Democracy’s Defender: The Life of L. M. Birkhead

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Leon Milton Birkhead (April 28, 1885-December 1, 1954), a liberal Methodist and Unitarian minister, was unafraid of controversy. During his more than twenty-two years in a Kansas City pulpit he offered a humanist alternative to the more conservative Christian churches. He worked with good-government groups to install a city-manager system and drive “Boss Tom” Pendergast from power. He debated evolution and other issues with religious fundamentalists and assisted Clarence Darrow at the famous Scopes trial of 1925. Birkhead befriended Sinclair Lewis while Lewis was doing fieldwork in Kansas City for his novel, Elmer Gantry. A visit to pre-war Nazi Germany changed Birkhead’s life. He witnessed Nazi violence on Berlin streets and learned of a network of pro-Nazi sympathizers in the United States.
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January 2, 2014
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