From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Bailey, Robert E. Lee

(born: July 4, 1870  -  died: January 18, 1918) 

Robert E. Lee Bailey, born 1870 in Kentucky, was the founder, editor, and publisher of the weekly newspaper The National Mirror, located in Kansas City, MO, and established in 1906 [source: "Current review," Iowa State Bystander, 05/25/1906, front page]. The publication was listed among the titles on the Washington Bee exchange list [source: "Paragraphic News," Washington Bee, 04/21/1906, front page]. Robert E. Lee Bailey would later be joined by A. W. Harris in managing The National Mirror. The paper was said to be a continuation of the St. Joseph Mirror newspaper, which is why the starting date of the National Mirror is given as 1885 in newspaper directories such as N. W. Ayer & Son's American Newspaper Annual and Directory, p.520, 1916 (online at Google Books).

The National Mirror was not the first newspaper for Robert E. Lee Bailey; he is listed as a newspaper editor and publisher prior to 1906 in the Kansas City city directories, such as his entry on p.78 in Hoye's City - Directory of Kansas City, Mo., 1896. The name of the newspaper is not mentioned in the directory. In addition to his work with newspapers, Robert E. Lee Bailey was a city employee in several capacities: the superintendent and director of the Garrison Square Playgrounds and Community House for Colored People; the foreman of truckers for the Terminal Railway Company; and the dancing inspector for the Colored dance halls in Kansas City. His time was split between his day jobs and the National Mirror which was an independent newspaper.

Robert E. Lee Bailey was a dedicated newspaperman and he belonged to the Western Negro Press Association. It was not always smooth going at the National Mirror; in 1907, there was a lawsuit that forced Bailey to temporarily cease publishing [source: "Dr. T. C. Unthank; R. E. L. Bailey; Gentleman; National," Rising Son, 03/16/1907, p.4].

Robert E. Lee Bailey and his wife Mary Ann [Mollie] Evans, were married in 1889, and they were the parents of three children, Robert, Henrietta, and Arthur Stillwell [1900 U.S. Federal Census]. Robert E. Lee Bailey and his wife, who was active in the community, are often mentioned in the various newspapers in Kansas City, their names are given as R. E. L. Bailey and Mrs. R. E. L. Bailey. Mrs. Bailey continued to be an active club woman after the sudden death of her husband. Robert E. Lee Bailey died in 1918, the same year that the National Mirror would close. He died from the injuries he received when struck by an automobile at the corner of 25th Street and Grand Avenue [sources: Missouri Certificate of Death Registered No.1403 in the Missouri Death Certificate Database at Missouri Digital Heritage; and "A Shocking accident," The Kansas City Sun, 01/26/1918, front page (online at Chronicling America)]. Robert E. Lee Bailey was the son of William H. Bailey and Matilda Rose, both born in Kentucky. 

Outside Kentucky Place Name

Item Relations

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Bailey, Robert E. Lee,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed July 20, 2024,

Last modified: 2023-06-09 14:10:25