While some states might have so many famous faces to choose from, others don’t since they don’t tend to have large populations to begin with. North Dakota was one of the most difficult by far since there aren’t a lot of famous people from that state. And at one time I was considering putting Lawrence Welk until I found the guy from Texas Instruments. Nevada was another example that I almost went with Pat Nixon until I found that Louise Bryant grew up there. Anyway, in this selection I bring you some more Mount Rushmores I compiled from Oklahoma to South Carolina. From Oklahoma where the wind blows sweeping from the plains, I bring you a Cherokee with a wry sense of humor with a penchant in political satire, a Depression Era folksinger whose songs inspired later generations, a major black literary figure, and an Olympic gold medalist who had his medals taken away from him for stupid reasons. After that, it’s on to Oregon where you’ll meet a prolific jazz singer, a radical journalist, a chemist turned peace activist, a radical journalist who helped Warren Beatty win an Oscar, and a well-renown psychologist. Then, we go to my home Keystone state of Pennsylvania where we’ll acquaint ourselves with one of America’s first renaissance men, a marine biologist who warned of the dangers of pesticides, a medical scientist who stopped a major epidemic, and America’s first big time songwriter. Next, it’s off to Rhode Island where we have a yankee doodle boy on Broadway, two brothers who became distinguished naval officers, and a soldier who wrote a letter to his wife. Finally, we come to Palmetto State South Carolina where you’ll encounter a man whose ideas drove a nation apart, a woman who founded a college in Daytona Beach, a godfather of soul, and an FBI agent who was so great at his job that he earned the ire from J. Edgar Hoover.
Figure 1: Will Rogers– Cherokee cowboy, vaudeville performer, humorist, newspaper columnist, social commentator, radio personality, and stage and motion picture actor known as “Oklahoma’s Favorite Son” and was the Jon Stewart of his day as well as the highest paid Hollywood movie star. Began in vaudeville where his rope act led to success in the Ziegfeld Follies and the first of many movie contracts. Traveled around the world in which he provided Americans first-hand accounts of his travels, made 71 movies, and wrote more than 4,000 nationally syndicated newspaper columns. His earthly anecdotes and folksy style allowed him to poke fun at gangsters, prohibition, politicians, government programs, and a lot of other controversial topics in a way appreciated by a national audience with no one offended. His aphorisms, couched in humorous terms were widely quoted with “I’ve never met a man I didn’t like,” his most famous. Died in a plane crash in Alaska with Wiley Post.
Figure 2: Woody Guthrie– singer-songwriter and musician whose musical legacy includes hundreds of political, traditional and children’s songs, ballads and improvised works. Frequently performed with the slogan “This machine kills fascists” displayed on his guitar. “This Land Is Your Land” is his best known song and has many recordings archived in the Library of Congress. Has been acknowledged as a major influence by Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, his son Arlo, and others. Many of his songs are about his experiences in the Dust Bowl era during the Great Depression when he traveled with displaced farmers from Oklahoma to California and learned their traditional folk and blues songs, earning him the nickname “Dust Bowl Troubadour.” Was associated with US Communist groups throughout his life, though was seemingly not a member of any. In spite of spending his later years suffering from Huntington’s Disease that would later kill him, he served as a figurehead in the folk movement, providing inspiration to a generation of new folk musicians.
Figure 3: Ralph Ellison– novelist, literary critic, and scholar best known for Invisible Man which won the National Book Award in 1953. Also wrote Shadow and Act, a collection of political, social, and critical essays, and Going to the Territory. The New York Times said that the best of these essays in addition to the novel “among the gods of America’s literary Parnassus.” More manuscripts were discovered in his home after his death resulting in publication of Flying Home and Other Stories and Juneteenth which was a 368-page condensation of more than 2000 pages written by Ellison over a period of 40 years. And 300 pages of his manuscript for that novel were lost in a 1967 fire at his house. His Invisible Man explores the theme of man’s search for identity and place in society as seen from an unnamed African American man during the 1930s as well as the alienating effects of North and South racism.
