Harold Roe Bennett Sturdevant Bartle was born June 25, 1903, in Richmond, Virginia. The son of a Presbyterian minister, Bartle chose law over following in his father’s footsteps.
A successful attorney, he soon left his legal career behind to devote his life to public service. The Boy Scouts of America, barely ten years old at the time, was the first to capture his interest. After a brief training session in Kansas City, Bartle and his family moved to Wyoming to oversee the state’s Boy Scouts. Under his guidance, Wyoming went from four troops to fifty troops in two years.
Bartle continued his work with the Scouts when they moved to St. Joseph in 1923. Five years later they moved again, this time to Kansas City, where Bartle was made chief area executive of the Boy Scouts. There were about 2,300 scouts and leaders when Bartle arrived, but that number grew to more than 30,000 over the next 20 years. During these years of exceptional leadership, Bartle gained his nickname — The Chief.
Bartle also served on more than 50 hospital, youth, and foundation boards and during World War II, he served as executive director of American War Dads.
In 1951, President Harry Truman appointed Bartle regional stabilization director for the federal government. Bartle’s daughter said her father had to resign from 57 boards to avoid possible conflicts of interests.
In 1955, at the urging of the Citizens Association, Bartle ran for Mayor of Kansas City. During his two terms in office, Mayor Bartle managed to bring two professional ball teams to Kansas City — the Dallas Texans football team and the Philadelphia Athletics baseball team.
Lamar Hunt was told that keeping the name The Dallas Texans wouldn’t fly in Kansas City so a fan contest was arranged to pick a new name. The second and third choices were “Mules” and “Royals” respectively. The number one choice was The Chiefs, chosen in honor of Mayor Bartle’s nickname.
While most people know Bartle Hall was named after Mayor Bartle, few realize the Kansas City Chiefs were also named after him.
Harold Bartle died in Kansas City on May 9, 1974.
Elizabeth Davis was born and raised in Cooper County, Missouri, and has written HISTORICALLY YOURS for the Boonville Daily News since April 2008, She has covered the War Between the States, U.S. history, and Cooper County history. In celebration of Missouri’s upcoming Bicentennial, she has syndicated her column statewide and encourages readers all over the Show Me State to submit topic suggestions for future columns to HistoricallyYours.email@example.com.