The principal owner of the Kansas City Monarchs from 1920-48, J.L. “Bud” Wilkinson was regarded as one of the most successful, innovative and creative Negro League owners.
His Monarchs were first in the Negro National, then the Negro American League. They dominated both circuits.
Hall of Famers Satchel Paige, Cool Papa Bell, Bill Foster, Hilton Smith, Turkey Stearnes, Bullet Rogan, and Willie Wells played for Wilkinson’s Kansas City teams. So did MLB players Jackie Robinson, Elston Howard and Ernie Banks who broke the color barrier for their respective teams.
As for his innovative side, when the economy slowed and the Monarchs couldn’t afford a home stadium, Wilkinson turned them into a barnstorming organization.
Wilkinson, who was white, had a tradition of building non-white teams. Before founding the Monarchs, he owned and operated one of the first all-female barnstorming teams. Wilkinson also financed and ran the multi-ethnic All-Nations team.
In 2005 the Hall of Fame formed the Committee on African-American Baseball. Its mission was to identify and candidates worthy candidates to Cooperstown.
Wilkinson was one such person. In 2006 he was part of the Hall’s induction of 17 people representing black baseball.
Wilkinson toiled in relative obscurity compared to his MLB counterparts. He died in 1964, more than four decades before his induction into the baseball Hall of Fame.