Tom Pendergast

By Kate Loman Hr. 4

Tom Pendergast, a brief life biography.

Tom was born July 22, 1872 in St. Joseph Missouri. He attended School until at least the sixth grade. Pendergast moved to Kansas City permanently in 1894. As a young man he worked for his brother James Pendergast, in James’s hotel doing odd jobs. While Tom was working for his older brother, James was elected to City Council. While Tom’s brother was on council he gave him jobs. Tom was deputy constable in the First Ward city court. Then about two years later Tom received the duty of being deputy marshal in the county court. Then in 1900 the Mayor of Kansas City established Tom with a two-year term as superintendent of streets. During the 1900’s James, Toms elder brother started to fall very ill. So during the last few years of James run in office Tom began to pick up his slack and help out. James died in 1911, the next year Tom ran and won his brothers seat.


While in office Tom Pendergast accomplished many things, he became the most powerful figure in Democratic politics in Kansas City and the Nation. He funded a dinner for the poor during Christmas and Thanksgiving. During his long reign he was involved in many illegal things. Tom let many things slide in his town due to the Judges being his allies he had control of the Judicial branch, he also had control on the Executive and Legislative branch in his town. Tom’s popularity didn’t stop in Kansas City, he was known nationally, but was exposed as a Boss of a Political machine. During Pendergast exposure he began losing allies. His Political Machine slowly collapse during the 1936 elections, which had tons of fraud. One of Toms opponents in the election was Judge Albert Reeves, who assembled a grand jury that accused 259 Pendergast workers on federal voting fraud charges. A year later Tom was caught with the state superintendent of insurance (an ally of Tom Pendergast) signing a contracted that tied them both to a kickback scheme. During 1939 Tom was found guilty of tax evasion, and had to spend 15 months in Leavenworth Jail. After being release from Leavenworth, Tom Pendergast lived away from everything in his Ward Parkway home, until he died in 1945.

The Kansas City Mafia and the Pendergast Machine

Watch from "The Kansas City Mafia and Pendergast Machine" 0:15-5:00

Movie questions.

1)Who is Johnny Lazia?

2)The Pendergast Machine and Organized crime were intertwined during Pendergast's run because of what event?

Impact of Tom Pendergast

Tom helped the economy stay rich in the economy and in culture. But he let many crimes slide. Crime increased and made the city less safe. But made the Kansas City area wealthy. Pendergast also put us on the map for our Famous Jazz music.