Reform Movement Oral History Project (KC266)
Kansas City politics in the 1920s and 1930s were run by the political machine of Tom Pendergast. Corruption in the form of election fraud, political favoritism, and widespread gambling and bootlegging abounded, making Kansas City notorious throughout the nation. The power that the machine wielded was so absolute and oppressive that, by the closing years of the Depression, a group of citizens known as the "Good Government Association" formed to take action. This group desired to improve Kansas City's inner political system and its outer image as the 1940s approached.
After the rigged election of 1936, the justice system was finally able to begin dismantling the Pendergast machine. Following Mayor Bryce Smith's election to his fifth term in 1939, Republicans and Democrats launched the non-partisan Charter Party. By their efforts and the efforts of other groups who made up the United Campaign Committee, a new reform government was elected into office in 1940, with John B. Gage as mayor. Shortly afterwards, Gage brought in L.P. Cookingham as city manager. In 1942, the Charter Party and United Campaign Committee became the Citizens Party. Reform efforts remained strong in city government until 1959, when the Citizens Association lost its council majority.
The collection consists of ten cassette tapes containing interviews with people active in the Kansas City reform movement from the 1920s through the 1950s. Interviews were done with L. Perry Cookingham, Ilus W. Davis, Jerome T. Duggan, Earle W. Frost, Marjorie (Mrs. John B.) Gage, James A. Moore, and Edmund B. Smith. 1988
10 audio cassette tapes
© WHMC-KC, University of Missouri
Tuesday, March 07, 2006
Western Historical Manuscript Collection-Kansas City
(816) 235-1543 WHMCKC@umkc.edu