H. Roe Bartle

H. Roe Bartle
H. Roe Bartle, 1935. Courtesy of the Missouri Valley Special Collections.

H. Roe Bartle was an expansive man. Everything about him was unrestrained: his booming voice, his adherence to the Boy Scout code of conduct, and the enthusiasm with which he served as mayor.

Harold Roe Bennett Sturdevant Bartle grew up in the coal mining towns of Virginia, the son of a poor minister. Bartle's life plan included the pursuit of a law degree to escape the poverty of his childhood. Once he had achieved financial security, he vowed, he would devote his life to public service. He worked as a lawyer until World War I called him to the infantry. By investing nearly all of his army pay after the war in oil, lands, and banks, he was able to retire from the practice of law and join the staff of the Boy Scouts.

Bartle's service with the Boy Scouts took him and his family to Wyoming, St. Joseph, and finally here as the Executive of the Kansas City Area Council in 1929. His accomplishments included establishing the elite Tribe of Mic-O-Say in 1925 and acquiring the Ozark acreage for Camp Osceola (now named the Roe Bartle Reservation) in 1929. Under Bartle, nicknamed "Chief," Boy Scouting in the area flourished and earned nationwide recognition.

Planning retirement in the mid-1950s proved fruitless when Bartle was persuaded to run as a Democratic candidate for mayor in 1955. Despite his reluctance to hold the office and his refusal to malign his opponent, Bartle was easily elected. During his two four-year terms, Kansas City's tax structure was overhauled and 290 square miles were added to the city’s boundaries. Bartle was also instrumental in bringing professional football to town with the Kansas City Chiefs, so named in part to honor Bartle.

After leaving public office in 1963, Bartle continued to promote Kansas City and the importance of youth leadership through speeches and volunteer work. Poor health eventually caught up with the mayor and he died in the spring of 1974.

Acknowledgement: 

A previous version of this article is published on kchistory.org: http://kchistory.org/content/biography-h-roe-bartle-1901-1974-mayor-kans...

KANSAS CITY PUBLIC LIBRARY | DIGITAL HISTORY
Civil War on the Western Border: The Missouri-Kansas Conflict,1855-1865.
The Pendergast Years, Kansas City in the Jazz Age & Great Depression.
KC History, Missouri Valley Special Collections at the Kansas City Public Library.