Figure 4: Jim Thorpe– Sac and Fox athlete who’s considered one of the most versatile athletes of modern sports won Olympic gold medals in the 1912 pentathlon and decathlon, played American football (collegiate and professional), and played professional baseball and basketball. Lost his Olympic titles after it was found he was paid for playing 2 seasons of semi-professional baseball before competing in the Olympics, thus violating the stupid bullshit amateurism rules that were in place (and racism). The International Olympic Committee (IOC) restored his Olympic medals 30 years after his death. Was nominally the first president of the American Professional Football Association (APFA) from 1920-21, which would become the National Football League (NFL) in 1922. Played professional sports until he was 41. Voted the Greatest Athlete of the 20th Century in an ABC poll.
Figure 1: Lee Morse– jazz and blues singer-songwriter, guitarist, and actress whose greatest popularity was in the 1920s and 1930s as a torch singer (though her career began in 1917 and ended with her sudden death in 1954). Known for her strong, deep singing voice and vocal range, which often belied her petite frame and possessed a contralto vocal range, and one of her trademarks was her unique style of yodeling. Her early recordings labeled her as “Miss Lee Morse” so the public wouldn’t mistake her for a guy. Recording over 200 songs over her career she was one of the most recorded female singers of the 1920s. But her career declined due to alcoholism, illness, and her boyfriend dumping her for a stripper. Was also moderately successful as an actress on the Broadway stage and made 3 one-reel films. Most famous song is “If You Want the Rainbow.”
Figure 2: Linus Pauling– chemist, biochemist, peace activist, author, and educator who published more than 1200 papers and books, of which about 850 dealt with scientific topics and was one of the founders of the fields of quantum chemistry and molecular biology. Was awarded the 1954 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his scientific work in chemical bonding and the 1962 Nobel Peace Prize for his peace activism calling for an end of nuclear weapons testing and war itself, making him the only person to be awarded 2 unshared Nobel Peace Prizes, only one of 4 individuals to win more than one Nobel Prize, and the only one of 2 to be awarded Nobel Prizes in different fields. Also worked on DNA’s structure. As been listed among the greatest scientists of all time.
Figure 3: John Reed– journalist, poet, and socialist activist, best remembered for his first-hand account of the Bolshevik Revolution, Ten Days That Shook the World. Died in Russia in 1920 with wife Louise Bryant by his side, and was buried at the Kremlin Wall Necropolis, one of only two Americans to have been given this honor in Russia. For the Communist movement to which he belonged, he became a symbol of the international nature of the Bolshevik revolution, a martyr buried at the Kremlin wall amidst solemn fanfare, his name to be uttered reverently as a member of the radical pantheon.
Figure 4: Elias Porter– psychologist whose primary contributions to the field were in the areas of non-directive approaches, relationship awareness theory and psychometric tests. His career included military, government, business and clinical settings as well as helped contribute to Rogers’ client-centered therapy which has proven to be an effective and popular treatment.
Figure 1: Benjamin Franklin– Founding Father and renown polymath who was a leading author, printer, journalist, publisher, political theorist, politician, Freemason, postmaster, scientist, inventor, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat. Was a major figure in the American Enlightenment and the history of physics for his discoveries and theories regarding electricity as well as invented lightning rod, bifocals, and the Franklin stove, among other inventions. Also facilitated many civic organizations, including Philadelphia’s fire department and a university. Earned the title of “The First American” for his early and indefatigable campaigning for colonial unity, initially as an author and spokesman in London for several colonies. Was foundational in defining the American ethos as a marriage of the practical values of thrift, hard work, education, community spirit, self-governing institutions, and opposition to authoritarianism both political and religious, with the scientific and tolerant values of the Enlightenment. Became a successful newspaper editor and printer in Philadelphia publishing the Pennsylvania Chronicle, Poor Richard’s Almanack, and the Pennsylvania Gazette. Played a major role in establishing the University of Pennsylvania and became a national hero in America when, as an agent for several colonies, he spearheaded an effort in London to have the Parliament of Great Britain repeal the unpopular Stamp Act. As an accomplished diplomat, he was he was widely admired among the French as American minister to Paris and was a major figure in the development of positive Franco-American relations with his efforts securing support for the American Revolution by shipments of crucial munitions proving vital for the American war effort. As the British postmaster for the colonies, he set up the first national communications network. Played a major role in the development of the Declaration Independence which he signed as well as the US Constitution. His colorful life and legacy of scientific and political achievement, and status as one of America’s most influential Founding Fathers.
