USA Famous People of Iowa

Iowa Biographies

  A-L • M-W
  Bess Streeter Aldrich author, Cedar Falls (February 17, 1881 – August 3, 1954) was an American author.

Bess Streeter was born in Cedar Falls, Iowa. After graduating from Iowa State Normal School, she taught school at several locations in the west, later returning to Cedar Falls to earn an advanced degree in education. A writer since early childhood, she won a writing contest at age fourteen and another at seventeen.

In 1906, she married Charles Aldrich. They moved to Elmwood, Nebraska, where Charles, Bess, her widowed mother, and family friends invested and purchased a bank. They had four children--Mary, Robert, Charles and James.

Aldrich began writing more regularly in 1911 when the Ladies' Home Journal advertised a fiction contest, which she entered and won. She went on to become one of the highest-paid women writers of the period. Her stories often concerned Midwestern pioneer history and were very popular with teenage girls and young women.

Aldrich's first novel, Mother Mason, was published in 1924. When Charles died suddenly of a cerebral hemorrhage in 1925, Aldrich took up writing as a means of supporting her family. She was the author of about 200 short stories and thirteen novels, including Miss Bishop. The latter novel was made into a movie Cheers for Miss Bishop (1941), which starred Martha Scott and Edmund Gwenn and premiered in Lincoln, Nebraska. • Bess Streeter Aldrich Books

  Adrian Constantine (Cap) Anson (1851 - 1922) Known as the greatest baseball player of the 19th century; born in Marshalltown. Cap Anson’s plaque at the Baseball Hall of Fame sums up his career with admirable simplicity: "The greatest hitter and greatest National League player-manager of the 19th century." Anson helped make baseball the national pastime. He hit over .300 in all but three of his major league seasons, and upon his retirement in 1897, he held the all-time records for games played, times at bat, hits, runs scored, doubles and runs batted in. For much of his career, he also served as manager of the National League’s Chicago White Stockings (now known as the Cubs), winning five pennants and finishing in the top half of the league in 15 of his 19 seasons. • Adrian Constantine (Cap) Anson Books
  Bix Beiderbecke jazz musician, Davenport Leon Bismark "Bix" Beiderbecke (March 10, 1903 – August 6, 1931) was an American jazz cornetist, jazz pianist, and composer. With Louis Armstrong, Beiderbecke was one of the two most influential jazz soloists of the 1920s. His turns on "Singin' the Blues" (1927) and "I'm Coming, Virginia" (1927), in particular, demonstrated an unusual purity of tone and a gift for improvisation. They helped to invent the jazz ballad style and hinted at what, in the 1950s, would become cool jazz. "In a Mist" (1927), one of a handful of his piano compositions but the only one he recorded, mixed classical influences with jazz syncopation; its complex harmonic structure served as a preview of the bebop revolution. Beiderbecke has also been credited for his influence, directly, on Bing Crosby and, indirectly, on Lester Young.

A native of Davenport, Iowa, Beiderbecke taught himself to play cornet largely by ear, leading him to adopt a non-standard fingering that some critics have connected to his original sound. He first recorded with the Midwestern jazz ensemble the Wolverines in 1924, after which he played briefly for the Detroit-based Jean Goldkette Orchestra before joining Frankie "Tram" Trumbauer for an extended gig at the Arcadia Ballroom in St. Louis, Missouri. Beiderbecke and Trumbauer both joined Goldkette in 1926. The band toured widely and famously played a set opposite Fletcher Henderson at the Roseland Ballroom in New York City in October 1926. The following year, Trumbauer and Beiderbecke left Detroit to join the best-known and most prestigious dance orchestra in the country: the New York–based Paul Whiteman Orchestra. • Bix Beiderbecke Books • Bix Beiderbecke Discography

