June 20, 1909


Old-Time Czar of Ninth Ward, Who
Helped Make Political His-
tory in Kansas City,
Is Dead.
The Late Tom Davis, Ninth Ward Political Boss.

"Big Tom" Davis, for more than twenty years proprietor of the "Lucky Number" saloon, 1711 Grand avenue, and Democratic boss of the Ninth ward, died of liver complaint at his home, 517 East Seventeenth street, at 4:30 o'clock yesterday afternoon.

With the passing of "Andy" Foley of the Second ward, twelve years ago, the number of Kansas City's old-time Democratic ward bosses was limited to two, and now there are none worthy of the name left in the city. Davis's sway in the territory immediately surrounding his place, near Seventeenth and Grand avenue, was, however, just as strong at the time of his death as at any previous time, according to his admirers. Should he have bolted his party at any time in his career, they say, the Ninth ward would have become staunchly Republican.

Thomas Jefferson Davis was born in Alliance, O., fifty-five years ago. At 18 years of age he became a fireman on a locomotive and later an engineer. With Andrew Foley, now dead, former councilman from the Second ward, and Charles A. Millman, former member of the state legislature, he came to Kansas City about May 1, 1883. Millman alone survives.


"Davis made his debut in ward politics in 1892 in rather a unique manner," said Mr. Millman last night.

"It was the time Henry J. Latshaw was running for nomination against William Cowherd, Thomas Corrigan, now dead, backing the former and Bernard Corrigan, president of the Metropolitan Street Railway Company, pulling private wires for the latter.

"The Ninth ward was in the hands of William Abel, a druggist, one time alderman, and had been for years, and it was understood that Abel was going to throw all his influence to Latshaw. On the night before the primaries the Cowherd faction was desperate and a hurried consultation was called among the leaders.

"Finally a deputation, comprised of Frank Rozzelle, after city counselor under Cowherd, and George Hale, chief of the fire department, visited his saloon.

"You are the last hope we have," explained Rozzelle. 'We have come to ask you if you can't help us lick Latshaw in the Ninth.'

" 'I can carry the nomination either way,' replied Davis. 'Only give me a short talk with "Andy" Foley.'

"Nominations were made by 'mob primaries' then, and the crowd that could holler the loudest won viva voce, and there was no appeal provided by the rules after the decision was made.

"At the time for the primaries the next day, a dozen or more moving vans came to the convention loaded with Foley's followers in the North End and Davis's particular crowd from the Ninth ward. The instructions were 'Yell like the devil.' Cowherd owed his nomination as well as his subsequent election to Davis. Likewise the power of William Abel was permanently wrested from him, and Joe Shannon became the czar of the Democrats in the Ninth ward."

Stories of Davis's zeal in advertising his saloon display has character in a different light than those relating to his political moves. It is said that every farmer boy in Jackson county knew of the big saloonkeeper twenty years ago, even though they never tasted his wares.


One of his favorite pastimes was to purchase live rabbits, ground hogs, badgers and foxes from the farmer youths, and either put them on exhibition at his place or advertise a hunt and turn them loose in front of a pack of hounds on Grand avenue. For the latter amusement he invariably was arrested, but always paid his fine cheerfully and then seemingly forgot the incident.

Years ago when a former justice, now dead, grew tired of the single life he took his troubles to Tom Davis and was advised by "Tom" to have the vows proclaimed while standing with his bride on a table in the rear of his saloon. His idea in giving the judge this advice is not known, but his best friends say it was another advertising scheme brought to a successful conclusion by the overwhelming eloquence with which the saloonkeeper always presented his ideas.

Later when Davis learned that the bride had taken an aversion to the judge's long beard and mustache he sent for his client and advised him to have them cut and sold at auction at his saloon. This, too, was done, and a vast crowd witnessed the sale and shearing while ten bartenders hired for one day tried to take care of the enlivened trade.

Mr. Davis died after an illness of three months at his residence. He is survived by his widow, Mrs. Emma Davis, four brothers and a sister, living in Ohio. He leaves an estate already converted for the most part into cash valued at about $30,000. No arrangements for the funeral have been made.