A Brief History of the Kansas City Branch of the ESU


The Kansas City Branch of the English-Speaking Union was organized in 1920, the same year the U.S. headquarters was founded in New York City. Our branch’s first president was Lt. Col. Marvin H. Gates who was a Commanding Officer in WW I with Captain Harry S. Truman under his command. 

When Lt. Col. Gates returned to Kansas City after the war ended in 1918, he was so impressed with the English-Speaking Union’s mission in London, England, which was founded in 1918, that he set a goal to open a branch in Kansas City with the same mission. Two years later in 1920, the ESU Kansas City Branch was formed with 20 members.

Lt. Col. Gates shared the same belief as ESU’s founder Sir Evelyn Wrench—an organization which shared a common English language worldwide would soon discover that it also shared similar values, whatever the differences in nationality or background. 

The ESU Kansas City Branch has had many distinguished  members who were leaders in all areas of Kansas City’s life including Charles H. Price II who was the U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain during the Reagan years from 1983-1989. Joyce C. Hall, founder of Hallmark Cards, was a member in the mid-1950s. William T. Kemper, Jr., part of the prominent banking family in Kansas City, was the treasurer of the ESU Kansas City Branch. Crosby Kemper III, who was Executive Director of the Kansas City Public Library from 2005 until 2020, and was the great grandson of William T. Kemper, was also a member of the ESU Kansas City Branch.

For over 100 years, the ESU Kansas City Branch continues its tradition of employing English as a shared language to inspire common bonds and empowerment of students, teachers and immigrants through creative and confident civil discourse. Our educational programs focus on teacher enrichment and support, immigrant support, scholarships and youth speaking programs.