Baseball pioneer J. L. Wilkinson (1878-1964) was the owner and founder, in 1920, of the famed Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues. The only white owner in the Negro National League (NNL), Wilkinson earned a reputation for treating players with fairness and respect. He began his career in Iowa as a player, later organizing a traveling women's team in 1908 and the multiracial All-Nations club in 1912.
He led the Monarchs to two Negro Leagues World Series championships and numerous pennants in the NNL and the Negro American League. During the Depression he developed an ingenious portable lighting system for night games, credited with saving black baseball. He resurrected the career of legendary pitcher Satchel Paige in 1938 and in 1945 signed a rookie named Jackie Robinson to the Monarchs. Wilkinson was posthumously inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006, joining 14 Monarchs players.