A physician and author who sometimes blurred the line between rake and raconteur, Logan M. Clendening became a folk hero in February 1939, when after repeated diplomatic attempts to silence a jackhammer in use on a construction project near his home at 56 th and State Line, he donned a suit, Homburg hat, kid gloves, and button-hole carnation, strolled calmly out to the machine, and attempted to destroy it with an axe. He was arrested and served several hours behind bars. Jackhammers like the one he attacked had been in frequent use on unpopular sewer projects sanctioned by political machine boss Tom Pendergast, and many Kansas Citians cheered the doctor’s symbolic blows against a corrupt City Hall.
Vocal in print and at the podium, publisher Nelson Crews purchased the Kansas City Sun newspaper and trumpeted a message of advancement. Its reporters covered every aspect of the Kansas City African American community and integrated an organization previously closed to African American workers. Meanwhile his brother James established one of Kansas City’s most important African American institutions, the YMCA at 1824 Paseo .
"They did not try to build something ‘good enough for Negroes’ but something as good as money could buy." This is how Chester Arthur Franklin, the Republican founder of The Call newspaper and one of Kansas City’s most prominent black leaders, greeted the newly constructed eight-story building that housed General Hospital No. 2, serving the indigent African American population of Kansas City.
Thomas Hart Benton, one of the leaders of the Regionalist movement in American art, was a prolific painter, muralist, draughtsman, and sculptor from childhood until the end of his life in 1975. Today he is best known for his realist depictions of American life, which, in his own time, were perceived as directly opposed to modernist movements cultivated in Europe. His paintings, largely vignettes of daily life and ordinary rural characters, were simultaneously praised for their frankness and criticized for their gritty representations of American culture and history.
Johnny Lazia (born Lazzio) gained prominence in Kansas City’s politics during the 1920s and ‘30s due to his leadership of the North Side Democratic Club, engagement in local organized crime, and involvement with Tom Pendergast’s political machine. Pendergast dominated Kansas City politics not by holding elected offices, but through his machine of alliances and affiliates.
Joseph “Joe” Shannon presided over Kansas City’s Northside Democratic Party from the early 20 th century to 1930, after which he relocated to Washington, D.C., for a 14-year tenure as a U.S. Congressman. Shannon’s political career was marked by his Jeffersonian Democratic views and his tenuous relationships with brothers James and Tom Pendergast.
It is safe to say that during the nearly 50 years she worked there, starting in 1918, Carolyn Doughty was the Women’s City Club. Her role far exceeded her modest title of "executive secretary."
The Board of Trade building was the pride of downtown Kansas City when it was completed in 1888. Designed by the Chicago architectural firm of Burnham & Root, the building at 210 West Eighth Street was once praised by the renowned British architect James Stirling (1926-1992) as “the toughest building of its period on either side of the Atlantic.”
The Folly Theater at 12 th and Central was built in 1900 as the Standard Theater. Designed by the prominent Kansas City architect Louis S. Curtiss, it is an important example of turn-of-the-century architecture in the downtown area.
Ada Crogman's father, one of the distinguished scholars of the African American race, was professor of Latin and Greek at Clark University for 37 years and then became the first African American president of Clark, serving for seven years. Mrs. Franklin, along with her two sisters and five brothers, grew up on the Clark University campus. She became nationally known for her production, "Milestones of a Race," which was presented in cities throughout the country. She married Chester Arthur Franklin, owner of The Call newspaper, in 1925 and began to devote her talent and her interest to the paper and the Kansas City community.
When Carolyn Farwell Fuller first entered the education field, it was as a schoolteacher—the highest position a female educator could attain in the early 1900s. She surely couldn’t have predicted her groundbreaking role as the first female to serve on the Kansas City Board of Education.
Henry C. Haskell was a playwright, author, editor and columnist for the Kansas City Star starting in 1929, musician, civic leader and philanthropist . In 1938, Haskell was appointed art editor and assembled the newspaper’s first special section to cover music, dance, visual arts, book reviews, criticism, and features.
Ernest Hemingway said he learned how to write while working as a reporter for The Kansas City Star when he was only 17 years old. Ernest got a job on the paper and was assigned to cover General Hospital, Union Station, and the 15th Street police station, often riding in police cars to the scene of a crime.
In the 1920s, air travel was new and uncertain. City booster Lou Holland, one of the first to see its possibilities, became the "Father of Kansas City Aviation" when he helped establish Kansas City's first municipal airport.
Daniel Arthur Holmes was born the son of slaves in Randolph County, Missouri, in 1876. His family moved to Macon, Missouri, after being freed at the end of the Civil War. Holmes, a third generation preacher, answered the call to preach at age 17 and was ordained in 1901. Holmes began his career in the greater Kansas City area in 1914 as pastor of Metropolitan Baptist Church in Kansas City, Kansas. He later took over leadership at Vine Street Baptist Church at 1835 Vine and soon led the church in an expansion program. By 1927 the church was built at its current location at 25th Street and the Paseo and renamed Paseo Baptist Church. Holmes served as pastor for 46 years—from 1921 to 1967.
Rufus Crosby Kemper, who went by R. Crosby or Crosby, was born in 1892 in Valley Falls, Kansas. The family moved to Kansas City in 1893 and lived in homes in the 2600 block of Troost Avenue and at 1000 Westover Road. James Madison Kemper was born in 1894. The Kemper sons attended Kansas City public schools and the University of Missouri, where they played on the football team. Both men also fought in World War I.
William Thornton Kemper moved to Kansas City in 1893 and established himself as a grain merchant, working out of the Kansas City Board of Trade. Over the next decade, he reaped profits from several organizations of his own creation: Kemper Mill and Elevator Company, Kemper Mercantile Company, and Kemper Investment Company. An avid Democrat, Kemper had a lifelong taste for politics. He ran for mayor of Kansas City in 1904, losing in a year when the Democratic vote was split by a factional rift. He made another run for mayor in 1906 on an “anti-bossism” platform, but his party’s nomination went to the Democratic machine-backed candidate. In the same year, he headed an affiliate of the National Bank of Commerce, and over the next two decades, the bank headed by Kemper evolved into the Commerce Trust Company. Kemper remained interested in politics and served as Missouri’s Democratic National Committeeman from 1924-36.
Andy Kirk was never a topnotch instrumentalist, composer, arranger or personality, yet he parlayed his musical talent, organizational skills, and a series of lucky breaks into an enormously successful career as a bandleader. Although his musical legacy is not as great as that of rival bandleaders Benny Moten and Count Basie, Andy Kirk’s Clouds of Joy was one of the most popular big bands during the heyday of jazz in Kansas City and one of the first regional orchestras from the southwest to achieve national prominence.
Between 1910 to 1939, nearly every major civic improvement in Kansas City bore the mark of Conrad Mann. This massive, bear-like man with a brusque, unpolished manner was a uniquely talented leader who knew how to "get things done."