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Kansas City mayors

The mayors of Kansas City:

MAYOR TERM

William S. Gregory 1853

Johnston Lykins 1854

John Johnson 1855 (35 days)

Milton J. Payne 1855-1860

George. M.B. Maughs 1860

Robert T. Van Horn 1861

Milton J. Payne 1862

William Bonnifield 1863

Robert T. Van Horn 1863, 1864

Patrick Shannon 1865

Alexander L. Harris 1866

Edward H. Allen 1867

Alexander L. Harris 1868

Francis R. Long 1869

Elijah M. McGee 1870

William Warner 1871

Robert H. Hunt 1872

Edward L. Martin 1873

Smith D. Woods 1874

Turner A. Gill 1875, 1876

James W.L. Slavens 1877

George M. Shelley 1878, 1879

Charles A. Chace 1880

Daniel A. Frink 1881

Thomas B. Bullene 1882

James Gibson 1883

Leander J. Talbott 1884

John W. Moore 1885

Henry C. Kumpf 1886, 1888

Joseph J. Davenport 1889

Benjamin Holmes 1890, 1891

William S. Cowherd 1892, 1893

Webster Davis 1894, 1895

James M. Jones 1896-1899

James A. Reed 1900-1903

Jay H. Neff 1904, 1905

Henry M. Beardsley 1906, 1907

Thomas T. Crittenden Jr. 1908, 1909

Darius A. Brown 1910, 1911

Henry L. Jost 1912-1915

George H. Edwards 1916, 1917

James Cowgill 1918-1921*

* Died, succeeded by Sam B. Strother

Frank H. Cromwell 1922, 1923

Albert I. Beach 1924-1930

Bryce B. Smith 1930-1939

John B. Gage 1940-1946

William E. Kemp 1946-1955**

** Terms of four years began

H. Roe Bartle 1955-1963

Ilus W. Davis 1963-1971

Charles B. Wheeler Jr. 1971-1979

Richard L. Berkley 1979-1991

Emanuel Cleaver 1991-1998

Kay Barnes 1998-***

*** Term expires 2007

Notable mayors:

James A. Reed, 1900-1904

His two terms, a rarity at the time, launched a political career that culminated with 18 years as a U.S. senator.

Mayor Reed presided over the speedy rebuilding of Convention Hall for the 1900 Democratic National Convention. He took on the gilded interests of streetcar transit, and, in 1903, his city slogged its way out of a destructive flood in the industrial West Bottoms.

Three decades later, then-Sen. Reed married local garment empress Nell Donnelly.

Among the few Democrats in Washington to attack President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s spending programs, Reed was eulogized in The Star as “an eloquent, forceful, courageous battler for whom there never had been any middle ground.”

John B. Gage, 1940-1946

Chosen to be “the cleanup mayor” by voters who swept out vestiges of the Pendergast machine, Gage instilled dignity and fiscal order to a City Hall in dire need of both. He established merit examinations of all city workers, cut the budget by $700,000 in his first year and set forth businesslike procedures.

Former Star President Richard Fowler called the lifelong farmer “one of the great mayors of modern American cities and a forceful wartime leader for this inland United States.”

Kansas City’s wide-open jazz scene would never recover from the cleanup, though few civic tears were shed at the time.

H. Roe Bartle, 1955-1963

“A colossal man of size and reputation,” the cigar-chomping Bartle “actively worked to change the town’s image from cowtown to big league,” as The Star wrote at the time of his death.

Nicknamed “Chief” for his longtime leadership of the Boy Scouts, he played a major role in bringing the football Chiefs to town from Texas. He earned a national reputation as a Kansas City booster and as a “frankly, blatantly and unabashedly fat” showman, according to a Star profile in 1973:

“Bartle IS Kansas City to the hundreds of thousands who have heard him speak. … ‘Oh, you’re from Kansas City,’ is a typical response. ‘Boy, have you got a mayor!’”

Ilus W. Davis, 1963-1971

“Kansas City rose to new levels of public accomplishment and community pride,” The Star wrote of the years when “Ike” occupied the 29th floor of City Hall.

A steady-handed, plain-spoken style allowed Davis to forge consensus in socially turbulent times, never more obvious than when he championed a public accommodations law that required equal treatment of minorities.

His legacy includes the city earnings tax, fair housing code and construction of Kansas City International Airport. All remain milestones of municipal operations.

Richard L. Berkley, 1979-1991

Critics called him ho-hum, but voters didn’t mind. No mayor served longer than Berkley.

More than the 700 capital improvement projects sprouted during his tenure, from the town houses of Quality Hill and Union Hill to voter-approved expansions of Bartle Hall and the Kansas City Zoo. In all 12 years of ribbon-cutting, Berkley maintained a conciliatory style and his administration avoided scandal.

“The Berkley era spanned 4,380 days,” The Star noted upon his stepping down, adding:

“The darkest of them triggered what would be roundly regarded his finest show of leadership” when, in a rare show of anger, Berkley demanded an immediate federal probe into the 1981 skywalk collapse at the Hyatt Regency Crown Center hotel.


— Rick Montgomery/The Star
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