LaBudde Special Collections | Leon M. Jordan Collection
SCOPE AND CONTENT OF COLLECTION
The collection was acquired in two parts, and so was assigned two accession numbers: MS42 in January 2006; and MS49 in May 2006. Material was consolidated into one physical grouping to simplify access and retrieval. Throughout the inventory there are archival notes indicating what material belongs to what accession number.
The bulk of the first accession is comprised of photographs, much of which highlight activity in Liberia. Other images, spanning circa 1910s-1980s, include travels to Europe, as well as personal and professional subject matter stateside. Also in this accession are miscellaneous travel documents and ephemera from West Africa and Europe, high school and college documents and ephemera, postcards, a marriage certificate, a scrapbook, publications and newspaper clippings, awards, memorabilia, and miscellaneous items related to professional and political work in Kansas City.
The second accession dates from 1946 through 1952, but primarily documents the Jordans in Liberia from 1948 through 1951, as well as a hiatus stateside in 1950. The heart of the material is correspondence, invitations and programs to social and dignitary functions in Liberia; as well as newspaper clippings and various runs of Liberian publications. Also in this accession are additional travel ephemera, postcards and photographs; business cards and name cards; and other miscellaneous items.
There are three addendums to the original collection. Addendum A consists of manuscript drafts of a Leon Jordan biography by Dr. Robert M. Farnsworth, UMKC Professor Emeritus of English. Addendum B consists of Farnsworth's research files used for the Jordan biography. Addendum C consists of court documents and law enforcement files related to the Jordan murder investigation, including deposition transcripts, FBI files and Kansas City Police Department files.
Born May 6, 1905, Jordan attended Lincoln High School in his native Kansas City, and in 1933 graduated from Wilberforce University in Ohio. He joined the Kansas City Police Department in 1938, serving 16 years and becoming the first African-American to achieve the rank of Lieutenant. He was granted an extended leave of absence in 1947 and lived eight years in Liberia, on the west coast of Africa, training its police force, including flight instruction for a small air arm. Jordan also worked closely with two Kansas City colleagues there, detective Albert Reddick and fire captain Cecil R. Daniel, who trained and organized, respectively, a detective unit and a modernized fire department. Jordan’s wife, Orchid, also played a vital role in establishing the records bureau of the Liberian police department. Mr. and Mrs. Jordan were frequent guests of Liberian President William V. S. Tubman at the Executive Mansion, where Jordan was eventually honored for his dedicated service.
Upon his return stateside in the mid-1950s, he left the KCPD to pursue business and political interests. In 1962, Jordan and political colleague Bruce Watkins founded Freedom, Inc., a local organization that promoted voter awareness in the black community and groomed African-American candidates for political office. A year later, Jordan and Watkins guided an effort to place a public accommodations ordinance on the local ballot, granting blacks equal access to all public facilities. Under the Freedom, Inc. banner, Jordan spearheaded one of the largest voter registration drives in Kansas City history, a key event in the passing of the measure. In 1964, Jordan won a seat in the Missouri House of Representatives.
On July 15, 1970, Jordan was shot and killed in the early morning hours as he left the Green Duck Tavern, a business he owned and operated at 2548 Prospect Avenue. At the time, he was seeking his fourth term in the Missouri General Assembly – a campaign his widow took up and won. Mrs. Jordan served 16 years in the state legislature, forging her own political career where her husband's left off. The Leon M. Jordan Memorial Park at 31st Street and Benton Boulevard, which features a statue of the slain leader, was dedicated in 1975.
LaBudde Special Collections | UMKC Miller Nichols Library | 5100 Rockhill Road | Kansas City, MO 64110
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