Rufus Crosby, Sr. and James Madison Kemper, Sr.

Rufus Crosby Kemper and James Madison Kemper learned the business of banking at the knee of their father, William T. Kemper.

R. Crosby Kemper
R. Crosby Kemper, Sr. Courtesy of the Missouri Valley Special Collections.

Rufus Crosby Kemper, who went by R. Crosby or Crosby, was born in 1892 in Valley Falls, Kansas. The family moved to Kansas City in 1893 and lived in homes in the 2600 block of Troost Avenue and at 1000 Westover Road. James Madison Kemper was born in 1894. The Kemper sons attended Kansas City public schools and the University of Missouri, where they played on the football team. Both men also fought in World War I.

A rivalry developed between the brothers when James was appointed president of City Bank in 1919. Crosby took over the post when James turned in his resignation after less than a month. The rivalry intensified when James was appointed president of Commerce Trust Company in 1925, making him one of the youngest managers of a major bank in the nation at age 32. The appointment also prompted Crosby to focus on making City Bank equal in stature to Commerce.

Under Crosby's leadership, City National Bank (now United Missouri Bank) went from a three-man operation with $600,000 in deposits in 1919 to a 700-employee institution with $300 million in deposits when he stepped down as chairman of the board in September 1967. Crosby also served as a regent at Rockhurst College, president of Interstate Securities, and director of Kansas City Title & Trust Company.

James became Chairman of the Board for Commerce in 1939 and remained in the position until 1964. During his 40 years in banking, James was responsible for the construction of Commerce Tower, which was the tallest commercial building in the state when built in 1965. He was also chairman of the Downtown Committee and treasurer of the Liberty Memorial Association.

James died at age 70 in 1965. Crosby died in 1972 at age 80.

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