Meet the Past: Tom Pendergast
All Library locations will be closed on Sunday, April 20, in observance of the Easter holiday.
Kansas City Public Library Director Crosby Kemper III interviews Tom Pendergast, portrayed by Bill Worley, as part of the Library’s Meet the Past series on Thursday, December 13, at 6:30 p.m. at the Central Library, 14 W. 10th St.
Born July 22, 1873, in St. Joseph, Missouri, “Boss Tom” exerted a great deal of control in Kansas City and Jackson County politics. Some saw Pendergast as a saint, paying the medical bills of poor residents and providing Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner for the less fortunate, while others thought him a sinner, utilizing bribes and often violent tactics to keep political friends in power and lucrative government contracts rolling in to his businesses.
More than 60 years after his death, Pendergast remains a measuring stick of sorts for Kansas City politics. Issues are often seen as marking either a return to or a departure from the way Pendergast did business.
Worley, a longtime Kansas City historian, is the author of J.C. Nichols and the Shaping of Kansas City.
A student of Kansas City history since the 1970s, Worley is an adjunct professor of history for UMKC and portrays a variety of historic characters. He has delved deeply into the 20th century doings in the city and the metropolitan area.