The Kansas City metro region has been home to some of the nation’s most recognizable names. Visitors can experience the lives of these famous figures at several attractions throughout the area.
1. Harry S. Truman – This Independence, Mo., native’s two terms as president are considered by historians as one of the most eventful and most studied periods in American history. To experience his life, visit the Harry S. Truman Library & Museum, the Truman National Historic Site and the Truman Office & Courtroom, which are all located in Independence, Mo. Tours are also available of the Truman Farm Home in nearby Grandview, Mo.
2. Amelia Earhart – Known as one of the world’s most celebrated aviators, this Atchison, Kan., native was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. The Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum in Atchison provides an insightful look at the pilot’s early life, from childhood mementos to family photos, plus information about her 1937 disappearance. This October, Oscar-winning actress Hilary Swank will portray Earhart in the biopic, Amelia.
3. Charlie Parker – Legendary saxophonist and Kansas City native, Charlie “Bird” Parker, took the jazz world by storm in the 1940s. Bearing the inscription “The Bird Lives,” the Charlie Parker Memorial in Kansas City’s 18th & Vine Historic Jazz District is a tribute to the musician, and the nearby American Jazz Museum displays his saxophone as well as other important artifacts from the genre’s history. Parker is buried in Kansas City’s Lincoln Cemetery.
4. Walt Disney – After attending the Kansas City Art Institute, the beloved animator opened Laugh-O-Gram Studio, his first, on the corner of 31st Street and Forest Avenue in Kansas City. Disney fed a friendly rodent in the building, which was said to have inspired the character Mickey Mouse. The building has since fallen to almost complete ruin; a group is currently working to restore it and build a museum on the site. Fans also can visit his childhood home and farm just 125 miles east of Kansas City in Marceline, Mo.
5. Jesse James – Follow in the footsteps of the famous outlaw by visiting his boyhood home at the Jesse James Farm & Museum in Kearney, Mo. The Jesse James Home, located on the grounds of the Patee House Museum in St. Joseph, Mo., was his final residence and features the bullet hole from his assassination. The Jesse James Bank Museum in Liberty, Mo., is where the James Gang executed the first U.S. daylight bank robbery during peacetime.
6. Buck O’Neil – This baseball star spent most of his life in KC, where he played and managed for the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro American League. Buck is credited as the first African-American coach in Major League Baseball and played an integral role in the the establishment of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, where visitors can learn about the League’s history and stars. In 2007, he was posthumously awarded America’s highest honor for a civilian-the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
7. Thomas Hart Benton – This painter of American Regionalism was born in Neosho, Mo., but spent much of his later life in Kansas City. Visitors can catch a glimpse of his life at the Thomas Hart Benton Home and Studio State Historic Site. His studio remains just as he left it, with coffee cans full of paintbrushes and a stretched canvas waiting to become another masterpiece. The Victorian home also features several of Benton’s paintings and sculptures.
8. Count Basie – Known as one of the most important bandleaders of his time, Basie is considered a leading figure of jazz’s swing era that took place during the late 1920s and early 1930s. Before he climbed to international fame, Basie was discovered in KC. To fully experience Kansas City jazz, catch a late-night jam session at the Mutual Musicians Foundation in the 18th & Vine Historic Jazz District. The “12 O’Clock Jump” radio show is broadcast live from the foundation every Saturday night at midnight.
9. Satchel Paige – This legendary Negro Leagues pitcher played for the Kansas City Monarchs and pitched in two Negro World Series and five East-West All Star games. To experience the lives of Paige and other Negro League players, visit the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, which recreates the look, sounds and feel of the game’s storied past through video presentations and displays of memorabilia. Paige is buried in Kansas CIty’s Forest Hill Cemetery.
10. Joyce C. Hall – The founder of Hallmark Cards came to Kansas City in 1910 with nothing but two shoeboxes full of postcards, which marked the beginning of one of the world’s largest greeting card companies. To experience Hall’s legacy, visit Crown Center at the Hallmark’s world headquarters in downtown Kansas City. The Hallmark Visitors Center, which educates visitors about the company’s history, is located among more than 60 shops and restaurants in the complex.
For more on visiting Kansas, go to VisitKC.com.
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