A chapter of history closes and passes a torch


Members of the Sons of the Revolution raised a final toast at their last chapter meeting Saturday.

Members died or got old, young people did not join, and on Saturday the Kansas City Chapter of the Sons of the Revolution ended a 120-year run.

It did so at a proud ceremony at Bishop Spencer Place in Midtown, where it gave almost $49,000 to create a fund to help students learn history.

Gary Toms said, “We are going out in style – leaving a legacy that meets our goals and purposes.”

untitled-(8-of-26)-2The Frank Wilkinson Award Fund will go to a program called National History Day in Missouri.

The fund is projected to last at least 25 years and will pay for things like student expenses for competitions and for improving history instruction.

It also will also provide a prize for a competitive essay contest on a topic related to the American Revolution.

That is in the spirit of Frank Wilkinson, a Central High School student who won such a national Sons contest in 1906 with an essay on George Washington.

Wilkinson went on to graduate from Yale law school and serve for many years in the Missouri House of Representatives and Senate.

He was also a member of the local chapter of the Sons and like all of them had ancestors who fought in the revolution.

Actually he had four such ancestors, said Lucy Hawley Terry, a Roanoke resident and one of his eight grandchildren.

As a teen in a big family, he was “a scrawny nerd” with his nose always in books, she told those at the luncheon ceremony.

Reading history helped him win that contest and its lessons stayed with him all his life.

“He understood history is not just in the past but is in the present with us today,” she said. He kept scrapbooks on events that the family still has in a steamer trunk.

An entry in June of 1922 includes leaves and dirt from the first earth turned to build the family house in Roanoke, she said.

He would be pleased with the chapter’s final act to help honor the past and to educate children, she said.

Whitney Kerr, a real estate broker who has been involved in many of the city’s most prominent buildings and redevelopments, also spoke at the event.

He has been a member of the Sons for 50 years and said Wilkinson was indirectly responsible for his real estate career.

As a young economics student at Princeton, Kerr said, he wrote his thesis on a new urban renewal law written by Sen. Wilkinson. That law was first used here in redevelopments at Quality Hill and Crown Center.

Executives at a real estate company read Kerr’s thesis and immediately hired him, he said.

Severin M. Roberts of the State Historical Society of Missouri thanked the Sons for the award gift, for helping students learn, develop and grow.

And she made a promise: “We are going to tell your story.”

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