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

NOTE: A revision of the Jordan manuscript will be completed by Dr. Farnsworth and posted on this page by the end of January 2015.

Dr. Robert M. Farnsworth
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. Links to all chapters and related parts of the manuscript are available for download below. The manuscript also can be downloaded all at once through MOSpace, an online repository for scholarly work and resources created by faculty, staff and students at the University of Missouri.

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

1. Download the entire manuscript at MOSpace and print it directly to 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


NOTE: A revision of the Jordan manuscript will be completed by Dr. Farnsworth and posted on this page by the end of January 2015.

Leon M. Jordan
Jordan Collection: Image #661


by Robert M. Farnsworth

Title & Dedication Pages     |     Photo Index

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. The civil rights movement was gathering steam and I had made a couple of... [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. His murder was headlined in the Kansas City Star later that day. The next morning the Kansas City Times spoke to the value of his public... [more]



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


Chapter II: Grandparents And Family

Leon M. Jordan’s grandfather, Samuel C. Jordan, was born in Virginia in 1834. He married Kittie, or Kate, Frazier, then 19 and born in Arkansas, in Leavenworth, Kansas, in 1864. Leavenworth was then a leading community in Kansas with 13% of its citizens African American, the largest... [more]

Chapter III: Mother And Father

Leon Jordan’s mother, Lena Rivers Jordan, was born June 24, 1873, in Centralia, Missouri. The United States 1880 census for Centralia lists an Olena Rivers living with her grandmother, Letta Daly, at the age of eight. Her mother, Mary V. Daly, is in the same household, aged twenty-two, and... [more]

Chapter IV: Home, The Philippines, And Home Again

When Leon H. Jordan returned to Kansas City from Georgia, he began managing the Autumn Leaf Club. The Autumn Leaf Club announced a Christmas reception at the Music Hall as early as 1899. During the nineties it sponsored other well publicized dances and formal social occasions... [more]



Jordan with the Liberian Constabulary
Jordan Collection: Image #265


Chapter V: Finding His Way To Manhood

When Leon Mercer Jordan was born on May 6, 1905, his grandfather Samuel had been dead for almost four years, but his grandmother Kate had just moved into an impressive new home just a few doors down the street from the house in which he lived. His aunt Sally, long and close friend... [more]

Chapter VI: 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. He later acknowledged Pendergast... [more]

Chapter VII: 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. The Japanese had aggressively driven south to gain control of the sources of rubber in the Asian and Pacific... [more]

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

When Jordan returned to Kansas City Chief Johnson had been succeeded by a new chief, Bernard C. Brannon. The years of understanding support he had enjoyed from the Kansas City Police Department disappeared with the former chief. Chief Brannon probably knew little about Jordan's work in... [more]



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


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

Felix Payne, a club owner and Democratic leader who knew Jordan’s father, died January 14, 1962. When he returned to Kansas City in the 1930’s Jordan became a member of the Beau Brummel Club, founded by Payne and his friends. The Jordans gave a steak dinner for Payne’s son, Felix... [more]

Chapter X: 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. He brought in professional political organizer Matthew Reese, who... [more]

Chapter XI: Radical Youth Challenges Aging Leadership

While Freedom was achieving significant local success, the national civil rights struggle was increasingly challenged by black nationalism. This challenge also began to appear in Kansas City. In February, 1969, the local Black Panthers organized a public gathering at Gregg Community... [more]



Green Duck Tavern
Jordan Collection: Image #679


Chapter XII: 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. He left for the Green Duck after lunch. That afternoon he called his lifelong friend... [more]

Chapter XIII: 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. In the primary she overwhelmed Lee Bohannon by a vote of 1961 to 157. She was easily elected in the November elections and would go on to serve... [more]

Bibliography     |     Photo Index



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