Kenneth Eardley Midgley (1903-1990) Papers (KC0142)
Kenneth Eardley Midgley was born in Salt Lake City, Utah, on October 7, 1903. He was educated in Utah and received his B.A. from the University of Utah in 1925. He then continued his education at the University of Michigan Law School where he received his Juris Doctorate in 1928.
After graduation from the University of Michigan Law School, Midgley, upon the recommendation of one of his professors, came to Kansas City where he commenced practicing law. Soon after arriving in Kansas City, Midgley became concerned with the influence of the Pendergast Machine and the corruption in Kansas City government. By 1933, he was active in the National Youth Movement, an organization which sought to eliminate corruption in public office. It especially worked to overthrow the Pendergast Machine.
In 1939, Midgley became president of the Good Government Association, one of seven political organizations actively working to remove the Pendergast machine from power. Midgley worked, through the Good Government Association, to force a recall election for the mayor, eight city councilmen and two municipal judges. The city clerk "lost" the petitions and a recall election was not held. Not to be stymied, Midgley initiated an amendment petition to alter the city charter which called for two year terms for city council effective in 1940. That effort succeeded and in the resulting election, the Pendergast machine candidates were soundly defeated.
Following the election, the new mayor, John B. Gage, and the newly elected city council asked Midgley to serve as temporary city manager until a professional could be hired and brought to Kansas City. He accepted the position and served for four weeks. After L.P. Cookingham assumed his position as city manager for Kansas City, Midgley returned to his law practice. The seven organizations which had worked to overthrow the Pendergast machine in 1940 had seemingly dissolved in the wake of their success. As the 1942 election drew near, the reform government of Gage and Cookingham needed to carry the election of 1942 to establish its record as an honest administration, not just a change of one self-serving government for another. As the election began to draw nearer, the supporters of the reform administration formed the nonpartisan Citizen's Association. Midgley agreed to serve as chairman of the Citizen's Association for the 1942 election. Despite some initial difficulty in keeping a nonpartisan coalition together, the Citizen's Association, with Midgley at the helm, successfully defended the reform administration in the 1942 municipal elections.
After that election, Midgley returned to his law practice and, despite a keen interest in Kansas City government, did not again serve as a political campaign organization leader. In 1943 he joined the United States Navy and served through the duration of World War II. He returned to Kansas City after his war service and reestablished his law career.
Kenneth Midgley continued his service to Kansas City as a civic leader. His principal importance, however, was as a leader in the reform movement of the 1930s and the efforts to instill honest government in the city in the 1940s. He is a partner in the Kansas City law firm of Swanson, Midgley, Gangwere, Clarke and Kitchin.
The papers consist of primarily two scrapbooks and a folder of newspaper clippings and memorabilia maintained by Kenneth Midgley during the early years of the Mayor John B. Gage and the 1942 Kansas City municipal elections. Also in the collection are several typescript recollections and biographical statements concerning Midgley's life and career. 1941-1950.
two volumes and two folders (MICROFILMED).
© State Historical Society of Missouri
Monday, February 07, 2011
State Historical Society of Missouri Research Center-Kansas City
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