A group of Kansas City, Kansas, businessmen in 1968 wanted to establish a non-partisan organization that would help keep its members informed about governmental issues.

The group included Ferris Kimball and Harlan Potter, industrial suppliers with businesses in the Fairfax Industrial Area; Orrin Shepherd, who owned clothing stores in downtown Kansas City, Kansas, and in Wyandotte Plaza; and Dick Bond who was the administrative assistant to U.S. Rep. Larry Winn Jr. Bond later became president of the Kansas senate.

The forum first considered being an independent entity; however, after researching such matters as IRS regulations, it decided to be part of the Chamber of Commerce.

The forum was able to attract such speakers as U.S. Sen. Bob Dole who later ran for vice president and president; George H.W. Bush, who later was elected president; Shirley Temple Black, the child movie star who later became a U.S. Representative from California; Jesse Owens, the runner who won four gold medals at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin; and Alan Shepherd, the first American astronaut to venture into space.

Although the forum was founded by mostly Republicans, its rules maintain that it is a nonpartisan organization. Winn served in congress from 1967 until 1985. Jan Meyers succeeded Winn; she served until 1997.

Vince Snowbarger was congressman for only one term from 1997 until 1999. He wasn’t particularly active with the forum because liquor was served at the organization’s monthly meetings.

The organization continued to meet during the tenure of U.S. Rep. Dennis Moore, a Democrat, from 1999 to 2011. U.S. Kevin Yoder, a Republican, was elected in in 2011 and now is seeking re-election in a close race. His opponent, Sharice Davids, a Democrat, was invited to attend the forum, but declined.

The voluntary chairmen of the forum included Wells Haren, a construction company owner; Sherrill Minter, an auto dealer; Dr. Fred Bosilevac, a medical doctor; and Bill Epperheimer, a retired newspaper publisher.

Rep. Yoder said the forum is unique and there is no other such organization to his knowledge.

About 100 persons attended a celebration marking the forum’s anniversary Friday, Oct. 19 at Children’s Mercy Park. Bob Kimball, a member of the forum’s board of directors, gave a brief history of the organization.

Murrel Bland is the former editor of The Wyandotte West and The Piper Press. He is the executive director of Business West.