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Political history

James Pendergast Main article: James Pendergast In 1880, James Pendergast, the oldest son of Irish immigrants, moved to Kansas City's West Bottoms. He worked at a local iron foundry until buying a bar with money he won from betting on a longshot horse ("Climax") at a local race track. From his new bar, Pendergast began networking with local leaders and soon built a powerful faction in the Jackson County Democratic Party. Pendergast's faction was called the "goats" because they were backed by those living in the hills above the river. His chief rival were the "rabbits" because they tended to come from the area around the rivers. The lead of this faction was Joe Shannon. [edit]Tom Pendergast Main article: Tom Pendergast Just prior to winning his first of nine terms on the city council in 1892, he summoned his youngest brother Tom from nearby St. Joseph. As Jim's health deteriorated, Tom began to utilize many of Jim's connections to lead the "Goat" faction after Jim's death in 1910. Tom succeeded Jim in the council too, but left after three terms but assumed more powerful position as chairman of the Jackson County Democratic Club with its headquarters at 1908 Main Street. [edit]City manager In 1925, Kansas City, Missouri, voted in favor of establishing a city manager-based government with one city council of 12 members instead of two chambers of 32 members total, giving Tom an easier road to gaining majority control. By 1925, the Pendergast machine had establishe a majority, appointing a passive mayor and powerful city manager Henry McElroy. Pendergast's power grew during the Great Depression, creating a Ten-Year Plan bond plan aimed at putting unemployed Kansas Citians to work building civic structures that still stand, including City Hall, Municipal Auditorium, and the Jackson County Courthouse. These structures, sporting art deco architecture, were built with concrete supplied by Pendergast's Ready-Mixed Concrete company and other companies that provided kickbacks to Pendergast. At its peak, the machine wielded considerable influence on state politics, handily electing Platte County judge Guy Brasfield Park governor of Missouri in 1932 when the Democratic candidate Francis Wilson died two weeks before the election. Also during this time, Kansas City also became a center for night life and music, with jazz by musicians such as Count Basie, Charlie Parker and blues Kansas City blues flourishing in areas such as 18th and Vine. Pendergast's machine became synonymous with inflating election results by bringing in out-of-town hoodlums to vote for machine candidates repeatedly. The March 27, 1934 municipal elections (dramatized in Robert Altman's 1996 film Kansas City) resulted in nine deaths. [edit]Machine's demise Tom Pendergast's power was brought down by health ailments and a determined effort by reform leaders, capped by Tom pleading guilty to tax evasion on May 24, 1939. Remnants of the machine lingered until the 1950s.