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James B. Nutter, Man Who 'Loved Kansas City,' Remembered For Impact On Business, Politics

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James B. Nutter Sr., died July 7 at age 89.

Starting with his own passion for homeownership, friends say James B. Nutter left his mark on Kansas City in the fields of business, politics and philanthropy.

Friends and family will gather Thursday for Nutter's funeral. The founder and owner of the lending firm that bears his name died July 7 at the age of 89.

Pat O'Neill, a metro-area marketing executive and longtime friend of Nutter, spoke with Steve Kraske Monday on KCUR's Up To Date about Nutter's life and the impact he had on Kansas City.

Interview highlights:  

What are your thoughts and feelings [on Jim Nutter's passing]?

"Jim was a mentor, almost a second father to me. I've worked with him over the years. Now that he's gone, there's just no one else like him. People thought, I think because of his love of politics and support for so many candidates and issues, that he must have some agenda. He just didn't. He loved Kansas City, he loved every part of it, he loved the people in it, and he wanted it to be a great family friendly place where people could afford to live and work and own a home and he did whatever it took to make that happen for people."

Nutter had a long standing belief in fairness and equality. What were some of the policies he pioneered even as far back as the '50s and '60s?

"One of them was counting a woman's income as qualifying for home ownership. There was a time when women were discounted. That was one of the first things he did. He was most proud of, as a young man in the 1960s, getting out in his own neighborhood in south Kansas City walking door to door and encouraging people to vote for a new public accommodations act, which would prohibit people from discriminating against minorities in their business. He took a lot of beating for that from his neighbors and friends, but it passed and he never looked back." 

Who are the people who benefited from his wisdom and backing over the years?

"It was truly a long list. Emanuel Cleaver II has mentioned that he wouldn't have been mayor or be in Congress now if it had not been for Jim. It goes all the way up to Claire McCaskill and Barack Obama. He liked to push issues he thought were good for the city and state, but I never heard him ask for anything from any of those politicians."

Do you have a story about Nutter that you think best illustrates who he was?

"He used to regale me with tales of being a young boy growing up in the midtown area. He had this passion for home ownership because as a kid in the Great Depression his family lost their home and a small farm to foreclosure. He would scavenge lost hub caps on 47th Street, and he would take those and cash them in. He had a job at the soda jerk and a job at the library and he would save his money. By the time he was at MU he was financially independent, more so than his parents.

"He once said he and Jim, Jr. [Nutters' son] had the perfect relationship. He said: 'Jim Jr. makes the money and I give it away.'"

Katie Bernard is KCUR's Morning News Intern.

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