After the election, we have politics on the brain and now take a look at two very different political subjects of two books newly out in paperback. In the award-winning A Very Private Public Citizen: The Life of Grenville Clark, Nancy Peterson Hill gives life to the unsung account of a largely anonymous American and reveals how the scope of Clark’s life and career reflected his selfless passion for progress, equality, and peace.
In contrast, Thomas J. Pendergast created a powerful political machine that used illegal voting and criminal enforcers to gain power. He took control of Kansas City and ran it as his own personal business, receiving over $30 million annually in the 1930s from gambling, prostitution, and narcotics, putting him in the big leagues of American civic corruption.
More than a half-century after the death of Kansas City’s notorious political boss, the Pendergast name still evokes great interest and even controversy. In this biography of Pendergast, Lawrence H. Larsen and Nancy J. Hulston have successfully provided—through extensive research, including use of recently released prison records and previously unavailable family records—a clear look at the life of Thomas J. Pendergast.
Born in St. Joseph, Missouri, in 1872, Tom Pendergast moved to Kansas City around 1890 to work for his brother James, founder of the Pendergast “Goat” faction in Kansas City Democratic politics. In 1911, Pendergast became head of the Goats, and over the next fifteen years he created a powerful—and corrupt—political machine.
In this well-balanced biography, the authors examine Pendergast’s rise to power, his successes as a political leader, his compassion for the destitute, and his reputation for keeping his word. They also examine Pendergast’s character development and how his methods became more and more ruthless. Pendergast had no use for ideology in his “invisible government”—only votes counted.