a role model.

“For me, he was a mentor whom I admired and could always count on for advice and counsel on how to best represent the Third District in Congress, as he did proudly for 18 years,” Yoder said.

Winn grew up in Kansas City, Mo., and attended Southwest High School, where he was an accomplished athlete and active Boy Scout. At the age of 16, he suffered an injury in a boating accident while out skiing with his cousin on Lake Lotawana that cost him a leg. That disability did not hinder his engagement with life, however, as he went on to an active and successful career. He enrolled at the University of Kansas for college, studying journalism and serving as the sports editor of the University Daily Kansan. It was at KU that he met his future wife, Joan Elliott, to whom he would be married for 73 years.

After graduation, Winn took a job as an announcer for WHB radio for two years before World War II began and he went to work for North American Aviation and the Red Cross. When the war was over, Winn transitioned to a position in his family’s homebuilding business, serving as a vice president at Winn-Rau Corporation for more than a dozen years before he started his career in Congress.

Winn is survived by four of his children and their spouses: Larry Winn III and Jill, Douglas Winn and Julee Granger, Janet Payne and Tim Hinds, Cynthia Burr and Gary. He had eight grandchildren and 16 great grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his son Robert and his wife.

For the past several years, Winn lived at the Brighton Gardens senior living community in Prairie Village. In August, a group of Shawnee Mission East students threw Winn a party for his 98th birthday.

Winn’s oldest son Larry Winn, III, an attorney, became a prominent figure in Johnson County civic life as well, having served as president of the Shawnee Mission Board of Education.