The James Anderson Historic Preservation Award sprang forth in the summer of 2019 through pure happenstance.
A couple of years earlier, a former high school classmate was clearing out her mother's home when she came across a collection of local and regional history books. Knowing my interest in history, she called me and asked if I would like her mother's collection. I told her I sure would!
We have a monthly lunch group of high school classmates. When she showed up, she brought me two banker's boxes full of books -- one of them concerned Kansas City's history through 1870. The author's preface referenced James Anderson, who had generated her interest in the development of Kansas City, beginning with the early exploration of the Lewis and Clark expedition.
James Anderson was 84-years-old when he died in 1967. For 33 years, he served as historian for the Native Sons of Kansas City, as it was known until 2006, when the name was changed to the Natives Sons and Daughters of Greater Kansas City. His career was as an accountant for Kansas City Southern Industries. Anderson's grandfather was the late Rev. Thomas Johnson, who founded the Shawnee Indian Mission in 1830. Johnson County, Kansas, was named for Johnson in 1855. Mr. Anderson's cousins were the prominent Wornall Family. These factors likely spawned James' lifelong interest in historic preservation.
One of our organization's first efforts following its founding in 1932 was securing the restoration of historic Ft. Osage. Anderson was involved in that effort. Soon, Anderson began collecting books, articles, memorabilia, and other paper documents and storing them in a small room on the 25th floor of City Hall in Kansas City, Missouri.
Eventually, Anderson's collection became so large that the city manager advised him to find a new location for storage. Within a short time, Mr. Anderson found a permanent home for the collection at the then-University of Kansas City, which became the University of Missouri-Kansas City in 1963.
In the ensuing years of growth and development at UMKC, Anderson's collection evolved into the Western Missouri Historic Manuscripts collection. That collection is now part of the Native Sons and Daughters of Greater Kansas City archives held at the State Historical Society of Missouri Research Center – Kansas City. The NSDKC archives is among one of the largest organizational collections in the Research Center today.
James Anderson's role in collecting and preserving Kansas City history has sadly become lost to history. In recognition of the efforts of James Anderson and those that continue to work in safeguarding Kansas City's history, this new, annual historic preservation award is dedicated to a non-member of the Native Sons and Daughters of Greater Kansas City.