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.