As a writer I’m naturally selfish with my story ideas. Don’t like sharing them until I’ve written them up fully, whether as a short fiction or as a novel. But sometimes I have ideas for stories and books that I know I’ll never make use of, because I lack the time and resources to write them (a history of organized crime in Kansas City) or because I’m not suited to write them. Like the following.
So John Walton’s The Legendary Detective, a pretty good history of private detectives (the real thing, not the fictional ones), has a long section on women as private detectives, and then a shorter one (though even more intriguing) on African-American private detectives. And in the middle of that section he casually drops this bombshell:
Q. J. Gilmore combined his National Negro Detective Agency with his day job as traveling secretary of the Negro National League’s Kansas City Monarchs baseball team (where Jackie Robinson would later start his professional career). His agency superintendent badge survives at Ben Harroll’s P.I. Museum in San Diego, California.
Unfortunately, Walton’s is the only print source I’ve been able to find that mentions Gilmore’s private detective agency. I’ve found no newspaper articles or (more crucially) newspaper advertisements for the National Negro Detective Agency. If not for the badge, there’d be no evidence for the Agency’s existence whatsoever. But the badge exists, and so we have to take it as a given that the Agency did as well.
According to Leslie A. Heaphy’s The Negro Leagues, 1869-1960 Gilmore also ran his own undertaking and funeral business and was a member of the Elks. A little more digging turns up the photo to the right, which is of Gilmore’s business in “early Denver.” Gilmore was born in 1881, so his time in Denver (which ended in 1918, see below) would have stretched through his twenties and most of his thirties–plenty of time for him to have established his own undertaking and funeral business. In 1918 he left Denver for Kansas City.
A brief search on Google brings up some promising hits:
Quincy J. Gilmore [second from the left–Jess] was Traveling Secretary for the famous Kansas City Monarchs baseball club. The years 1920 thru 1942 were a remarkable time for the Negro National League and Mr. Gilmore. The 1st Negro Leagues World Series was won by the Kansas City Monarchs in the year of 1924.
For a much fuller treatment of the life and times of Quincy J. Gilmore you can use Google to find the article (7th link) under Grassroots Editor, A Journal For Newspeople/International Society Of Weekly Newspaper Editors, Written By Jason Berger. This article mentions the only known book to discuss in detail the story of Quincy J. Gilmore who arrived in Kansas City, MO in 1918 and is believed to have died there either in 1946 or 1948. The book is called The Kansas City Monarchs: Champions of Black Baseball (1985) By Janet Bruce.
The Grassroots Editor article is here–it’s too long to reprint in its entirety, but it’s well worth reading. The highlights:
- Gilmore was a “press agent” for the Monarchs and was known as “a publicity and promotional wizard.”
- Bruce’s book, The Kansas City Monarchs, has a lot of material, based on interviews with his wife and friends, on Gilmore’s careeer in baseball and what he did for the Monarchs.
- “in 1918 he arrived from Denver to revive the Elks Lodge dormant since 1910,” and succeeding in doing so within a year’s time.
- Gilmore was very involved, from the beginning, with the National Negro League, seeing it as the best path toward African-American equality with whites in baseball and the general advancement of African-Americans as a whole.
- No less than Buck O’Neil spoke highly of Gilmore–he was beloved of the players.
- He died in either 1946 or 1948, his last venture being the creation of a farm club league in Texas.
- “Gilmore had good reasons to avoid personal publicity. He owned a funeral parlor and co-owned a billiards parlor with Monarchs’ manager and star pitcher Bullet Joe Rogan. Both sites could have been used (and probably were) for the other meanings of the word “front,” namely gambling (the numbers racket) and liquor (Kansas City was far from being a dry town during prohibition).”
So, to sum up: Gilmore was heavily involved with the Monarchs, the Elks, the Negro Leagues, possibly/probably with Kansas City’s flourishing underword in the 1920s; ran a funeral parlor and billiards parlor; and happened to run his own private detective agency by night.
Someone needs to use this guy in a t.v. show or novel or comic book series or something.