  Amelia Jenks Bloomer (1818 - 1894) She headed the Iowa woman Suffrage Association and made popular loose fitting pants called “bloomers”; lived in Council Bluffs. This collection of speeches by Amelia Jenks Bloomer, a 19th-century feminist reformer, explores women's issues and lives during the period from 1850 to 1880. Bloomer lived in Seneca Falls, New York, and was the founder of a woman's newspaper, the Lily. She supported dress reform and was internationally famous for her introduction of "bloomers." She was a staunch supporter of women's rights and worked closely with Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, whom she introduced to one another. Bloomer was an extremely popular public speaker who traveled throughout New York State and the mid-West lecturing on temperance and greater opportunities for women in employment and education. This volume is the only collection of her speeches, and Coon's introduction creates a narrative of Bloomer's life as the story of a shy, modest woman whose commitment to reform and the endorsement of a new style of women's dress catapulted her into public life. • Amelia Jenks Bloomer Books
  Norman Borlaug plant pathologist, geneticist, Cresco (March 25, 1914 – September 12, 2009) was an American agronomist, humanitarian, and Nobel laureate who has been deemed the father of the Green Revolution. Borlaug was one of only six people to have won the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. He was also a recipient of the Padma Vibhushan, India's second highest civilian honour.

Borlaug received his Ph.D. in plant pathology and genetics from the University of Minnesota in 1942. He took up an agricultural research position in Mexico, where he developed semi-dwarf, high-yield, disease-resistant wheat varieties.

During the mid-20th century, Borlaug led the introduction of these high-yielding varieties combined with modern agricultural production techniques to Mexico, Pakistan, and India. As a result, Mexico became a net exporter of wheat by 1963. Between 1965 and 1970, wheat yields nearly doubled in Pakistan and India, greatly improving the food security in those nations. These collective increases in yield have been labeled the Green Revolution, and Borlaug is often credited with saving over a billion people worldwide from starvation. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 in recognition of his contributions to world peace through increasing food supply • Norman Borlaug Books

  Donald L. Campbell inventor, Clinton (August 5, 1904 in Clinton, Iowa – September 1, 2002 in Brick New Jersey) was an American chemical engineer. He and his team of three other scientists in the same field are most known for having developed the fluid catalytic cracking (FCC) process in 1942. This process provided a more efficient method for petroleum refiners to obtain high-octane gasoline by through the conversion of crude oil. The team’s revolutionary creation is explained in US Patent No. 2,451,804, A Method of and Apparatus for Contacting Solids and Gases, and eventually transformed the way petroleum was developed. Their invention was especially important in World War II, as refiners could finally provide enough fuel for the allies’ fighter planes to battle against the Axis. For his significant contributions to the field of chemical engineering, Campbell was inducted in the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1999. • Donald L. Campbell Books
  Wallace Hume Carothers inventor, Burlington (April 27, 1896 – April 29, 1937) was an American chemist, inventor and the leader of organic chemistry at DuPont, credited with the invention of Nylon.[1]

Carothers was a group leader at the DuPont Experimental Station laboratory, near Wilmington, Delaware, where most polymer research was done.[2] Carothers was a brilliant organic chemist who, in addition to first developing nylon, also helped lay the groundwork for Neoprene. After receiving his Ph.D, he taught at several universities before he was hired by DuPont to work on fundamental research.

He married the former Helen Sweetman on February 21, 1936. Carothers had been troubled by periods of mental depression since his youth. Despite his success with Nylon, he felt that he had not accomplished much and had run out of ideas. His unhappiness was compounded by the death of his favorite sister, and on April 29, 1937, he checked into a Philadelphia hotel room and died after drinking a cocktail of lemon juice laced with potassium cyanide.[3] His daughter, Jane, was born seven months later on November 27, 1937. • Wallace Hume Carothers Books

  Johnny Carson (1925 - 2005) Comedian that hosted The Tonight Show for 30 years; born in Corning

Why yet another Carson biography? Carson refuses to be interviewed (he's going to write his own book), so earlier efforts (by Paul Corkery, Carson: The Unauthorized Biography , LJ 9/15/87; and Ronald Smith, Johnny Carson , LJ 12/87) have suffered as biographers have had to rely on published material and interviews with friends and ex-wives. However, interest in Carson remains high, and though Leamer also had to rely on interviews (over 700) with others, his book is the closest thing to "definitive" until Johnny writes his own. The private Carson who emerges, cold and retiring, doesn't much resemble the public outgoing, clownish Carson. The life is all here; wives and relationships are explored. This is neither a flattering puff piece or Carson-bashing. The exhaustive research has culminated in a revealing and entertaining account. But despite how well done this is, we'll have to wait for Carson's book for the whole story.• Johnny Carson Books • Johnny Carson Films & TV

