Wednesday, May 18, 2022
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All Around Town: Famous Kansas Citians

In

Important Folks to Recognize

What do Walt Disney, Ernest Hemingway, President Harry Truman, Charlie Parker, Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh all have in common?

All, at some point in their lives, lived in Kansas City and began their professional careers here.

Walt Disney
Walt Disney

Walt Disney

Disney was born in Marceline, Mo., a small town near Kansas City. After serving in World War I, Disney worked for the Kansas City Film Ad Company, where he fine-tuned his career in animation. In 1922, at the age of 20, Disney incorporated Laugh-O-Gram Films, which was located at E. 31st Street and Forest Avenue.

A pet mouse kept at Disney’s studio served as the inspiration for Mickey mouse. Disney’s early cartoons were well received in Kansas City. However, Disney made the mistake of hiring too many employees and taking on too many liabilities too quickly. A year later, Disney’s Kansas City studio filed for bankruptcy, and Disney ventured west to pursue his career in Hollywood.

Today, the Laugh-O-Gram studios building is still standing, although it remains vacant. The building was saved from a near-death-experience of the wrecking ball on the city’s dangerous buildings list when it was acquired by Thank You Walt Disney, a local group with plans to restore the studio building.

Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway

At the age of 18, Hemingway arrived in Kansas City and began his lifelong career to achieve writing fame.

His first job was as a reporter for the Kansas City Star, which Hemingway later said was very influential to his development as a writer. Even after transitioning from journalistic to creative writing, Hemingway continued to follow the rules outlined in the Kansas City Star Style Sheet.

Hemingway’s journalistic style is akin to his highly-acclaimed works of fiction. It is emtional and highly descriptive, yet concise.

Early Hemingway works can be found on the Kansas City Star website, www.kansascity.com/hemingway/.

President Harry S. Truman
President Harry S. Truman

President Truman

Truman grew up in Grandview, Mo., and settled in Independence after serving as a Commander in World War I.

Truman, a snazzy dresser, owned a haberdashery (men’s clothing store) and was elected Jackson County judge with the help of Tom Pendergast’s Democratic political machine. In 1935, he was elected to the U.S. Senate, and became Vice President under President Franklin Roosevelt in 1944.

When FDR died in office in April 1945, a month before Nazi Germany surrendered,Truman resolved to end WWII with as few American casualties as possible. Truman made the bold decision to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, ushering in the age of nuclear warfare.

In addition, Truman created the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the National Security Council and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and was instrumental in establishing the United Nations, which has shaped the scope of global policy ever since.

Although Truman was not a popular president, he received a warm welcome back to Kansas City in 1952.

Truman is remembered as the “man from Missouri,” but he is above all else, a Kansas City native. Independence, a KC suburb, houses both the Truman Museum and Truman Library, while UMKC is home to the Harry S. Truman Center for Governmental Affairs, which was chartered by Truman himself in 1969.

Charlie Parker
Charlie Parker

Charlie Parker

Parker, unlike Walt Disney and Ernest Hemingway, has the distinction of being both born and raised in Kansas City.

Parker attended Lincoln High School (now Lincoln College Preparatory Academy), from which he withdrew in 1935 to join the Musician’s Union.

Parker kicked off his jazz career in Kansas City’s 18th and Vine neighborhood, which was Kansas City’s black entertainment district during the era of segregation.

Although Parker eventually moved to New York, his music career and humble beginnings can be traced back to Kansas City.

Much of his fame can be attributed to his unique style, which combined elements of both jazz and classical music and matching elements of bebop with those of stringed orchestra.

Today, Parker is commemorated in both the American Jazz Museum and “Bird Lives” sculpture at the 18th and Vine Jazz District.

Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh

Ann Coulter
Ann Coulter

These two are more infamous than famous, except among people who identify to the right of “conservative Republican.”

Both have Kansas City connections.

Coulter clerked for federal judge Pasco Bowman II before embarking on her career as a self-described “professional antagonist” and conservative commentator.

Coulter has been chastised by feminists and the NAACP for stating that “women shouldn’t be allowed to vote” (in the context of discussing female preference for Democratic candidates) and for calling Barack Obama’s “Dreams from my Father” a “Dime store version of [Adolf Hitler’s] Mein Kampf.”

Limbaugh, like Coulter, has drawn both acclaim and fear from the mainstream GOP for simultaneously energizing its base of conservative voters and infuriating everyone else.

Rush Limbaugh
Rush Limbaugh

During the 1970s, Limbaugh worked with several radio stations before accepting a position as Kansas City Royals director of promotions, forging a lifelong friendship with George Brett.

nzoschke@unews.com

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