Pendergast, Thomas (Joseph)(1872–1945) political boss; born in St. Joseph, Mo. Although he held only minor offices, he became a Democratic ward boss in Kansas City by 1910; by the 1920s he had extended his political control through much of Kansas by various corrupt practices. Harry S. Truman started out under his wing. Pendergast expanded his influence during the New Deal by controlling public works projects. In 1939 he was convicted of income tax evasion and served 15 months in Leavenworth Prison.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.