  Carrie Chapman Catt (1859 - 1947) She led the campaign that ended with the 19th Amendment to the Constitution allowing women to vote; lived in Charles City. In 1919, Carrie Chapman Catt led an army of voteless women to pressure Congress to pass the constitutional amendment giving them the right to vote. Due at lest in part to her organization and leadership, the bill became law within eighteen months. With the battle that had consumed nearly all of her time and energy for almost half her life won, Catt went on to devote the next 25 years to work for peace as the basis of human rights. Catt was one of the best-known women in America during the first half of the 20th century. In spite of this, her contributions have largely been obscured by history. Carrie Chapman Catt: A Public Life is the first modern biography of her. Jacqueline Van Voris depicts Catt's work for suffrage in America and her work throughout the world organizing women and working for peace. , including her world tour with Aletta Jacobs (sponsored by the International Woman Suffrage Alliance. This is an account of a public life that was lived with enthusiasm and faith in the human race and of an extraordinary woman whose ideas continue to influence the lives of millions. Carrie Chapman Catt is highly recommended for addition to all biography, women's studies, political science, and American history collections.• Carrie Chapman Catt Books
  William "Buffalo Bill" Cody (1846 - 1917) Pony Express rider, cavalry scout, buffalo hunter, and showman in the late 1100%s; born in LeClaire. William Frederick ("Buffalo Bill") got his nickname after he undertook a contract to supply Kansas Pacific Railroad workers with buffalo meat. The nickname originally referred to Bill Comstock. Cody earned the nickname by killing 4,860 buffalo in eight months (1867-68). He and Comstock eventually competed in a shooting match over the exclusive right to use the name, which Cody won. In addition to his documented service as a soldier during the Civil War and as Chief of Scouts for the Third Cavalry during the Plains Wars, Cody claimed to have worked many jobs, including as a trapper, bullwhacker, "Fifty-Niner" in Colorado, a Pony Express rider in 1860, wagon master, stagecoach driver, and even a hotel manager, but it's unclear which claims were factual and which were fabricated for purposes of publicity. He became world famous for his Wild West Shows.• Buffalo Bill Books
  Lee DeForest inventor, Council Bluffs (August 26, 1873 – June 30, 1961) was an American inventor with over 180 patents to his credit. De Forest invented the Audion, a vacuum tube that takes relatively weak electrical signals and amplifies them. De Forest is one of the fathers of the "electronic age", as the Audion helped to usher in the widespread use of electronics. He is also credited with one of the principal inventions which brought sound to motion pictures.

He was involved in several patent lawsuits and he spent a substantial part of his income from his inventions on the legal bills. He had four marriages and 25 companies, he was defrauded by business partners, and he was once indicted for mail fraud, but was later acquitted.

He typically signed his name "Lee de Forest."

He was a charter member of the Institute of Radio Engineers, one of the two predecessors of the IEEE (the other was the American Institute of Electrical Engineers). • Lee DeForest Books

  Simon Estes bass-baritone, Centerville (born February 2, 1938) is an operatic bass-baritone of African-American descent who had a major international opera career since the 1960s. He has sung at most of the world's major opera houses as well as in front of presidents, popes and internationally renowned figures and celebrities including Bill Clinton, Richard Nixon, Boris Yeltsin, Yasser Arafat, Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu. He was notably part of the first generation of black opera singers to achieve wide success and is viewed as part of an instrumental group of performers who helped break down the barriers of racial prejudice in the opera world.

Estes was born in Centerville, Iowa, the son of Ruth Jeter Estes and Simon Estes. His father was a coal-miner and his grandfather was a former slave who had been sold at auction for $500. Named for his father, Estes was called 'Billy' within his family circle to avoid confusion when addressing the two. One of five children, Estes has three sisters and a younger brother. His family was heavily involved in their local Baptist church, and his earliest musical experiences were had there. He remained active with church musical activities and participated in school music programs throughout his youth. • Simon Estes Books • Simon Estes Discography

  Bob Feller (1918- ) Baseball player.  A member of the Baseball Hall of Fame.  Many consider him to be the premier right-handed pitcher in baseball history.; born in Van Meter.But Feller’s professional life in baseball was far from the near-mythic quality of his childhood. Feller became a controversial figure from the moment he signed his first professional contract. Battling with owners, the press, and fellow play-ers, Feller alienated and charmed them by turns, reflecting the complex motiva-tions of a man aware of his own prodigious talent and opportunities. Feller was both an unabashed patriot who enlisted in the Navy the day after Pearl Harbor and a remarkably successful businessman who organized lucrative winter barn-storming tours. His unquestioned position as one of the first players to advocate integrating the game was complicated by his combative relationship with Jackie Robinson. As a result, Feller’s contribution to the game has been the subject of both positive and negative interpretation. John Sickels has produced the first balanced, historical portrait of this controversial player whose commitment and talent inspired his teammates, and whose outspoken opinons just as frequently exasperated them.• Bob Feller Books
  William Frawley actor, Burlington William Clement Frawley (February 26, 1887 – March 3, 1966) was an American stage entertainer, screen and television actor. Although Frawley acted in over 100 films, he achieved his greatest fame playing landlord Fred Mertz on the sitcom I Love Lucy.

Frawley was born to Michael A. Frawley and Mary E. Brady in Burlington, Iowa.  As a young boy, Bill (as he was commonly called), attended Roman Catholic school and sang with the St. Paul's Church choir. As he got older, he loved playing bit roles in local theater productions, as well as performing in amateur shows. A career in show business seemed within reach, however; his mother, a deeply religious woman, frowned upon the idea.

Frawley did two years of office work at Union Pacific Railroad in Omaha, Nebraska; he later moved to Chicago and found a job as a court reporter. Shortly thereafter, against his mother's wishes, Frawley landed a singing part in the musical comedy The Flirting Princess. After the news reached his mother, she was greatly dismayed. To appease her, Bill moved to St. Louis, Missouri, to work for another railroad. • William Frawley Books • William Frawley Movies

  Dan Gable (1948- ) Wrestler/Coach. Won a gold medal at the 1972 Summer Olympics without surrendering a point.  Two-time Olympic head coach (1980 and 1984).  As a coach at Iowa, he won 15 NCAA team titles in 22 years and 22 straight Big Ten Conference titles; born in Waterloo. Had Dan Gable played baseball or basketball instead of wrestled, not only would ad campaigns have been built around him, but also a wing in the hall of fame. Gable, a true athletic icon, dominated his sport--a virtually obscure one by American standards--as no one has before or since. An Olympic champion, Gable was virtually unbeatable. As a coach, he's been dauntingly invincible. His Iowa Hawkeyes have won 10 straight national championships--15 altogether--and every Big 10 title in the sport since Gable took over the program in the mid-1970s. A Season on the Mat is the engrossing narrative of Iowa's 1996-97 Cinderella season, Gable's finale as coach, and the intriguing hold wrestling has on its participants. Still, Gable is the clear star here. With drama and pathos, author Nolan Zavoral profiles him as a fiercely driven and competitive man, wracked by physical and emotional pain as he grapples with the life-altering decisions that he knows it's time to make. •
  George H. Gallup poll taker, Jefferson George Horace Gallup (November 18, 1901 – July 26, 1984) was an American pioneer of survey sampling techniques and inventor of the Gallup poll, a successful statistical method of survey sampling for measuring public opinion.

Gallup is a graduate of The Lawrenceville School and the University of Iowa, where he was a football player and editor of school paper The Daily Iowan. He earned his B.A. in 1923, his M.A. in 1925 and his Ph.D. in 1928.

In 1936, his new organization achieved national recognition by correctly predicting, from the replies of only 5,000 respondents, that Franklin Roosevelt would defeat Alf Landon in the U.S. Presidential election. This was in direct contradiction to the widely respected Literary Digest magazine whose poll based on over two million returned questionnaires predicted that Landon would be the winner. Not only did Gallup get the election right, he correctly predicted the results of the Literary Digest poll as well using a random sample smaller than theirs but chosen to match it.

