Saturday, March 19, 2016

James A. Reed, Legendary "Fighting Senator from Missouri" - Attorney in Ha Ha Tonka Lawsuit

James Reed

Press Photograph

In Damming the Osage, we began our chapter on Lake of the Ozarks with a discussion of a now-forgotten lawsuit  by the family of Robert McClure Snyder against Union Electric over the destruction of the trout pool at Ha Ha Tonka. This was a huge case that filled the newspapers and went on for years and is now virtually forgotten.

Legendary Missouri politician and attorney for the Snyder family in this lawsuit was James A. Reed, a distinguished former U.S. Senator. In what Time magazine characterized in 1927 as a forest of competing “presidential timber”, he was Missouri’s “tough-fibred, silver-topped sycamore, U. S. Senator James A. Reed”  Read more:,9171,736900,00.html#ixzz2QTHc0uU8

Reed was one of the rare politicians who got on H. L. Mencken’s good side. When Reed retired from the Senate, Mencken saluted him: 

His skill is founded upon a profound and penetrating intelligence, and informed by what amounts to a great aesthetic passion. There are subtleties in the art he practices, as in any other, and he is the master of all of them. The stone ax is not his weapon, but the rapier; and he knows how to make it go through stone and steel.

The “Fighting Senator from Missouri” was also paramour (and later husband) to Nellie Don, a Kansas City legend in her own right as founder of one of the largest dress manufacturing companies of the first half of the 20th century.

It is perhaps an understatement to say that our research led us to a cast of very interesting characters whose lives touched the Osage River.