Wilkinson was famous for owning The Kansas City Monarchs, probably the most famous Negro League Team of them all. However, J.L. Wilkinson was white. Rube Foster said he was the only white owner who could be trusted. There are stories about him sharing rooms with his players when there wasn’t enough rooms in the hotel. This was when it was unheard of having a black and white rooming together.
Wilkinson was born in 1878 and always had his hand in baseball his adult life, first as a player. He was a pitcher. After he stopped pitching he played softball.
Then he started organizing teams. In 1912 he organized a team he called the “All Nations” team. He included players from every nationality, including blacks. In 1913 they had 119 wins and only 17 losses. Wilkinson had to disband them in 1918 due to World War I.
In 1920 Wilkinson was in a partnership that applied for a franchise in Kansas City for the Negro Leagues that was forming that year. The only reason Rube Foster accepted these white owners was that Wilkinson was part of the group. Foster admired Wilkinson for his integrity and fairness. Wilkinson was also named secretary of the league.
When filling his roster, Casey Stengel mentioned some players from an All-Black Army team he saw play. Wilkinson signed some for his team. That be knowledgeable enough to recommend black players Stengel must have saw them play a few games.
Wilkinson booked games against white major league players starting in 1921. He was also one of the first invertors for night baseball figuring attendance would increase with night games.
Wilkinson owned the Monarchs through 1948. During those years the Monarchs are credited with 10 pennants for the 24 years they are recognized as major leagues in Baseball Reference. They have other years they finished first but appeared to lost some sort of playoff. They had one year below .500, 1944 a war year. Two years later they finished at 60 wins and 18 losses, gaining another pennant. It was quite a team old J. L. Wilkinson had.