Twelve years later, his organization had its moment of greatest ignominy, when it predicted that Thomas Dewey would defeat Harry S. Truman in the 1948 election, by five to 15 percentage points. Gallup believed the error was mostly due to ending his polling three weeks before Election Day. In 1958, Gallup grouped all of his polling operations under what became The Gallup Organization. • George H. Gallup Books

  Frank Gotch (1878-1917) World heavyweight wrestling champion from 1908 to 1915, the best known athlete of his era; born and raised in Humboldt. "This is a great book about the greatest wrestler of all time. But it is much more than a story about a wrestler. It's also an exciting history of sports and sports figures at the beginning of the 20th Century. Of all of those early century sports legends, Gotch was the most famous. I liked the way the author told about Gotch's wrestling on the floor of the Roosevelt White House and in front of the largest crowd to see a sporting event in Comiskey park. The author's story telling ability makes it very easy to get wrapped up in this book until Y2K." -- Dale Anderson, columnist WIN Magazine

As a long time devotee of the sport of wrestling, I found Gotch: An American Hero to be an entertaining trip through the past. Frank Gotch is a truly outstanding sports figure in American history and deserves to have a book written about him by America's top wrestling historian. I highly recommend this book. -- Andre Gibson, International Wrestling Institute & Museum website columnist •

  Susan Glaspell writer, Davenport (1 July 1876 – 27 July 1948) was an American Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, actress, director, and bestselling novelist. She was a founding member of the Provincetown Players, one of the most important collaboratives in the development of modern drama in the United States. She also served in the Works Progress Administration as Midwest Bureau Director of the Federal Theater Project.

Her novels and plays are committed to developing deep, sympathetic characters, to understanding 'life' in its complexity. Though realism was the medium of her fiction, she was also greatly interested in philosophy and religion. Many of her characters make principled stands.

As part of the Provincetown Players, she arranged for the first ever reading of a play by Eugene O'Neill. • Susan Glaspell Books

  Fred Grandy (1948 - ) Actor made famous in the Love Boat and politician; born in Sioux City . Fredrick Lawrence "Fred" Grandy (born June 29, 1948) is a former actor best known for his role on the sitcom The Love Boat who became a member in 1986 of the United States House of Representatives from the state of Iowa.

Grandy was born in Sioux City, Iowa. He received his bachelor's degree in English from Harvard University in 1970 and is conversant in both French and Arabic. He was a recurring character on the 1970s sitcom Maude, playing the boyfriend of Maude's daughter Carol (played by Adrienne Barbeau). He played the ship's purser Burl "Gopher" Smith for nine years on the American television series The Love Boat. In 1982, while visiting Turkey to film scenes for the show, Grandy suffered severe burns when a balloon filled with hydrogen exploded.  The other members of the cast helped him recover.

Grandy appeared in a number of Match Game episodes in the mid-70s, at first sitting in the male guest star seat in the top row left, then later filling in for Charles Nelson Reilly when he was working on other projects. • Fred Grandy Books .• Fred Grandy Movies

  Herbert Hoover (1874 - 1964) The 31st President of the United States; born in West Branch."Food will win the war," proclaimed engineer-turned-bureaucrat Herbert Hoover, with a tinge of self-promotion, as head of the U.S. Food Administration, the WWI agency responsible for feeding America's troops overseas. While cloaking his efforts in the comforting language of voluntarism, the nervous, high-strung food czar, incessantly smoking Havana cigars, used a mix of price controls, exhortations, constraints and propaganda to seduce the general populace into eating less and reducing waste so our fighting forces could get adequate food supplies. As chairman of the Commission for Relief in Belgium, Hoover orchestrated a massive emergency operation that provided desperately needed food to millions of Belgian and French citizens trapped between the German army of occupation and the British naval blockade. Hoover became a hero to legions of American housewives, middle-class professionals and businessmen, though farmers, livestock producers and middlemen saw him as a meddling, insensitive outsider, an image that dogged the future president all the way to the White House. In this absorbing third installment of a multivolume biography, Nash, a historian of conservatism, reconstructs an important chapter in American history. Photos. • Herbert Hoover Books
  Ann Landers columnist, Sioux City was a pen name created by Chicago Sun-Times advice columnist Ruth Crowley in 1943 and taken over by Eppie Friedman in 1955. For 56 years, the Ask Ann Landers syndicated advice column was a regular feature in many newspapers across North America. Due to this popularity, 'Ann Landers', though fictional, became something of a national institution and cultural icon.

