Drivers on James A. Reed Road may not know it's named after the 32nd mayor of Kansas City and former U.S. Senator

CJ Coombs

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James A. Reed, U.S. Senator from Missouri.Blanche Reineke, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Missouri Democratic Party politician

James Alexander Reed was born on a farm in Ohio on November 9, 1861. He is a descendant of an early Pennsylvania pioneer, David Reed. When Reed was three, his family relocated to Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He became a lawyer and moved to Kansas City in 1887.

Years as a politician

From 1898 to 1900, Reed served as a city prosecutor in Jackson County. In 1899, interestingly, he wasn't successful in prosecuting the son of Jesse James, Jesse E. James, for a train robbery.

Reed was Mayor of Kansas City from 1900 to 1904. In 1910, as a Democrat, he was elected to the U.S. Senate and served from 1911 to 1929 until he retired. He attempted to receive the Democratic nomination for president but failed.

With the backing of Jim Pendergast’s political machine, Reed became county counselor in 1897 and by 1899 was elected prosecuting attorney of Jackson County, Missouri. He was elected mayor of Kansas City in 1900, and [biographer J. Michael] Cronan writes that Reed’s success in this race was also 'made possible by the Pendergast organization.' (Source.)

In 1913 while a member of the Senate Banking Committee, to break a deadlock, he changed his vote and the Federal Reserve Act was passed. This resulted in Kansas City and St. Louis being two of the cities to get Federal Reserve Banks.

In regard to the Immigration Act of 1917, Reed wholly supported it and even wanted to expand on the restrictions in the bill.

On February 5, 1917, Congress passed the Immigration Act of 1917, also known as the Asiatic Barred Zone Act. Intended to prevent 'undesirables' from immigrating to the U.S., the act primarily targeted individuals migrating from Asia. Under the act, people from 'any country not owned by the United States adjacent to the continent of Asia' were barred from immigrating to the U.S. The bill also utilized an English literacy test and an increased tax of eight dollars per person for immigrants aged 16 years and older. (Source.)

For 35 years, this bill was the law until racial restrictions in immigration and naturalization statutes were eliminated with the passing of the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1952.

In 1929, Reed retired from the Senate and politics and moved back to Missouri. There, he practiced law.

Nell Donnelly

In March 1931 while Reed was representing a woman named Myrtle Bennett who was accused of shooting her husband, he learned that his married mistress, Nell Donnelly (birth name was Ellen Quinlan), is pregnant with his child. At this point, Reed would be age 69, and Donnelly who was a businesswoman and fashion designer was 42. Donnelly and her husband were married for 27 years at that time.

Reed had been married to his wife at that time for 43 years and didn't want to divorce her. With his opinions of immigrants, one might think he would never marry an Irish woman (Donnelly) anyway.

Donnelly's son, David, was born on September 10, 1931. She had gone to Europe and when she returned, it was communicated she had an adopted son. Supposedly, neither Reed nor Donnelly would do anything until Reed's wife passed away. Reed and his first wife never had children. Although his first wife had two children with her first husband, Reed didn't establish relationships with them.

Surprisingly, Donnelly and her chauffeur were kidnapped at gunpoint on December 1931. They were being held for ransom. Reed became very involved with the case. Allegedly, he asked John Lazia, a figure in Kansas City organized crime, to help locate Donnelly. After she was located, three men went to jail for their actions.

In 1932, Reed's wife died. Donnelly divorced her husband. Reed and Donnelly married in December 1933.

On September 8, 1944, Reed died in his summer home in Michigan from pneumonia. His biological son was going to be 13 in two days after his death.

In regard to Reed's representation of Mrytle Bennett, that's another story. She was acquitted.

In Missouri, the James A. Reed Road, James A. Reed Park, and James A. Reed Wildlife Memorial Park are named after Reed.

Thanks for reading.

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Multi-genre writer and indie author with a BA in Eng Journalism & Creative Writing. My working career has been in law firms. Thinker, giver, and lover of life and retired early to be a writer. Born into Air Force service life, life has taken me to Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Missouri. I love family, art, reading, history, true crime, travel, and research.

Kansas City, MO
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