KCs ties to the FBI
By BRIAN BURNES
The Kansas City Star
Kansas Citys biggest moment in Federal Bureau of Investigation history usually is thought to have occurred in June 1933.
Thats when five men died in the gun battle today known as the Union Station Massacre.
The outrage that followed helped J. Edgar Hoover convince lawmakers to expand the powers of his federal investigation agency. Within a year, President Franklin Roosevelt had signed nine anti-crime bills, creating a new federal criminal code.
But Tim Weiner, author of a bureau history called Enemies: A History of the FBI, thinks the more fascinating Kansas City connection occurred 40 years later.
Thats when President Richard Nixon came to Kansas City in July 1973 to help swear in Hoovers replacement, Clarence M. Kelley, Kansas City police chief.
This is during the depths of Watergate, said Weiner, who speaks in Kansas City this week.
So here is Clarence Kelley: the nice guy, meat-and-potatoes, stalwart Middle-American cop, Weiner said. And he walks into this snake pit.
L. Patrick Gray, named by Nixon as acting FBI director following Hoovers 1972 death, had resigned in April 1973 after admitting that he, among other things, had passed bureau investigative reports of the Watergate break-in on to the White House.
Kelley later wrote what Weiner called a very straight-forward memoir in which he described his frustrations during his tenure. He wrote about how shocked he was that the wounds of Watergate were visible on the presidents face, Weiner said.
Kansas City, Weiner added, had suffered during what he called Hoovers long disinterest in fighting organized crime.
Hoover was more interested in fighting communists, he said.
Kelley died in 1997. He served as FBI director through 1978, at about the same time the bureau began to grow more interested in mobsters in Kansas City and elsewhere.
It wasnt until the 1970s and 1980s that the FBI went after them in a serious way, said Weiner, who in the early 1980s worked for more than a year at The Kansas City Times.
Once they did, they took those groups down.
Weiners FBI history will be released in paperback Tuesday. He speaks at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Kansas City Public Librarys Plaza Branch, 4801 Main St. For details, go to KCLibrary.org.
Kennedy at Unity
Caroline Kennedy will speak in Kansas City in April when she discusses Poems to Learn By Heart, a new compilation, at 7 p.m. April 2 at Unity Temple on the Plaza, 707 W. 47th St.
Winners of area poetry competitions also will read their work.
She is very interested in keeping young people interested in poetry and keeping poetry alive and well, said Vivien Jennings of Rainy Day Books, who will interview Kennedy on the Unity stage.
Kennedy will sign copies of her new book after the program, Jennings said. For details, go to RainyDayBooks.com.
Brian Burnes, email@example.com
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