Members of Nichols family express support for renaming J.C. Nichols Fountain

Descendants of J.C. Nichols today voiced support for renaming the fountain on the Country Club Plaza that bears his name. Nichols companies' used racially restrictive covenants in the development of communities in Johnson County throughout the first half of the 20th Century. Photo credit J L. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Some of the descendants of J.C. Nichols in conjunction with the board of the Miller Nichols Charitable Foundation today voiced their support for renaming the fountain and parkway on the Country Club Plaza that honor their forebear.

J.C. Nichols, a Johnson County native who was responsible for the development of northeast Johnson Cities including Prairie Village, Mission Hills, Westwood, Westwood Hills and Mission Woods, has become the subject of renewed criticism in recent weeks as support for the Black Lives Matter movement has spread across the country.

Nichols’ company included racially restrictive covenants in several of the homes associations it created. Though federal courts struck down the enforceability of such covenants decades ago, the practice of redlining in the area set a precedent of racial homogeneity that persists today.

“This is a defining moment for our City,” said Mark Callison, a great grandson of J.C. Nichols, in a statement released by the family and foundation. “Our family stands squarely behind the spirit of diversity, equality and social justice that has taken hold in our region and in our nation. My grandfather Miller taught us these values. The best way we knew to communicate them was to say to Kansas Citians from every corner of this community, ‘Kansas City, the Nichols Family stands with you.’”

Terry Dunn, President and CEO of JE Dunn Construction Group and a member of the Miller Nichols Charitable Foundation, said that “the Nichols family has acted with humility and passion for Kansas City. I’m honored to share in their efforts to make equality and social justice a critical priority. We will all be better and stronger for it.”

Dunn is the husband of Leawood Mayor Peggy Dunn.

The Miller Nichols Charitable Foundation will also present a check for $100,000 to the City of Fountains Foundation for the upkeep of the fountain.

Prior to the family group’s press release issued today, the only member of the family who had commented on the legacy of Nichols’ use of deed restrictions was J.C. Nichols III, a grandson of Nichols who told the Kansas City Star that he believed characterizing his grandfather as a racist was unwarranted.

“It is reinterpreting history in the light of our delicate sensibilities,” Nichols III said, according to the Kansas City Star.

Note: This story has been updated to clarify that the views expressed by the descendants of J.C. Nichols quoted in the press release do not reflect the views of every member of the family.