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Who is on your fav list of Famous Missourians?

January 5, 2010

What makes one famous? To be included in that category, the dictionary indicates you must be celebrated, famed, far-famed, illustrious, notable, noted, renowned (widely known and esteemed), “a famous actor”; “a celebrated musician”; “a famed scientist”; “an illustrious judge”; “a notable historian”; or “a renowned painter.”

Celebrity culture has become so important to so many over the last decade that we now have a growing obsession with the details of their lives. How can we capitalize on this phenomenon while encouraging more to come to Missouri to learn about our home-grown celebrities? See this week’s article online at to learn more about Missouri’s famous faces.

But let’s keep the conversation going. Who is on your favorite list of Famous Missourians?

Recently, Steve and I attended a Missouri Heritage presentation at the State Archives. The presentation focused on the five famous generals from Missouri and was led by James F. Muench, author of Five Stars: Missouri’s Most Famous Generals. In Five Stars and on that evening, Muench profiled five of the best-known figures in Missouri military history: Alexander William Doniphan, Sterling Price, Ulysses S. Grant, John J. Pershing and Omar Bradley. These men represent a number of historical eras – from the Mexican-American War through World War II – and have a variety of social and cultural backgrounds. Muench explores the lives and times of these celebrated generals and their roles in American history, particularly their battlefield exploits. While noting their diversity, Muench also is careful to emphasize connections and commonalities among these leaders. At the conclusion of his presentation, he suggested that, because of their contributions to our state, we should encourage an attraction devoted to the lives of these men. Not a bad idea.

Short of one attraction celebrating all five, you can trace their individual footsteps on your own trail across our wide Missouri.  Go to for some trail ideas. 

More interested in pop-culture icons? Did you know Rush Limbaugh is considered a famous Missourian? Or Bill Bradley, Dennis Weaver, Kathleen Turner, Vincent Price, Dick Van Dyke, Brad Pitt, Bob Costas, Walter Cronkite or Sheryl Crow? I have had occasion to meet each one of these individuals over the years and can tell you they all share the “show me” spirit of our ancestors. Each is accomplished in his or her chosen profession, some more popular with the celebrity culture crowd than others.

And let’s not forget those who now call Missouri home who are still entertaining in their own theatres in Branson.  Stars like Andy Williams, Jim Stafford, Yakov Smirnoff, Mickey Gilley, and Shoji Tabuchi can regularly been seen on stage, at local restaurants, on the tennis court, or the golf range throughout SW Missouri.  The entire Lennon family moved to Branson from California years ago, including the Lennon Sisters … and they brought along their brothers, in-laws, cousins; the whole clan.  I am fortunate to know them all, and can attest to their commitment to our state.

So, again, keep the conversation going. Who is a famous Missourian you have met, would like to meet or would like to have met? And why?

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