Kansas City School of Law

Kansas City, Missouri

1895-1938

Travel and E-Travel

Kansas City School of Law was located in the heart of downtown Kansas City in a building familiar to many of us.  Mid-Continent Public Library has most issues of the Pandex, the school yearbook, from 1907 through 1935.  The Kansas City Star covered graduations and other school activities.

History

Eleven members of the Kansas City Bar Association founded Kansas City School of Law to provide an opportunity for students too poor to leave the city to study law.  Classes were held after four o'clock so that many of these students could work to pay for their education.  The 1928 Pandex shows that about two thirds of students (63 of 89 pictured Seniors) held day jobs.  Members of the Bar Association served as faculty--some without pay.

 

Classes began for 57 students on September 17, 1895.  Twenty-seven of these graduated from the two-year program in 1897. The 1907 Pandex, shows that the program had been increased to three years and enrollment had reached 176.   The top ranked student in the graduating class that year was Jesse James Jr., son of the famous bank robber (Pinterest image above).  The 1928 Pandex shows a four-year  program. In addition, for the first time that year,  KCSL awarded the LL.M degree to a group of students who had completed further studies. Total enrollment had reached 695.

 

At a time before women could vote, KCSL was a pioneer in providing legal education for them.  Two women were included in the 1899 graduation.  Still, in 1921 The Kansas City Star found it newsworthy that a 23-year-old female lawyer--a graduate of KCSL-- was a  "real girl" who enjoyed tennis and swimming.  The article nioted that she wore "most frivolous suede strap slippers with dizzy French heels."   By 1928  the female presence at KCSL was such that  two legal sororities had been established, with total membership of  79.

 

School activities included the traditional Washington's Birthday Banquet and an annual Pandex  Ball (complete with a Queen).  In addition to the two sororities, there were three legal fraternities.  Not surprisingly, the big co-curricular activity was debate.  Inter-class debates morphed into a school debate team which competed against the University of Missouri and William Jewell College.  By 1928 the debate schedule included Park Colleges, Kansas City Junior College, Emporia Normal School, Central College, Culver Stockton College, and even the University of Southern California.

Officers of the Kappa Beta Pi legal sorority. (1928 Pandex, Courtesy of Mid-Continent Public Library)

In 1938 KCSL became the law school for Kansas City University, thus giving up its independent status.  It is now a public institution--the school of law for the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Bricks and Mortar

KCSL began classes in the basement rooms of the New York Life Building in downtown Kansas City.  After two subsequent moves as enrollment increased, the school moved into a new building at 913 Baltimore Avenue in 1926.  The two-story Jacobean and Chicago-influence style building was home to KCSL until it became a part of Kansas City University. 

 

Still bearing the name Kansas City School of Law, the building is owned by Advertising and Sales Executive Club. It is now a part of the West Ninth Street/Baltimore Avenue Historic District. 

(Above) Drawing of the Kansas City School of Law Building (1928 Pandex, Courtesy of Mid-Continent Public Library)

Sports

       Team name: Laws or Judges

 

An editorial in the 1928 Pandex noted that while KCSL students were keen on athletics, the school structure worked against school-sponsored sports.  KCSL was not only an evening school, but one that used alternate schedules.  Freshman/Junior students rarely saw Sophomore/Senior students, as their classes were on different nights.   The editorial pointed out that the school had some of the better tennis players and golfers in the city and that some baseball and basketball players played on independent teams.

 

College Football Data Warehouse lists a game for KCSL in 1898.  So I checked newspaper accounts, and sure enough, the Kansas City Journal shows that a team was being organized at the school that year.  It appeared that a number of former varsity players from other colleges had enrolled in the law school and wanted a school team.  That team played Ottawa University, William Jewell College and Central High School, apparently with little success.  

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