As a follow-up to a March 23, 2017 blog on this site regarding the nomination of George E. Johnson for the Nebraska Hall of Fame, I regret to report that our efforts came up a little short.
Mr. Johnson was selected as one of the three finalists (among 12 nominees), but finished second in the final vote on Aug. 2 to noted architect Thomas R. Kimball.
We were, of course, disappointed in the results, although we were pleased that he was among the finalists considered by the Hall of Fame Commission. This is in no way meant to minimize the selection of Mr. Kimball, who was also imminently qualified for inclusion in Nebraska’s Hall of Fame. We extend our congratulations to his supporters and our thanks to the commissioners for their engaged efforts in the process.
During the public hearing at which the results were announced, more than one commissioner mentioned the difficulty of selecting from among the many qualified individuals who were nominated for the honor.
That is completely understandable. Nebraska has produced many, many people who have contributed greatly to the state’s culture, society, and growth. Only a relative handful have been enshrined in the Hall, which was established in 1961. As an aside, the first member of the Hall was Sen. George Norris, who also played an important role as an advocate for Central’s hydropower/irrigation project and the establishment of public power in Nebraska. As a contemporary of Mr. Johnson, the two worked closely for many years to gain funding and approval to build the project.
We believe that Mr. Johnson’s accomplishments and his service to the State of Nebraska make him a deserving member of the Nebraska Hall of Fame and his name will again be submitted to the commission during the next Hall of Fame nomination cycle.
Below is a list of this cycle’s nominees (the process is repeated once every five years), as well as list of individuals who are members of the Nebraska Hall of Fame.
Solon Hannibal Borglum (b. 1868 – d. 1922) – World renowned sculptor and younger brother of the man who carved the Mt. Rushmore national monument. Many of his sculptures related to his life as a rancher near Cairo, Neb.
Calvin Chapman (b. 1843 – d. 1927) – A cooper (barrel maker) by trade, he worked as a “conductor” on the Nebraska City branch of the Underground Railroad, established by abolitionist John Brown to transport slaves from southern states to freedom in the north in the pre-Civil War era. He later served as mayor of Nebraska City.
Charles Gere (b. 1838 – d. 1904) – Member of Nebraska’s first Legislature and played a role in the development of the railroad in Nebraska. He was a newspaper publisher and steered to passage the bills that created the University of Nebraska, the state penitentiary and the state mental hospital.
Thomas Vincent Golden (b. 1853 – d. 1928) – A teacher and newspaper publisher, he was instrumental in bringing Irish immigrants to Nebraska and was a leader of the early Democratic Populist movement in the state. Also was a leading proponent of irrigation to help offset the periodic droughts that plagued Nebraska.
Howard Hanson (b. 1896 – d. 1981) – A performing musician and composer, he won a Pulitzer Prize for his Symphony No. 4 in 1944. Director of the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York.
Omer Madison Kern (b. 1855 – d. 1942) – Three-term Populist congressman representing the state from 1891 to 1897. An early advocate of farmers’ and homesteaders’ rights.
Thomas Rogers Kimball (b. 1862 – d. 1934) – An architect, master planner and professional advisor on the Nebraska Capitol Commission and administered the construction of the Capitol. Designed a number of Nebraska landmark buildings. Planned and designed facilities for the 1898 Trans-Mississippi Exposition in Omaha.
Rachel A.H. Lloyd (b. 1839 – d. 1900) – Arrived in Lincoln as an associate professor of analytic chemistry in 1887. The first American woman to receive a Ph.D. in chemistry when she graduated from the University of Zurich in 1887. Helped bring about the construction of the sugar beet processing plant in Grand Island in 1891 and spent her life encouraging women to pursue undergraduate and graduate degrees in the sciences at a time when few women were doing so.
Francis Patrick Matthews (b. 1887 – d. 1952) – An attorney, he was a part owner of WOW Radio in Omaha, which later became WOW-TV. Also was a founding director and vice president of the United Service Organization (USO) and traveled throughout Europe, Asia and Africa during WWII to monitor the welfare of U.S. troops. Earned the Award for Merit in 1946 for his activities. Later served on the President’s Commission on Civil Rights, was Secretary of the Navy for two years and was the U.S. ambassador to Ireland.
Anna Sadilek Pavelka (b. 1869 – d. 1955) – Was the prototype for the character Antonia Shimerda in Willa Cather’s novel, My Antonia. Her unique friendship with Cather was captured in the character’s pioneer spirit and determination.
Matthew Savidge (b. 1886 – d. 1916) – A pioneer Nebraska aviator, he and his six brothers were the first Nebraska-born designers, mechanics and pilots of airplanes in the state. Traveled the Midwest putting on aerial shows, which included stunts, aerial acrobatics and skywriting. Died at 29 in an airplane crash.
Current members of the Nebraska Hall of Fame and year selected
Sen. George W. Norris, 1961
Willa Cather, 1962
John J. Pershing, 1963
Father Edward J. Flanagan, 1965
William (“Buffalo Bill”) Cody, 1967
William Jennings Bryan, 1971
Bess Aldrich Streeter, 1971
Medal of Honor Recipients, 1973
John G. Neihardt, 1974
Sterling Morton, 1975
Grace Abbott, 1976
Mari Sandoz, 1976
Roscoe Pound, 1976
Chief Standing Bear, 1977
Robert W. Furnas, 1980
Edward Creighton, 1982
Susette LaFlesche Tibbles, 1983
Sen. Gilbert Hitchcock, 1984
Loren Eiseley, 1986
Hartley Burr Alexander, 1988
Arthur W. Thompson, 1990
Dwight Griswold, 1993
Nathan Gold, 1996
Chief Red Cloud, 2000
Charles E. Bessey, 2007
Alvin S. Johnson, 2012
For more information about the Hall’s members, visit http://www.nebraskastudies.org/0000/fame.htm.