The creator of the 'Ann Landers' pseudonym was Ruth Crowley, a Chicago nurse who had been writing a child-care column for the Sun since 1941. She chose the pseudonym at random — borrowing the surname 'Landers' from a family friend — in order to prevent confusion between her two columns. Unlike Lederer, Rowley kept her identity as Landers secret, even enjoining her children to help her keep it quiet. Crowley took a three-year break from writing the column from 1948 until 1951. After 1951 she continued the column for the Chicago Sun-Times and in syndication (since 1951) to 26 other newspapers until her death, aged 48, on July 20, 1955. Crowley spent a total of nine years writing advice as 'Ann Landers'. • Ann Landers Books

  Cloris Leachman actress, Des Moines Cloris Leachman (born April 30, 1926) is an American actress of stage, film and television. She has won eight Primetime Emmy Awards—more than any other female performer—and one Daytime Emmy Award. She won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in the 1971 film The Last Picture Show. She is best known for playing the nosy, self-centered and manipulative landlady Phyllis Lindstrom on the 1970s TV series Mary Tyler Moore, and later on the spinoff series, Phyllis. She also appeared in three Mel Brooks films, including Young Frankenstein. In recent years, she became very popular for her recurring role as Lois's ruthless mother on Malcom in the Middle.

Leachman was a contestant on Season 7 (2008) of Dancing With The Stars, paired with Corky Ballas. At the age of 82, she is the oldest contestant to dance on the series. She was voted off in the sixth round on October 28.

Leachman was the grand marshal for the 2009 New Year's Day Tournament of Roses Parade and Rose Bowl Game in Pasadena, California. She presided over the 120th parade, the theme being "Hats Off to Entertainment", and the 95th Rose Bowl game. • Cloris Leachman Books • Cloris Leachman Movies

  William D. Leahy - Fleet Admiral William Daniel Leahy (May 6, 1875 – July 20, 1959) was an American naval officer, Governor of Puerto Rico and Ambassador to France.

Leahy was appointed as Chief of Staff to President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1942 and served in that position throughout World War II, and continued under President Harry S. Truman until finally retiring in 1949. Fleet Admiral Leahy was the first U.S. military officer ever to hold a five-star rank in the U.S. Armed Forces.

Leahy was born in Hampton, Iowa before moving to Ashland, Wisconsin. His education included the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, from which he graduated in 1897.

Midshipman Leahy was assigned to Oregon, then in the Pacific. He was in that battleship when she made her famous dash around Cape Horn in the spring of 1898 to participate in the Battle of Santiago on July 3 during the Spanish-American War. • William D. Leahy Books

  John L. Lewis labor leader, Lucas John Llewellyn Lewis (February 12, 1880 – June 11, 1969) was an American leader of organized labor who served as president of the United Mine Workers of America from 1920 to 1960. He was a major player in the history of coal mining. He was the driving force behind the founding of the Congress of Industrial Organizations, which established the United Steel Workers of America and helped organize millions of other industrial workers in the 1930s. After resigning as head of the CIO in 1941, he took the Mine Workers out of the CIO in 1942, then back into the American Federation of Labor (AFL) in 1944.

Lewis was born in Cleveland, Iowa, the son of Thomas H. Lewis and Ann Watkins Lewis, both of whom had immigrated from Wales. Cleveland was a company town built around a coal mine one mile east of Lucas.[1] Lewis began working in the Big Hill Mine at Lucas as a teenager. He began working around the countryside as a "ten day miner" in the western United States. He moved to Panama, Illinois, and then to Springfield, Illinois, in 1910 with other members of his family. • John L. Lewis Books

  A-L • M-W
• • Books about Famous People by State
• The Ultimate Bookstore
Review / Subscriptions to the Top100 Magazines
Nook Magazines
Nook Newspapers

Facebook Comments