Drive into the Westport neighborhood and you can’t help but notice rows of bungalows and older houses painted vivid shades of yellow, red, pink, turquoise and lavender. Called Nutterville, it is symbolic of James B. Nutter Sr.’s vision for a strong, bright, healthy urban core in Kansas City.
For his revitalization and philanthropic efforts, Nutter received an honorary doctorate from the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine during Commencement exercises Thursday, May 22 at Municipal Auditorium Music Hall.
“The School of Medicine advances the health of our community through research and the education of future physicians and health care providers. But the health of a community depends on more than good health care,” said Betty Drees, dean of the School of Medicine. “Mr. Nutter has a lifetime history of promoting health in Kansas City, not only through his generous philanthropy but by advocating for safe and affordable housing. He continues to make Kansas City a healthier community to live, work and enjoy.”
Nutterville surrounds James B. Nutter & Company, the national headquarters of the mortgage company he founded in 1952. In the 1950s and 1960s, Nutter refused to adhere to the discriminatory lending practices of the day. As a result, his company was one of the first to make home loans in black neighborhoods and to single women on a large scale.
Nutter has supported UMKC and the urban neighborhoods that surround the Volker and Hospital Hill campuses. Through his leadership, a fire station at 37th Street and Woodland Avenue was renovated to become the Ivanhoe Community Center. After the center opened in 2006, crime dropped and the number of drug houses decreased. He also helped establish the Jim Nutter Park in the Ivanhoe neighborhood, developed with Boundless Playgrounds, a nonprofit organization dedicated to building inclusive playgrounds for children with disabilities. He also endowed and the built the playground in front of Children’s Mercy.
At UMKC, students at the Henry W. Bloch School of Management attend lectures in the James B. Nutter Family Classroom. Nutter’s revitalization efforts helped bring businesses like Costco and Home Depot to the center of Kansas City.
Nutter’s generosity and commitment to Kansas City have been recognized through the years. In 2012 he was named Kansas Citian of the Year by the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce and received the Harold L. Holliday Sr. Civil Rights Award from the NAACP’s Kansas City branch. He is a member of many boards, including the Harry S. Truman Library Institute, Children’s Mercy and Truman Medical Center Charitable Foundation.