Charlton, Betty Jo
- Distinguished career as a legislator in the Kansas House of Representatives
- Advocate for women and children long before it was 'politically correct’
- One of first women to enter the KU School of Engineering
The Honorable Betty Jo Charlton was one of the first women to enter the school of engineering, in the late 1940s. Although her education was interrupted by marriage and children, she never gave up. It was twenty-some years later she obtained not only her BA, but also her MA. Furthermore, she held a long, distinguished career as a legislator in the Kansas House of Representatives. According to her nominator, Jenifer Dodd, former Legislative Intern, "I came to learn a great deal about our government under her direction. However, that education pales in comparison with what she taught me about integrity of character, perseverance and civic virtue."
Charlton's tenure in the legislature brought praise from many former colleagues. Kansas Governor and former Insurance Commissioner Kathleen Sebelius said of Ms. Charlton, "during her entire public service career, [she] was an advocate for women and children, and brought their voices and concerns to the policy table long before it was 'politically correct.' She just knew it was the right thing to do." Former State Representative John Solbach asserted the honoree "gained the respect of her colleagues on both sides of the aisle. She exhibited high standards of intellectual honesty in seeking to affect good public policy as a legislator, educator, and citizen." Former Mayor of the City of Lawrence Marci Francisco said of the recipient, "hearing her talk makes me pause and think about what really is the most appropriate and responsible way to act." Former State Representative Forrest Swall states, "In a very quiet, modest way [she] has had an impact on Lawrence, Douglas County, and the state. I came to appreciate her extraordinary competence as a legislator, student of Kansas history, and advocate for social justice." Distinguished Professor Emeritus Francis Heller noted Rep. Charlton "was a constant and reliable defender of the University's interests and concerns. The state, the city, and the University owe her a great deal."
Charlton's years of teaching, first as a paid GTA and then for 14 years as a volunteer, garnered high praise from former Western Civilizations Director, Professor of History Emeritus James E. Seaver. "She was admired for her excellence as a teacher, her academic integrity, her willingness to work with her students, and her ability to promote interesting discussions." Gene Budig, former Chancellor of the University of Kansas, wrote of the honoree, "[she] was ahead of her time. [She] spoke out, in a forceful manner, for the rights of women. Fairness and action were her legislative themes. She always asked the tough question at the right time. She accepted reasonable answers, if they provided hope."