About Sly James
As a former Marine MP, a small business owner, and a community leader, Sly James is a tough, no-nonsense, results-oriented leader who will make Kansas City work for the people who live here. At a time when Kansas City is facing serious challenges we need a leader who has the ability to bring people together to make City Hall more efficient and deliver results. Sly James gets it, and he gets it done.
Born and raised in Kansas City, Sly grew up watching his parents work hard to take care of their family. Despite the challenges they faced, Sly’s father, a chef, janitor, and small business owner, and his stepmother, who helped manage their business, still made sure that Sly and his brothers had the opportunity to go to a good school and follow their dreams.
Sly attended Bishop Hogan High School in Kansas City and graduated in 1969. While there, Sly was the president of his junior class. He also developed a great passion for music and was the lead singer in the Amelia Earhart Memorial Flying Band. Little known fact: Sly’s band once opened for Jefferson Airplane in Kansas City!
While music remains a passion of Sly’s to this day, in 1971 he left the band and enlisted in the United States Marine Corps during the Vietnam War where he served as a military police officer for four years in California, the Philippines, and Japan and received an honorable discharge in 1975. When his service ended, Sly returned home to Kansas City and graduated cum laude from Rockhurst College before earning his law degree, also cum laude, from the University of Minnesota in 1983.
During his 26-year legal career, Sly has developed a proven record of success as a leader, an effective coalition builder, and a fierce advocate. He joined Blackwell, Sanders, Matheny, Weary & Lombardi in 1983, and became the first African-American partner in the firm’s history in 1990. In February, 2002, Sly started his own successful small business, The Sly James Firm, where he works with victims to seek justice and positive outcomes to disputes.
In 1992, the Missouri Supreme Court appointed Sly to the Missouri Board of Law Examiners. Between 1992 and 2002, he was a member, secretary, and later the president of the board. He was president of the Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association (KCMBA) in 2003, director of the Kansas City Bar Foundation, and vice president of the Public Interest Litigation Clinic. Sly was formerly the vice-president of the board of directors of Legal Aid of Western Missouri and treasurer of the Jackson County Bar Association. In 2003, while president of the KCMBA, Sly established the Diversity Initiative with 26 managing partners of the largest law firms in the city. He remains active in the KCMBA Diversity Committee. He is a Fellow of the American Bar Association.
Sly is an extremely proud resident of the city he loves and is active in political, community, and civic activities. He was appointed to the board of directors of the Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City, Missouri, and to the board of the Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority (LCRA) by former Mayor Kay Barnes. He was also appointed to the boards of the Enhanced Enterprise Zones of Kansas City and the Jackson County Ethics Commission. He served as one of two co-chairs of the Save Our Stadiums committee, a successful tax initiative to refurbish the Truman Sports Complex in Kansas City in 2006.
Sly has been a member and Board Secretary of the Board of Trustees of the Eye Foundation of Kansas City, Inc.; a member of the Board of The United Way; a member of the Executive Board of the Committee for County Progress; a member of the Steering Committee of the Partnership for Children, a joint project of the United Way and the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation; president of the Board of Bishop Hogan High School; a member of the Board of Trustees of Notre Dame de Sion schools; a member of the Board of Operation Breakthrough; and a member of the Board and the immediate past chair of the Genesis School.
Sly James was elected mayor of Kansas City on March 22, 2011.
He has been married to Licia Clifton-James since 1981 and is the proud father of four children.