Descendents of Kansas City developer J.C. Nichols have issued a statement supporting efforts to change the name of the fountain, street and park bearing his name on the Country Club Plaza.
In a press release sent out Tuesday, the President of the Miller Nichols Charitable Foundation (Miller Nichols was J.C.’s son and heir) and the developer’s granddaughter, Kay Callison both support the efforts.
“We have a great passion for the Kansas City spirit, and for the people in every corner of our community who bring it to life,” says Callison. “It is important to each of us that we publicly endorse the name change for the greater good of the City we love.”
J.C. Nichols was a real estate developer in the early twentieth century who built segregated housing. J.C. developed the Plaza and large swaths of the area surrounding it using restrictive deeds that banned Black people from buying houses.
The push to rename the fountain, park and parkway dates back years, but it grew new urgency after June’s Black Lives Matter protests on the Plaza. Mayor Quinton Lucas tweeted in support of the idea and referred the matter to the parks board.
“I have always consistently disagreed with giving the name of one of Kansas City’s most beautiful fountains—and certainly one that is central to almost every mass civil demonstration that we’ve had for any number of years here—to a man who I don’t think represents what Kansas City is today and what it’s going to be in the future,” Lucas tells Kansas City. “I am a big fan of making sure we at least start a conversation.”
Before this press release, the Nichols’ family had been largely silent on the issue, with one notable exception, J.C. Nichols’ grandson, J.C. Nichols III.
Nichols III who is eighty years old did an interview with Kansas City Star earlier this month, said his grandfather was “doing what he had to do” and that referring to his grandfather as racist is “too simplistic.”
“Because it was 1903, he had to have restrictive deeds. Plain and simple,” Nichols III said. “Unfortunately, in order to sell to contractors, you had to say no Black people. It was a fact of life. I don’t think he had any choice. It wasn’t a matter of feeling. He was a businessman and he had to do what he had to do to be successful.”’
However, with this most recent press release, other parts of the Nichols’ family have thrown their support behind the change.
“This is a defining moment for our City,” Mark Callison, grandson of Miller Nichols and great-grandson of J.C. Nichols, says in the press release. “Our family stands squarely behind the spirit of diversity, equality and social justice that has taken hold in our region and in our nation. My grandfather Miller taught us these values. The best way we knew to communicate them was to say to Kansas Citians from every corner of this community, ‘Kansas City, the Nichols Family stands with you.’ ”
To further show their support for this movement, the Miller Nichols Foundation has pledged $100,000 to the City of Fountains Foundation for continued maintenance and upkeep of the fountain.