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Jordan, Leon M. (Mercer), 1905-1970



  • Existence: May 6, 1905 - July 15, 1970


From police detective to politico, Leon Mercer Jordan became one of the most distinguished African-American leaders in the state of Missouri before his untimely death in 1970. Forging a prolific and colorful career that took him from Kansas City to West Africa and back again, Jordan served three terms in the Missouri House of Representatives, co-founded a local political organization for African-Americans, and trained the national police force in the Republic of Liberia.

Born May 6, 1905, Jordan attended Lincoln High School in his native Kansas City, and in 1933 graduated from Wilberforce University in Ohio. He joined the Kansas City Police Department in 1938, serving 16 years and becoming the first African-American to achieve the rank of Lieutenant. He was granted an extended leave of absence in 1947 and lived eight years in Liberia, on the west coast of Africa, training its police force, including flight instruction for a small air arm. Jordan also worked closely with two Kansas City colleagues there, detective Albert Reddick and fire captain Cecil R. Daniel, who trained and organized, respectively, a detective unit and a modernized fire department. Jordan’s wife, Orchid, also played a vital role in establishing the records bureau of the Liberian police department. Mr. and Mrs. Jordan were frequent guests of Liberian President William V. S. Tubman at the Executive Mansion, where Jordan was eventually honored for his dedicated service.

Upon his return stateside in the mid-1950s, he left the KCPD to pursue business and political interests. In 1962, Jordan and political colleague Bruce Watkins founded Freedom, Inc., a local organization that promoted voter awareness in the black community and groomed African-American candidates for political office. A year later, Jordan and Watkins guided an effort to place a public accommodations ordinance on the local ballot, granting blacks equal access to all public facilities. Under the Freedom, Inc. banner, Jordan spearheaded one of the largest voter registration drives in Kansas City history, a key event in the passing of the measure. In 1964, Jordan won a seat in the Missouri House of Representatives.

On July 15, 1970, Jordan was shot and killed in the early morning hours as he left the Green Duck Tavern, a business he owned and operated at 2548 Prospect Avenue. At the time, he was seeking his fourth term in the Missouri General Assembly – a campaign his widow took up and won. Mrs. Jordan served 16 years in the state legislature, forging her own political career where her husband’s left off. The Leon M. Jordan Memorial Park at 31st Street and Benton Boulevard, which features a statue of the slain leader, was dedicated in 1975.


Conrads, David. Leon Jordan [biography]. Missouri Valley Special Collections, Kansas City Public Library. Accessed 10 Feb 2006.

Escoe, J. Delmas. “Leon Jordan Comes Home For Brief Visit.” The Kansas City Call. 14 May 1954, pg. 1.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Leon M. Jordan Collection

Identifier: MS-0042
Scope and Contents The Leon M. Jordan Collection was purchased by LaBudde Special Collections from Brian Thurn Antiques of Kansas City, who acquired the material from Phillip Banks. The collection consists of material belonging to Kansas City police detective and political leader Leon Mercer Jordan and his wife, Orchid Irene Ramsey Jordan; and ranges in date from the 1910s to the 1980s. Much of the collection focuses on their experiences in Liberia, Africa, where Mr. Jordan spent time training the national...
Dates: 1910s - 2015