Matthew Edgar Pearson is serving his fifteenth consecutive year as superintendent of the public schools of Kansas City, Kansas. He began his work in the schools of this city thirty years ago, and no one individual had so intimate a knowledge of the actual growth and development of the local school system and had done more to improve its efficiency than the Pearsons. He is one of the best known and oldest educators in the State of Kansas.
Mr. Pearson was born at Plainsfield in Hendricks County, Indiana, March 8, 1862, but had lived in Kansas since he was ten years of age. He was the second in a family of six children. His parents were Enoch S. and Edith (Stanley) Pearson, the former a native of Ohio and the latter of Indiana. Enoch Pearson spent his life as a farmer. He was a Quaker and his family were of the strictest of that sect, having come to America with the William Penn Colony and they practiced the Quaker principles so faithfully that few if any of the name ever served in any of the wars of the nation. Enoch Pearson attended that fine old Quaker school of the Middle West, Earlham College, at Richmond, Indiana.
In 1872 he brought his family to Kansas. He came to this state largely to give his sons better and broader opportunities. The family traveled by railroad to Leavenworth and located first in Leavenworth County, where the father rented land for two years. He then bought a farm of 160 acres near Eudora in Douglas County, and broke a large part of the virgin prairie. He was a successful farmer, but had no special ambition to become a large land holder. He was content with a modest acreage, with a good home, and gave all the surplus to the benefit of his children. He sent all his six children to school and took special pride in furnishing them with the best of advantages procurable. Naturally such a man is an asset to any community, and he proved his influence in many beneficial ways while living in his country district in Douglas County. He was looked upon as a man of exceptional wisdom and his advice was frequently sought by his neighbors. The utmost of confidence was reposed in his integrity and good citizenship. He was a republican, but official office holding had no part in his record. He was a stanch supporter of church and morality, lived forty years as an elder, while his wife was the Sunday school teacher for forty-three years. Enoch Pearson died at Kansas City, Kansas, in May, 1916. His children were: Martha, now Mrs. M. C. Hill of Hesper, Kansas; Matthew E.; Dr. W. J. of Kansas City; Curtis, who died when about thirty-four years of age; H. L. of Kansas City, Kansas; and Mary, wife of George Henry of Kansas City, Kansas.
Matthew E. Pearson received his early education in the common schools of Indiana and Leavenworth, Kansas. After getting the advantages supplied by the public schools he felt that he had received all that he could ask from his father and rather than burden him with the expense of his college education determined to pay his own way through the University of Kansas. He did this by renting a farm and devoting each summer season to cropping, while the winter terms were spent in university. As a result of this course of procedure he was graduated with his bachelor’s degree from the University of Kansas in 1885, and had not only his education but $100 in cash along with his diploma. The profession of an educator was what appealed to him most strongly, and the year following his graduation from university he taught at Wallula in Wyandotte County. In 1886 he came to Kansas City, Kansas, and was one of the force of fifty-six teachers who at that time did the work of the various municipalities now comprised within Kansas City, Kansas. He was for five years principal of the Wood School, now known as the Cooper School. He then became principal of the Armourdale School, now the John J. Ingalls School, remained there three years and then went to the Long School, now known as the Longfellow School. He was principal at Longfellow School eight years, and in 1902 was elected by the school board as superintendent of the city school system. As superintendent he had under his supervision forty-four distinct schools and a staff of 430 teachers.
Mr. Pearson by no means considered his possibilities of learning and accomplishment finished when he left university. He had always been a student, and had mustered many branches of knowledge and extended his acquaintance with life at various points. While principal of the Longfellow School he was also supervisor of drawing and art work in all the city schools. He had been alert to take advantage of the improvement of methods in the education and training of children, and he is conscious of many changes and had been instrumental in improving methods during the fifteen years he had been superintendent. He is justly proud of the splendid school system now possessed by Kansas City. In 1907 Baker University conferred upon him the honorary degree Master of Arts.
Mr. Pearson is a member of the National Council of Education, an honorary body of the National Education Association, of which he is also a member. He is a member of the board of directors of the Kansas State Teachers’ Association, and was president in 1913. He also belongs to the National Association of English Teachers and to other educational organizations. In politics he is a republican but independent in local matters, is affiliated with the Modern Woodmen of America and the Ancient Order of United Workmen, and both he and his wife are active in the Washington Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church. They were formerly connected with the London Heights Church, where Mr. Pearson was superintendent of the Sunday school for a number of years. He is also a member of the Mercantile Association and had served on some of its committees.
Mr. Pearson was married December 31, 1885, to Carrie Davis of Lawrence, daughter of Nathan and Sarah (White) Davis. Nathan Davis was a farmer and died when Mrs. Pearson was a young girl. Mr. and Mrs. Pearson have five children: DeWitt, who is now teaching school in Salt Lake City; Russell, who died at the age of three years; Claudia, a student in Bethany College; Myrle, who is in high school; and Dorothea.