Home PEOPLE By Name

Hayes, John—Death; Kansas City Times, April 13, 1910

John Hayes, ex-chief of police, died at 6:45 o’clock last night at his home, 3521 Harrison Street. He had been unconscious since Sunday. Mrs. Catherine Hayes, his wife; his son, John Hayes, Jr.; Father John W. Keyes and two nurses were with him when he died. He was 54 years old. Hardening of the arteries was the cause of death.

Edward P. Boyle, inspector of detectives, detailed four detectives last nigh to take a message of condolence from the police department to the family. Arrangements for the funeral are not complete, although it probably will be held tomorrow morning at the St. James Catholic Church. Father Keyes will officiate. The police department will send an escort for the funeral.


“He was chief every minute.”

It was an old, service-worn sergeant who said this last night of John Hayes. The sergeant had known him twenty years, as patrolman, detective, inspector of detectives, chief and man, and he had nothing except good words to speak of him.

John Hayes was always a surprise to those who did not know him. They would go into his office, while he was hurling at some rat-faced criminal a remorseless thunder-storm of short, stabbing questions. He would stop, and acknowledge the introduction with a curt, gruff, nod. Then, even while the intruder, mentally was indicting him as an ignorant, thick-headed, incapable “politician copper,” he would launch at the prisoner under examination, some keen inquiry that would leave the man gasping and helpless.

He retained in his mind at all times, a panoramic grasp of every section in the city, and its needs and advantages. During the Democratic National Convention of 1900, he held the criminal element of Kansas City in a relentless grip, which excited the unbounded admiration of visitors from all over the country.


For faces, names, and the most insignificant details of dress, he had the memory of a Macaulay. a man known to be a “petit larceny thief,” who had been arrested, brought to him for examination, and there being no evidence of crime, released, was rearrested three months later. Hardly had the criminal, confident and assertive, stepped into the office of the chief than Hayes crumpled him with the question:

“Farley, where did you get that stuff?”

It was not a new suit, but it was different in cut and color form the one the man had worn when examined three months before. He finally admitted having stolen it.


But John Hayes had a gentler side. the criminals he prosecuted most relentlessly come back to him when they were in hard luck, or desirous of “turning over a new leaf.” It is not on record that any of them met refusal.

One of them was “Moxey.” There was nothing good about “Moxey,” unless it was his ability as a pickpocket. He’s in the penitentiary now. But Chief Hayes, knowing his past, melted when “Moxey” went to his five years ago and complained that “he’d never had a chance.” “Moxey” got his chance, and if he used it to pick the pockets of his fellow workman it wasn’t chief Hayes’s fault. At least he had it.

“Paddy,” Lavin, an aged safeblower and ex-convict, with “ex” raised to Nth power, dropped into Kansas City one day six years ago, weak, worn out, and ready, as he expressed it, “to take the Dutch Route” Chief Hayes got “Paddy” a job, and “Paddy’s” alive and an honest man now. There were others, too; too many of them to tell about.


With every change in the board of police commissioners efforts were made to dispossess the thief catcher of his seat in the big west office of police headquarters. But he wouldn’t dispossess. Always he fought his enemies at every move, and thousands of business men who knew his ability and trusted in it rallied to his defense. it was not personal popularity, it was pure forces of mentality, and ability to convince others that he had it.

Scarcely four years from the date of his appointment, May, 1898, the first fight was made to drive him out. It was lead by T. T. Crittenden, Jr., and failed. Hayes, although in disfavor with the board and supposedly politically opposed to its members, proved that he had at all times executed its orders. Again, in 1907, when Gallagher and Rozzelle were appointed by Governor Dockery to the board, and Gallagher began his fight upon the chief which ended in the appointment of Chief Ahern, the friends of Hayes rose to his support. Hundreds of statements of their belief in the chief’s efficiency and honesty were signed by the biggest business men of the town. F. F. Rozzelle himself opposed his colleagues, Gallagher, and demanded Hayes’s reappointment. But the odds were too strong. His reappointment did not come, and on August 1, 1907, he appeared at police headquarters, no longer chief.

That was his official end. subsequently he took up private detective work, and thereafter remained quietly at it.

He was born of Irish parents in Rockford, Ill., July 4, 1855, and came to Kansas City with his parents at the age of 12. They later moved to Ottawa, Kas., and young Hayes, on arriving at discretionary years, took up freighting. In 1872 he was back in Kansas City, and after trying various occupations went on the police force under Chief Speers as a patrolman., October 25, 1880. In there years he was a detective, and May, 1897, was made inspector of detectives. He was made chief in May, 1898.

It is believed Mr. Hayes left property worth about $50,000.