Dale E. Saffels

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Dale Emerson Saffels (August 13, 1921–November 14, 2002) was an American lawyer, legislator, and federal judge from Kansas.

Early life, military service, and education[edit]

Saffels was born in Moline, Kansas, on August 13, 1921.[1]

He volunteered for the Army in 1942, during World War II and was sworn-in on his twenty-first birthday.[1] On February 19, 1943, Saffels was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army Signal Corps.[1] Saffels commanded the 1373rd Signal Company in the European Theater of Operations and achieved the rank of major by the time of his discharge in 1946.[1]

Upon returning to the United States, Saffels graduated from Emporia State Teachers College (later Emporia State University) in 1947 with a B.A. degree in history and business, and from Washburn University School of Law, with a J.D. cum laude, in August 1949.[1]


Saffels was in private practice in Garden City, Kansas from 1949 to 1979.[1] A strong Democrat, he was elected Finney County in 1950 and reelected in 1952, serving from 1951 to 1955.[1] In 1954, Saffels defeated an incumbent Republican to win a Kansas House of Representatives seat.[1] He was reelected four times, serving from 1955-1963, and was minority leader from 1961 to 1963.[1]

Saffels's major legislative activities included supporting a retirement plan for state employees and making the Wichita University of Wichita into a state university.[1] Saffels was "an early advocate for public education television in Kansas."[1] He also was a good government advocate, supporting election law reform, conflict of interest laws, and legislative reapportionment.[1] Saffels ran for governor of Kansas in 1962 against the incumbent, John Anderson, Jr.; Saffels lost, although a Democrat, Robert Docking, won four years later, in 1966.[1]

In 1967, Docking appointed Dale to the Kansas Corporation Commission, which regulates utilities in the state.[1] Dale served on the commission from 1967 to 1975, chairing that body from 1968 to 1975.[1] Following this, Dale returned to private practice, in Topeka from 1971 to 1975, and in Wichita from 1975 to 1979.[1]

On September 28, 1979, Saffels was nominated by President Jimmy Carter to a new seat on the United States District Court for the District of Kansas created by the Omnibus Judicial Act of 1978, 92 Stat. 1629.[1] Saffels was strongly support by Kansas' U.S. Senators, Robert J. Dole and Nancy Landon Kassebaum, and was confirmed by the United States Senate on October 31, 1979, and received his commission on November 2, 1979.[1] Saffels handled all the federal habeas corpus litigation in Kansas from 1980 to 1995, a total of 3,754 cases.[1]

He assumed senior status on November 16, 1990, serving in that capacity until his death on November 14, 2002, at 81, in Topeka. He is buried in Moline, Kansas.[1]

Personal life[edit]

Saffels was a devout member of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod.[1]

He was twice married. He had two daughters, Suzanne Gravitt and Deborah Godowns, and a son, Jim Saffels, from his first marriage. He married Margaret Elaine Cowger Deiter, who had two children, on April 2, 1976.[1]

Each year, Saffels would go deep-sea fishing off Padre Island, Texas.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w Jim Garne, Dale E. Saffels, U.S. District Judge, District of Kansas, Historical Society of the Tenth Judicial Circuit.

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