LaBudde Special Collections | Leon M. Jordan Collection: Farnsworth Manuscript


Dr. Robert M. Farnsworth

In 2005, Dr. Robert M. Farnsworth, Professor Emeritus of English at the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC), began research for a biography of Kansas City politico Leon Mercer Jordan, co-founder in 1962 of Freedom, Inc., a local organization that promoted voter awareness in the black community and groomed African-American candidates for political office. Dr. Farnsworth and his wife, Sylvia, were active in the civil rights struggles played out in Kansas City, including a 1961 demonstration where Mrs. Farnsworth and Jordan's wife, Orchid, protested brutality against "Freedom Riders" in the South.

Among Dr. Farnsworth's sources for the biography is the Leon M. Jordan Collection, acquired in 2006 by LaBudde Special Collections. He made two failed attempts to publish his manuscript before the second investigation of the Kansas City Police Department determined who was responsible for Jordan's murder. After he rewrote his manuscript including that information, he approached Special Collections with the idea of providing online access to his biography as a capstone to the Jordan Collection.

Special Collections is proud to provide a permanent home for Dr. Farnsworth's research material and drafts of the Jordan biography, which are organized as addendums to the Jordan Collection.

 

For a print copy of Dr. Farnsworth's manuscript, there are two options:

1. Download the entire manuscript and print it directly from a printer connected to your computer or electronic device.

2. Contact the UMKC Bookstore (below). They will work with the UM-Columbia bookstore to have copies printed and bound on demand through a service called Espesso Book Machine. Pay for and pick up copies from the UMKC Bookstore (or arrange a different delivery option if need be):

University of Missouri – Kansas City
UMKC Bookstore – UMKC Media
Contact: Pete Eisentrager
Phone: (816) 235-2665

 


Leon M. Jordan
Jordan Collection: Image #661

POLICE CHIEF NO, CHIEF POLITICIAN YES
THE LIFE OF LEON MERCER JORDAN, AND THE SHAPING MEMORIES OF HIS FATHER AND GRANDFATHER
by Robert M. Farnsworth

Title & Dedication Pages     |     Photo Index     |     Jordan Family Tree

Preface: How All This Began

I moved from Detroit to Kansas City with my wife and four children in the summer of 1960 to assume my first tenure-track position as an Assistant Professor of American Literature at Kansas City University. [more]

Chapter I: Kansas City's Loss

At approximately 1:15 in the morning of July 15, 1970, Leon M. Jordan, the founder of Freedom, Inc., was gunned down as he closed his Green Duck Tavern. [more]

 


Jordan's parents: Leon H. & Lena
Jordan Collection: Addendum B, Box B1

Chapter II: The Family

Leon grew up with his grandmother, Kate, living just a few doors away on Vine Street. His aunt Sallie ended her first marriage and moved in with her mother. [more]

Chapter III: Who Was Leon H. Jordan?

Samuel Jordan, Jr., Leon H.’s older brother, was the only young man in Lincoln HighSchool’s first graduating class of four in 1885. [more]

Chapter IV: Captain Jordan Takes The Stage In Kansas City

The Autumn Leaf Club apparently was only one of many interests when Jordan returned from the Philippines to his life in Kansas City. [more]

Chapter V: What To Make Of This Jordan Family

Captain Leon H. Jordan was a complicated man who played a major public role for a brief span of time, dying at a relatively young age. [more]

 


Jordan with the Liberian Constabulary
Jordan Collection: Image #265

Chapter VI: College And Marriage

Leon enrolled in Washburn College in Topeka in 1928 and completed 48 hours of credit there before transferring to Wilberforce, where Orchid had enrolled a few months earlier. [more]

Chapter VII: First Career: Becomes A Policeman

In 1936 Jordan finally found a job that promised him decent pay and a chance for the future. He probably met Boss Tom Pendergast personally in his office, as recruits for the Kansas City Police Department were commonly required to do. [more]

Chapter VIII: Liberia

Soon after the United States entered World War II, Liberia became strategically important to our war effort. By that time Germany controlled much of Europe and northern Africa. [more]

Chapter IX: Resigns From KCPD, Returns To Liberia, Then Back To Kansas City And A New Career

When Jordan returned to Kansas City Chief Johnson had been succeeded by a new chief, Bernard C. Brannon. [more]

 


Freedom, Inc. candidate card for Jordan
Jordan Collection: Box 2, Folder 2

Chapter X: Establishing Freedom, Inc., 1962-1966

Felix Payne, a club owner and Democratic leader who knew Jordan’s father, died January14, 1962. Payne founded and published the Kansas City American and in 1928 became anofficial of the Democratic National Convention held in Houston, Texas. [more]

Chapter XI: Freedom, Inc. Grows Into A National Force, 1966-1970

In 1966 Charles E. Curry, a local businessman who had been successful in real estate and who was a friend of Harry Truman, decided to reinvigorate his Committee for County Progress party, which had not done well in 1964. [more]

Chapter XII: The Challenge Of Radical Youth

While Freedom was achieving significant local success, the national civil rights struggle was increasingly challenged by black nationalism. [more]

 


Green Duck Tavern
Jordan Collection: Image #679

Chapter XIII: Sudden Death And An Explosion Of Recognition

July 14, 1970, the last day of Leon Jordan’s life, began like any other day at the Jordan home, but his activities that day remind us of some of the most prominent threads in the canvas of the later years of his life. [more]

Chapter XIV: Confusion, Prosecution Miscues, And Resolution

Freedom, Inc. rallied in the wake of Leon Jordan’s murder. Orchid was quickly persuaded to run for her husband’s seat as state representative. [more]

Bibliography     |     Photo Index

 

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