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 Thomas Joseph Pendergast, Sr

Thomas Joseph Pendergast, Sr

Birth
Saint Joseph, Buchanan County, Missouri, USA
Death 26 Jan 1945 (aged 72)
Kansas City, Jackson County, Missouri, USA
Burial Kansas City, Jackson County, Missouri, USA
Memorial ID 801 · View Source
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Kansas City political boss. In the 1890s he began work in the saloon of his brother James. Jim was a member of the city council and Tom's first political mentor. Jim retired in 1910 and died in 1911, with Tom succeeding him as councilman. After his term on the council expired in 1916, Tom continued to expand his control over the Democratic party in Kansas City and Jackson County, with the aim of controlling the city and county governments. In 1925 Pendergast engineered a change to the city charter that reduced the size of the city council and placed day to day administration in the hands of a manager. With a majority of council members loyal to Pendergast, he directed the selection of the city manager and gained control of City Hall. Throughout the 1920s and 30s Pendergast's machine bribed police and prosecutors and allowed alcohol and gambling to flourish. In addition, Pendergast's machine frequently rigged elections to aid its favored candidates. In return, Pendergast-owned entities such as Ready-Mixed Concrete were often awarded local and county contracts for construction, paving and other services. These companies frequently performed substandard work at inflated prices, and Pendergast amassed a sizable fortune. Pendergast also wielded influence at the state level. After making possible Harry Truman's elections as County Judge and Presiding Judge, Pendergast enabled him to obtain the Democratic nomination for US Senate in 1934, beginning Truman's rise to the Presidency. In the 1930s his compulsive gambling and the excesses of his subordinates caused his control over the city and county to slip. In 1939 Pendergast was convicted of income tax evasion and served 15 months in the US Penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kansas. After being released he lived in retirement at his Kansas City home.

Bio by: Bill McKern



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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 1 Jan 2001
  • Find A Grave Memorial 801
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Thomas Joseph Pendergast, Sr (22 Jul 1872–26 Jan 1945), Find A Grave Memorial no. 801, citing Calvary Cemetery, Kansas City, Jackson County, Missouri, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .