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Nebraska Hall of Fame Nominees for 2010-2014

Alvin Johnson selected for the Nebraska Hall of Fame

Minutes of Meeting November 16, 2012


The public was invited to attend and participate in public hearings for the nine nominees listed below.

District 1 Hearing Agenda
Wednesday, September 12, 2012, 5:00-8:00 p.m.
Norfolk Arts Center, Gallery Room, 305 North 5th Street, Norfolk, NE
District 1 Hearing Minutes

District 2 Hearing Agenda
Thursday, September 13, 2012, 5:00-8:00 p.m.
Mormon Trail Center at Historic Winter Quarters, Auditorium, 3215 State Street, Omaha, NE
District 2 Hearing Minutes

District 3 Hearing Agenda
Wednesday, September 19, 2012, 5:00-8:00 p.m.
Nebraska Prairie Museum/Phelps County Historical Society, 2701 Burlington Street, 1 mile North of Holdrege on Hwy 183, Holdrege, NE
District 3 Hearing Minutes

Big Elk
Big Elk

Chief Big Elk (1765-Dec. 1846), perhaps preeminent of indigenous Omaha Tribesmen, has been described as impressive. He was a great brave, gallant, patriotic, and selected early as chief based on his discernment. He was the "keeper" of Napoleon's Louisiana Purchase treaty. In 1815 he told Clark in St. Louis, "I have always given my young men good counsel, if you doubt it, . . they will tell you the truth."

In 1822 President Monroe heard, "I wish you would permit us to enjoy (our land) as long as I live. . . .When we . . . are naked, when the game . . . becomes exhausted & misery encompasses our families, then . . . do I want those good people among us." He foresaw his tribe's need to accept settlers in the coming decades.

His race relations are impressive. Sons-in-law were: Manuel Lisa, Lucien Fontenelle, and Kit Carson. Grandchildren included Logan and Henry Fontenelle, and Susette, Rosalie, Francis, and Susan LaFlesche.

He educated for the inevitability of the tribe requiring schooling. His wishes, via Joseph & Logan's capabilities, guided the Omahas towards a sale of lands with "Blessings of the Omaha(s)."

J. Sterling Morton wrote, "He was as greatly beloved . . . & was noted for his kind heart & good deeds. He was well known to the Spanish & French traders & by them highly regarded."

Ted Miller's endorsement: "The greatest of the three Omaha chiefs, called Big Elk, was truly a chief . . . of the tribe itself, & was truly an Indian with a character & prestige fit for commemoration or idealization.

In our cosmopolitan era his 19th century views in a primitive society may appear superfluous, but evidence infers he was outstandingly discerning & was a guiding factor in shaping our heritage.

Edith Schwartz Clements
Edith Schwartz Clements

Edith Gertrude Schwartz was the daughter of an Omaha pork packer. She attended the University of Nebraska, where she excelled, as she was elected to membership in Phi Beta Kappa along with her future husband, Frederic Clements. She was also president of her junior class, played basketball and tennis, and gave fencing exhibitions. She became a teaching fellow in German and, with her botany dissertation in 1904, was the first woman at the university to be awarded a Ph.D.

Edith Clements partnered with her husband to become what the Nebraska Press Association has called "the most illustrious husband-wife team since the Curies." The Clementsian paradigm was heir to the works of Alexander von Humboldt and Oscar Drude; Edith translated on visits to Drude in Dresden. She was also an artist and illustrated the Clements's works, which were widely published, including in National Geographic. One guidebook was envied so much by Willa Cather (a friend of both Frederic and Edith) that she said she would rather have written it than all her novels.

But first and foremost, Edith Clements was an ecologist, of whom her husband said would be among the world's top ecologists had she not devoted her career to assisting his. After Frederic's death in 1945, Edith published two major ecology works and a memoir that has been excerpted in anthologies of women nature writers. A dreamer like her husband but vivacious and fun-loving, she humanized the austere and dignified Frederic. In 1960 she wrote that the study of ecology was to serve humankind and that the "application of the principles of ecology to human affairs, whether personal, national or world-wide, would go far in solving the problems that beset us." Edith Schwartz Clements died in 1971 at the age of ninety-six.

Frederic Edward Clements
Frederic Edward Clements

Frederic Edward Clements was one of the world's most notable scientists of the twentieth century. The Clementsian paradigm of plant succession and climax formed the basis for dynamic ecology and a holistic view of the natural world, in which plant and animal communities are viewed as complex organisms greater than the sum of their parts. His theory dominated natural sciences for many decades worldwide and strongly influenced scientists and philosophers from Jan Christian Smuts to Paul Sears, Aldo Leopold, Rachel Carson, James Lovelock, and Lynn Margulis. His works (now enjoying resurgent interest) are relevant to twenty-first-century studies of biodiversity, symbiogenesis, and climate change. On his passing, his sometime critic Sir Arthur Tansley wrote that Clements was "by far the greatest individual creator of the modern science of vegetation."

Clements wrote Research Methods in Ecology, the first ecology textbook and the first publication developing the Clementsian paradigm, in 1905 while on the faculty of the University of Nebraska, where he also received his B.Sc./M.A./Ph.D. degrees. He was born in Lincoln in 1874 in a house where Morrill Hall now stands. He established the Alpine Laboratory at Pikes Peak, to which he recruited Nebraska students who became scientists, and Carnegie Institution laboratories in Tucson and Santa Barbara. He died in 1945; his ashes are buried at Wyuka Cemetery.

Although he will forever be known as the intellectual leader of what science historian Tobey calls "the golden age of the Nebraska group," his contributions to Nebraska must also be measured by his efforts to rescue the prairies from the Dust Bowl. He worked tirelessly in the 1930s to help create the Soil Conservation Service and to change agricultural practices away from soil destruction toward conservation through soil classification, shelterbelts, stripcropping, and contour farming. The positive economic consequences to Nebraska are incalculable.

Leta Stetter Hollingworth
Leta Stetter Hollingworth

On May 25, 1886, Leta A. Stetter was born in Dawes County, Nebraska, near the town of Chadron. She graduated from Valentine High School and at sixteen, entered the University of Nebraska. Leta Stetter Hollingworth is perhaps best known for her work with exceptional children. She also performed pioneering work in the field of the psychology of women, which greatly overlapped with issues of intelligence and intellectual ability. In the 1920s Hollingworth's efforts shifted to the study of children, particularly exceptional gifted children.

Alvin Saunders Johnson
Alvin Saunders Johnson

Alvin Saunders Johnson, Nebraska native, gained national and international recognition as economist, educator, humanitarian, social activist, writer, and editor.

Born on a northeast Nebraska farm near Homer in 1874, he grew up embracing the values and work ethic of farm life. At age eighteen, he enrolled at the University of Nebraska, receiving both his bachelors and masters degrees in the classics. He pursued graduate work in economics at Columbia University, where he received his Ph.D. in 1902. His remarkable career was marked by diversity-economic theorist, historian, and professor at several American universities. He co-founded and led, for twenty-two years, the New School for Social Research, which today is recognized as the model for adult education in America. Within the New School, he founded the University in Exile as a haven for refugee European intellectuals fleeing Nazi persecution. He served as editor of the initial Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, was a leader in framing our nation's first non-discrimination legislation, and was an editor of The New Republic. He was a prolific writer, authoring two novels, three collections of short stories (the last at age eighty-nine), and an autobiography in addition to his influential academic writing. Each of his career highlights could be independently judged as exemplary; collectively they reflect on a remarkable individual of whom Nebraskans can be justifiably proud.

Throughout his career, Johnson often credited the values instilled in him while living and studying in Nebraska. His immigrant father was a strong believer in racial and social equality, and his mother, also born in Denmark, was a strong feminist with a great appreciation of classical literature. These traits were passed on to Alvin from early childhood and became the foundation of his intellectual fabric, work ethic, and his extraordinary influence on American cultural and intellectual life.

Clyde T. Malone
Clyde W. Malone

Clyde W. Malone was born in Nebraska in 1890 to James and Pensy Malone, immigrants from Tennessee. After graduating from high school, he began the usual career path of black men in Lincoln of that day as a janitor, porter, and waiter. With the outbreak of World War I, Malone attended Officer Training School in the U.S. Army and at war's end earned a business administration degree from the University of Nebraska. In 1934 Malone was hired as the recreation and employment director of the Lincoln Urban League (LUL). In 1943 Malone became executive director of the LUL.

As executive director of LUL, Malone began fielding discrimination and housing complaints, fulfilling the organization's equal rights and advocacy role. Under his leadership, the LUL became vocal in its advocacy of open-housing laws. Malone led the struggle for housing relief from the Lincoln City Council, Chamber of Commerce, Real Estate Board, and others. During the 1940s Malone stressed the need to alleviate the housing shortage for Lincoln's black population. He joined a Citizen's Housing Committee to shape a resolution asking the city council to "reconsider the low cost housing contract." Malone died on February 14, 1951. In February 1955 the board of directors voted to change the LUL's name and purpose. The new organization was named the Malone Community Center after the late Clyde W. Malone.

Malone held a positive and optimistic view about bettering interracial relations. As he said, "If you appreciate a person as an individual rather than a member of a race, you will find there is really no difference between peoples." To him, that was the supreme goal of the agency. Today as then, the Malone Community Center brings people of all races together working to achieve a common goal.


Louise Pound
Louise Pound

During her lifetime, Louise Pound (1872-1958) a turn-of-the-century New Woman, was one of the most influential women in America. Scholars have long recognized Pound's record-setting achievements in women's sports and her lasting impact on American culture and language.

Born in Lincoln, Nebraska, to pioneering parents, Laura and Stephen Pound, Louise graduated magna cum laude from the University of Nebraska. She remained in Nebraska for the rest of her life with the exception of one year spent in Germany, studying philology at Heidelberg University. The first woman from the University of Nebraska to earn a Ph.D., Pound graduated cum laude and returned to Lincoln, where she resumed her teaching career at the university which lasted fifty years.

She was tennis champion of Lincoln, Nebraska, in 1892 at age eighteen. Her greatest tennis triumphs took place in Chicago during the summers of 1897-98. Pound won the Western Women's Championship in 1897, and in 1898 she won the University of Chicago's mixed doubles championships. In the late 1890s and early 1900s, Pound coached, played with, and managed the women's winning basketball teams at the university. After she took up bicycling, she earned a Rambler Gold Medal in 1896 for riding five thousand miles in one year. In 1916 Pound won both the city of Lincoln and the state of Nebraska golf championships.

Pound's pioneering studies in ballad origins provide that individuals rather than groups of people composed ballads. She also championed the use of American English over British English at a time when British English was the accepted standard. Her assistance to H. L. Mencken in his language studies earned both his praise and friendship. He stated that Pound's "early work put the study of American English on its legs." Her book, Nebraska Folklore, published in 1958, remains the best source about folklore in Nebraska.


John Milton ThayerJohn Milton Thayer

John Milton Thayer, born at Bellingham, Massachusetts, January 24, 1820, was the only Nebraskan to have been a general in the U.S. Army (1862-65), a U.S. Senator (1867-71), and governor (1887-92). After arriving in the new Nebraska Territory in 1854 he was appointed commander of the territorial militia. With the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, Thayer was commissioned colonel of the First Nebraska Volunteer Infantry Regiment. As acting brigade commander, Thayer played an important role in the February 13-15, 1862, Battle of Fort Donelson, the first major Union victory of the war. He was appointed brigadier general of volunteers in October 1862 and major general of volunteers by brevet in 1865 and served with distinction under Gen. Ulysses S. Grant at the siege of and victory at Vicksburg in 1863.

Thayer served one term in the Nebraska territorial legislature, 1860-61, where he supported passage of a bill abolishing slavery in the territory. In 1866 he was elected one of Nebraska's first two U.S. Senators. Thayer disavowed the 1866 Nebraska constitution's denial of voting rights to African American men. Once the Nebraska legislature agreed to Congress's "fundamental condition" requiring removal of the "white only" restriction from the constitution, Thayer personally carried the legislature's assent to Washington, D.C. and statehood was proclaimed March 1, 1867.

While serving in the U.S. Senate, Thayer supported the congressional version of Reconstruction for the former rebel states, rather than the more lenient course President Andrew Johnson proposed. When relations between Congressional Republicans and the President led to Johnson's impeachment, Thayer voted for conviction, although the President was acquitted by a single vote. Thayer was elected Nebraska governor in 1886 and re-elected in 1888.

Thayer died in Lincoln on March 19, 1906. After lying in state at the capitol, he was buried at Wyuka Cemetery.

Malcolm X
Malcolm X

Malcolm X, also known as Al-Hajj Malik El- Shabazz, was born Malcolm Little on May 19, 1925, in Omaha, Nebraska. His mother, Louise Norton Little, was a homemaker and caregiver of the family's eight children. His father, Earl Little, was an outspoken Baptist minister. The father's activism prompted death threats from the KKK, forcing the family to relocate to Milwaukee in 1926.

Malcolm X jumped into a criminal life and was sentenced to ten years in prison. There he began to transform his life, using the time to further his education and reading books on history, philosophy and religion. He quickly rose to become an African American Muslim minister and leader after his release in 1952. The redemption that Malcolm X experienced has inspired us to better our own lives, but more important, has shown that all have a capacity to change.

He did not promote or incite violence although he lived in an era of separate but equal segregation and a time when blacks were, in effect, denied even the right to vote. Malcolm X proposed that oppressed people had a right to self-defense, an inherently American principle. His beliefs became international with multiculturalism the true meaning of the Islamic religion. He wanted equal rights for all men, judged by creed and not by race.

Alex Haley's 1965 book, The Autobiography of Malcolm X is a classic. Streets in Harlem, Brooklyn, Dallas, and Michigan bear Malcolm X's name. Malcolm X Community College in Chicago, Malcolm X Liberation University in Durham, North Carolina, and the Malcolm X Society are also named for him.

Malcolm X is an icon whose legacy must not be forgotten. As a native Nebraskan and the state's greatest and most influential human rights activist, he should be inducted in the Nebraska Hall of Fame to recognize all his accomplishments to society.

Note: On February 3, 2012, Commission members voted to remove from further consideration: Nile Clarke Kinnick, Jr., Alton Glenn Miller, and Dr. Richard Shippen Silvis. Minutes, February 3, 2012.

Nile Clarke Kinnick, Jr.
Nile Clarke Kinnick, Jr.

Nile Clarke Kinnick, Jr. was born in Adel, Iowa, on July 9, 1918, and grew to be a town legend in the classroom and in the arena of sport before his family moved to Omaha. Despite his lack of size, Kinnick wowed during his time at Benson High School in football, basketball, and baseball, and he went to the University of Iowa to compete in all three.

Football, though, would become the trademark of the man nicknamed "The Cornbelt Comet." He carried an Iowa squad known as "The Ironmen" into legend for a state still reeling from the Depression. In 1939 Kinnick became the first Nebraskan to win the Heisman Trophy, the highest honor in college football. During his acceptance speech, Kinnick stunned the crowd with his eloquence and proved prophetic in thanking God that he was fighting only on the football field, not on the battlefields of Europe at that time. "The country is OK as long as it produces Nile Kinnicks," an amazed Boston Globe reporter wrote afterwards. "The football part is incidental." Kinnick, who turned down an offer to play in the NFL to return to law school, had a career in politics waiting. One Iowa newspaper endorsed him for the 1956 presidential campaign--in 1940.

When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, the Omahan enlisted in the Naval Air Reserves, leaving behind a life of comfort and prestige in the Midwest. On a routine training mission in the Caribbean Sea in 1943, Kinnick's plane began leaking fuel. Rather than endangering the crew aboard the carrier, he deftly brought his plane down in the water, but his body was never recovered.

Glenn Miller
Glenn Miller

The generation who knew Glenn Miller's persona is dissipating, but a "Glenn Miller Band" still delivers that special "sound" via clarinets and saxophones under his banner.

Between 1937, the introduction of his band with his "sound," his band became world leading by 1940. His tunes captured a third of U.S. jukebox receipts. He holds the record of 45 "top tunes" for a year.

The prime reason Glenn Miller is worthy of admiration is for his supreme World War II patriotism. At home he could have earned $1 million a year. World War II veteran and Pulitzer Prize nominee Hunton Downs devoted fifty years researching the "Glenn Miller Conspiracy," the title of his 2009 book that reveals his cause of death.

Glenn responded to SSC Col. Donovan, secretly engaged as a broadcaster (from London?) speaking in German to Wehrmacht soldiers. Downs learned from Nazi archives and etc. that Miller was Hitler's greatest enemy and the Fuhrer wanted him killed. Operation "Eclipse" was an Allied plan intended, with the help of German generals, General Eisenhower, and our 17th and 101st Airborne, to deliver Glenn to Berlin for him to announce Germany's ceasing warfare.

However Hitler had moles in the Allied HQ and timed his Battle of the Bulge for when Miller was assassinated, late December 16, & the attack soon followed.

Since Eisenhower wanted the "Eclipse" information to remain secret, Glenn received negligible recognition. Glenn is as deserving as anyone I could imagine, considering he had premonitions he might not survive his unselfish efforts leading to Hitler's downfall.

Dr. Richard Shippen Silvis, M.D.
Dr. Richard Shippen Silvis, M.D., Admiral, United States Navy (Retired).

Richard Shippen Silvis, the youngest of the eight children of Thomas Sharp Silvis and Lina Kane Silvis grew up on a farm near Wagner, South Dakota, and matured into a strong, ruddy, athletic individual. His personal and professional accomplishments include: playing football and receiving an undergraduate degree from South Dakota State University at Brookings and receiving the M. D. degree from the University of Nebraska School of Medicine He had an outstanding career in the United States Navy as one of its top surgeons, including division surgeon and field hospital surgeon on Iwo Jima during World War II, service in Korea, and as chief of surgery at Oak Knoll Naval Hospital, California.

Dr. Silvis was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry under fire at Iwo Jima. When the supply of whole blood at the division field hospital became depleted on March 7, 1945, he led his driver through a dense smokescreen, heavy mortar fire, and an enemy air raid to obtain whole blood. He walked in front of the vehicle feeling his way by ruts and obtained the whole blood. His bravery saved many lives.

Dr. Silvis was a sterling product of the University of Nebraska. Because of the education he received there, he contributed to Nebraska, the United States, and to all humankind by dedicating his life to serving others. Dr. Silvis saved many lives and developed numerous surgical procedures during his career. His bravery at Iwo Jima, his dedicated service in Korea, and his leadership in peacetime naval medicine strongly support his induction into the Nebraska Hall of Fame. His life and his contributions to the welfare of society have reflected positively on the state of Nebraska.


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