Politics in Paperback: Grenville Clark and Thomas J. Pendergast

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.

Nancy Peterson Hill


$24.95 ¦ ISBN: 978-0-8262-2091-2 ¦ 280 pages ¦ 24 illustrations


hill-webRecipient of the PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography, the David J Langum, Sr. Prize in American Legal History or Biography, and the New-York Historical Society Annual Book Prize in American History


Grenville Clark was born to wealth and privilege in Manhattan, where his maternal grandfather, LeGrand Bouton Cannon, was an industry titan, retired Civil War colonel, and personal friend of Abraham Lincoln. Clark grew up on a first-name basis with both Presidents Roosevelt, and his close friends included Supreme Court justices. He was well known and respected in the inner circles of business, government, and education.


During his extensive career, he refused pay while serving as a private advisor for the Secretary of War of the United States during World War II, and he worked closely with the NAACP to uphold civil rights for African Americans during the tumultuous 1950s and ‘60s. Clark devoted his last decades to a quest for world peace through limited but enforceable world law, rewriting the charter of the United Nations and traveling the globe to lobby the world’s leaders.


Lawrence H. Larsen & Nancy J. Hulston


$24.95 ¦ ISBN: 978-0-8262-2114-8¦ 256 pages ¦ 35 illustrations larsen-pendergast-72-dpi


Part of the Missouri Biography Series, edited by William E. Foley

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.

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