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Kent Kane Parrot

Kent Kane Parrot (c. 1882 - March 11, 1956) was an American political figure and attorney who was considered the "boss" of municipal politics in Los Angeles, California, in the 1920s.

Contents

Early years

Kane was a native of Kennebunkport, Maine, the son of a wealthy family. In 1905, he married his third cousin, Mary O'Hara. They had a son, Kent Kane Parrot, Jr., and a daughter who died of cancer in childhood. Following the end of their marriage, O'Hara worked as a Hollywood screenwriter; her most noted work was "My Friend Flicka."

Parrot moved with O'Hara to Los Angeles in 1907, where Parrot attended USC Law School. He was also reported to have been a star football player while a student at USC.[1] Parrot received his law degree in 1909 and was admitted to the bar, but he found his talent as a deal-maker with tremendous people skills.[2] He was described as a big man, approximately 6 feet, 2 inches, with a "magnetic personality."[2]

Campaign manager for George Cryer

Parrot became active in local politics, and in 1921 he teamed up with George E. Cryer, an assistant district attorney who had prosecuted public corruption cases. Parrot saw Cryer as a good choice for a mayoral candidate and suggested to Cryer that he run with Parrot as his campaign manager.[2] In 1921, the Cryer-Parrot team defeated the incumbent Mayor Meredith P. Snyder.[3] Cryer's campaign promised to close the "dens of vice,"[4] and attacked Snyder as being corrupt and unfit to be mayor. The Los Angeles Police Commissioner sent a telegram to the newspapers before the election asking, "Shall crime and protected vice continue, or will the voters and taxpayers elect George E. Cryer mayor?"[5]

"De facto mayor" of Los Angeles

Though Cryer had been elected to office as a reformer who would eliminate public corruption, Cryer's administration became the target of corruption claims.[6] During Cryer's eight years as mayor from 1921 to 1929, Parrot became known for his wielding of power behind the scenes. Shortly after his election, Cryer appointed Parrot to the Board of Public Service Commission, but the City Council rejected the appointment by a 7 to 2 vote.[7] Instead, Parrot remained in the background.

It was widely written that Cryer was a figurehead and that Parrot was the "de facto mayor" who ran the Harbor Commission and the Los Angeles Police Department, even transferring personnel without consulting the city's police chief.[8] Cryer was sometimes referred to as "Parrot's Puppet,"[2] and the city government in the 1920s was said to be controlled by the "Parrot-Cryer machine." From his position of influence in city government, Parrot became associated with the city's vice king, Charles H. Crawford, and its bootlegging czar, Tony Cornero[2] and Albert Marco. Though discreet in public, Parrot reportedly socialized with the city's criminal leaders at his private apartment at the city's newest opulent hotel, the Biltmore.[2]

Cryer's opponent in the 1925 mayoral election focused attention on Parrot's role in city government: "I ask, as I shall continue to ask through this campaign: 'Mr. Cryer, how much longer is Kent Parrot going to be the de-facto Mayor of Los Angeles'?"[9] The Los Angeles Times in April 1925 ran a front page editorial under the headline, "SHALL WE RE-ELECT KENT PARROT?" The editorial said of Parrot:

"A condition exists in the municipal government of Los Angeles that has existed in other great cities in times past -- boss control. ... Although Mayor Cryer's name appears alone on the primary election ballot, the result is no less vital to Mr. Parrot than to Mr. Cryer. Elect Mr. Cryer and elect Mr. Parrot; defeat Mr. Cryer and eliminate Mr. Parrot. The Mayor of Los Angeles, who should be free from domination by any individual or interest, is cloaked with official authority that does not does not require the additional support of a political fixer. There should be no one attached to the office of Mayor whose peculiar genius runs to the business of controlling patronage, of fixing cases in police court, of interfering with police activities, of ordering the affairs of the gambler, the bootlegger, the bookmaker and other breakers of the law. Los Angeles does not need a boss."[10]