Figure 2: Rachel Carson– marine biologist, conservationist and nature writer whose book Silent Spring and other writings are credited with advancing the global environmental movement. Began her career as an aquatic biologist in the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries, and became a full-time nature writer in the 1950s when her 1951 bestseller won her a National Book Award, recognition as a gifted writer, and financial security. Her next book The Edge of the Sea and the issued version of her first book Under the Sea Wind, were also bestsellers. These books comprise of a sea trilogy that explores the whole of ocean life from the shores to the depths. Best known for Silent Spring which highlighted the environmental problems that she believed were caused by synthetic pesticides (which were verified by experts) and brought environmental concerns to an unprecedented share of the American people. While her book met with fierce opposition by chemical companies, it spurred a reversal in national pesticide policy, which led to a nationwide ban on DDT and other pesticides, and it inspired a grassroots environmental movement that led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Figure 3: Jonas Salk– medical researcher and virologist who discovered and developed the first successful polio vaccine which was considered one of the most frightening public health problems in the world at the time with annual epidemics increasingly devastating in the postwar US. When news of the vaccine’s success was made public on April 12, 1955, Salk was hailed as a “miracle worker” and the day almost became a national holiday. Campaigned for mandatory vaccination, claiming that public health should be considered a “moral commitment.” His sole focus had been to develop a safe and effective vaccine as rapidly as possible, with no interest in personal profit. When asked who owned the patent to it, Salk said, “There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?” Founded the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California, which is today a center for medical and scientific research. Spent his last years searching for a vaccine against HIV.
Figure 4: Stephen Foster– songwriter called “the father of American music” primarily known for his parlor and minstrel music. Wrote over 200 songs; among his best-known are “Oh! Susanna”, “Camptown Races”, “Old Folks at Home”, “My Old Kentucky Home”, “Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair”, “Old Black Joe”, and “Beautiful Dreamer,” many of which remained popular more than 150 years after he wrote them and are thought to be autobiographical. Has been identified as “the most famous songwriter of the nineteenth century,” and may be the most recognizable American composer in other countries. Compositions are sometimes referred to as “childhood songs” because they are included in the music curriculum of early education. While most of his handwritten music manuscripts are lost, copies printed by publishers of his day can be found in various collections.
39. Rhode Island
Figure 1: George M. Cohan– entertainer, playwright, composer, lyricist, actor, singer, dancer and producer who began his career in vaudeville as a child performing with his parents and sister in an act known as “The Four Cohans” and later wrote, composed, produced, and appeared in more than three dozen Broadway musicals. Published more than 300 songs during his lifetime, including the standards “Over There”, “Give My Regards to Broadway”, “The Yankee Doodle Boy” and “You’re a Grand Old Flag.” Displayed remarkable theatrical longevity, appearing in films until the 1930s, and continuing to perform as a headline artist until 1940. In the decade before WWI, he was known as “the man who owned Broadway” and is considered the father of American musical comedy. Originated his famous curtain speech: “My mother thanks you, my father thanks you, my sister thanks you, and I thank you.”
Figure 2: Matthew C. Perry– commodore in the US Navy and commanded a number of ships. Served in several wars, most notably in the Mexican–American War and the War of 1812 as well as played a leading role in the opening of Japan to the West with the Convention of Kanagawa in 1854. Was very concerned with the education of naval officers and helped develop an apprentice system which helped establish the curriculum at the US Naval Academy. Became a leading advocate of modernizing the US Navy in the advent of the steam engine as well as came to be considered “The Father of the Steam Navy.”
Figure 3: Oliver Hazard Perry– naval commander who served in the West Indies during the Quasi War with France, the Mediterranean during the Barbary Wars, and in the Caribbean fighting piracy and the slave trade. But is best known for his heroic role in the War of 1812 during the Battle of Lake Erie, earning the title “Hero of Lake Erie” for his leadership materially aiding the successful outcomes of all nine Lake Erie military campaign victories, and the fleet victory was a turning point in the battle for the west in the War of 1812. Remembered for the words on his battle flag, “Don’t Give Up the Ship” and his message to General William Henry Harrison which reads in part, “We have met the enemy and they are ours; …” So seminal was his career that he was lionized in the press (being the subject of scores of books and articles), has been heavily memorialized, and many places and ships have been named in his honor. Post war years were marred by controversies.
Figure 4: Sullivan Ballou– lawyer, politician, and an officer in the Union Army during the American Civil War best remembered for that eloquent letter he wrote to his wife Sarah one week before he fought in the First Battle of Bull Run where he was killed, which was found in his trunk and may never have been mailed. It was reclaimed and delivered to his widow by Rhode Island’s governor. Reading this letter is guaranteed to make you cry.
40. South Carolina
Figure 1: John C. Calhoun– statesman and political theorist who’s best known for his strong defense of free trade and slavery, his distrust of majoritarianism, and for leading the South toward secession from the Union. As Vice President, he had a difficult relationship with Jackson due primarily to the Nullification Crisis and Peggy Eaton Affair. Nicknamed the “cast-iron man” for his ideological rigidity built his reputation as a political theorist. His concept of republicanism emphasized approval of slavery and minority rights, with the Southern states the minority in question. Supported states’ rights and nullification, through which states could declare null and void federal laws viewed as unconstitutional. Called for a concurrent majority whereby the minority could sometimes block proposals that it felt infringed on their liberties via filibuster. Was a strong proponent of slavery, which he defended as a “positive good” rather than as a “necessary evil.” His positions are credited with influencing Southern secessionists and starting the American Civil War.
Figure 2: Mary McLeod Bethune– educator, stateswoman, philanthropist, humanitarian and civil rights activist best known for starting a private school for African-American students in Daytona Beach, Florida. Attracted donations of time and money, and developed the academic school as a college which became Bethune-Cookman University of which she was president from 1932-1942 and 1946-47 and was one of the few women in the world to serve as a college president at that time. Born of slave parents and started working in the cotton fields at the age 5, she took an early interest in becoming educated and was able to attend college with the help of benefactors. At her school she maintained high standards and promoted the school with tourists and donors, to demonstrate what educated African Americans could do. Was also active in women’s clubs, which were strong civic organizations supporting welfare and other needs, and became a national leader. As the member of the Black Cabinet, she advised FDR on concerns of black people and helped share his message and achievements with black voters in the north (since Southern blacks had largely been disenfranchised since the turn of the century).
Figure 3: James Brown– singer, songwriter, record producer, dancer and bandleader known as the founding father of funk music and a major figure of 20th century popular music and dance. Referred to as the “Godfather of Soul” he influenced the development of several music genres in a career that spanned 6 decades. Best known songs are “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag,” “I Got You,” “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World,” “Please, Please, Please,” “Say It Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud,” “Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine,” and “Living in America.” Also built a reputation as a tireless live performer with the Famous Flames and his backing band, sometimes known as the James Brown Band or the James Brown Orchestra.
Figure 4: Melvin Purvis– law enforcement official and FBI agent called “Little Mel” due to his short stature but is noted for leading the manhunts that tracked such outlaws as Baby Face Nelson, Pretty Boy Floyd, and John Dillinger. However, while his feats brought him considerable fame, J. Edgar Hoover once demoted him because he was jealous of the publicity he was getting, only to call him back when his replacement was shot by Baby Face Nelson. Served in the US Army as an intelligence officer during World War II, reaching the rank of colonel, assisting with compiling evidence against Nazi leaders during the Nuremburg trials.