By 1927, the Los Angeles Times was increasingly critical of the relationship between Parrot and Cryer, referring to Cryer as Parrot's "personal mayor."[11] Though the Times had been a strong backer of Cryer, the paper in 1927 published an editorial referring to the city government as "Our Local Tammany," with Parrot in the role of Boss Tweed. The article focused its attack on the "clumsy" corruption of the political machine run by "Boss Parrot":

"Evidently Boss Parrot's subordinates are not well trained. Give him a few more years in control and he will, perhaps, do better. He must learn to think up plausible reasons for the actions of the organization and not let the purely political motive stick out like a sore thumb. Perhaps he thinks the voters of Los Angeles are so lacking in intelligence that this is unnecessary; if so, he is mistaken. It does not pay to be so raw anywhere."[12]

A campaign to recall Cryer in 1927 was led by the City Planning Commissioner, Estelle Holman, and rumors spread that Cryer was "tired" and "weary" of the job, and that an "Unknown Committee of Twenty-Five" had formed to tell "the Parrot-Cryer lame-duck city 'administration' to ease the Mayor out of the side door of the City Hall."[13]

Break with Cryer

By 1929, relations between the two principals of "the so-called Parrot-Cryer political machine" had been severed. Parrot leaked a report to the Los Angeles Record that Cryer would not seek re-election, and those close to Cryer openly charged Parrot with betraying the mayor.[14] Cryer himself announced in late February 1929 that he would not run for re-election as mayor.[14]

Later years

After Cryer left office in 1929, Parrot abandoned politics and moved to Montecito, California.[7] He was divorced by his second wife, Virginia Pierce Parrot, in 1929 and married Lucille Cary Armstrong in 1936. He remained in Montecito until he died of cancer in 1956 at age 73.[7]

Notes

  1. ^ Kevin Starr (1990). Material dreams: Southern California through the 1920's, p. 156. Oxford University Press US. ISBN 0195044878. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Jiddu Krishnamurti (1987). The awakening of intelligence, pp. 350-351. HarperCollins. ISBN 0060648341. 
  3. ^ "Cryer Is Elected Mayor of Los Angeles: Lead About Seven Thousand; Snyder Forces Admit Defeat". Los Angeles Times. 1921-06-08. 
  4. ^ "Cryer Assures Vice Cleanup: Ministers Applaud Resolves of Mayoralty Seeker". Los Angeles Times. 1921-04-26. 
  5. ^ "Burge Denounces Mayor". Los Angeles Times. 1921-04-20. 
  6. ^ "Cryer Machine Torn by Strife: Birnbaum Resigns as Council Bars Foss Appointment; Police Commission Leaders Raise Voices of Woe; 'Mayor's Gone Over to Foe,' Wails ex-Minion". Los Angeles Times. 1927-07-16. 
  7. ^ a b c "Kent Parrot, Political Power Here in 20s Dies". Los Angeles Times. 1956-03-24. 
  8. ^ Cecilia Rasmussen (1999-10-03). "Mall Is Legacy of '20s Crime, Corruption". Los Angeles Times. http://articles.latimes.com/1999/oct/03/local/me-18301. 
  9. ^ "Bledsoe Hurls Defy at Cryer: Challenges Parrot's Status as De-Facto Mayor". Los Angeles Times. 1925-04-23. 
  10. ^ "SHALL WE RE-ELECT KENT PARROT?". Los Angeles Times. 1925-04-23. 
  11. ^ The Sentry on His Beat (1927-02-06). "The Watchman". Los Angeles Times. 
  12. ^ "Our Local Tammany". Los Angeles Times. 1927-01-16. 
  13. ^ The Watchman (1927-09-15). "Mayor Likely to Step Down; City Hall Rumors Say He'll Quit Fairly Soon; Scramble Begins to Line Up Votes for Successor Clarke and Lickley Backed; Recall Move Goes On". Los Angeles Times. 
  14. ^ a b The Watchman (1929-03-01). "Mayor Cryer Announces He Will Not Make Race". Los Angeles Times. 
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