USA Famous People of Illinois

Illinois Biographies

A-C ? D-H ? I-P ? R-Z
Franklin Pierce Adams author, Chicago • Franklin Pierce Adams Books
Jane Addams (1860 - 1935) Earned a Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts in helping the inner city poor; born in Cedarville. Jane Addams is best known as the founder of Hull-House, one of this country's first settlement houses, in the immigrant heart of late Victorian Chicago. This biography chronicles her privileged childhood in rural Illinois, her thirst for a first-class education, and her search for purpose and self-fulfillment, although constrained by notions of the proper role for females. It chronicles Addams' tireless work to better the lives of urban immigrants and her growing national and international role in social reform. The narrative of her family travails, deep friendships, reading, writing, travels, beliefs, and accolades and changing public perception of her causes is consummately woven with historical context of her times--from the Civil War Era to the Great Depression. The range of Addams' concerns, of her active social and political involvement, is astonishing. She belonged to and helped to found many organizations, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. She championed women's suffrage and equality and believed in their moral strength in reform.•
Gillian Anderson actress, Chicago Gillian Leigh Anderson (born August 9, 1968) is an Emmy, Golden Globe, and SAG winning actress, best known for her roles as FBI Special Agent Dana Scully in the American TV series The X-Files, Moro in the English dub of Princess Mononoke, Lily Bart in The House of Mirth and Lady Dedlock in the BBC TV series Bleak House.

Anderson was born in Chicago, Illinois, the daughter of Rosemary Anderson, a computer analyst, and Edward Anderson, who owned a film post-production company. Soon after her birth, her family moved to Puerto Rico for 15 months and then to Crouch End and finally Harringay in North London, so that her father could attend the London Film School. When Anderson was 11 years old, her family moved again, this time to Grand Rapids, Michigan. She attended Fountain Elementary and then City High-Middle School, a program for gifted students with a strong emphasis on the humanities; she graduated in 1986.

With her English accent and background, Anderson was mocked and felt out of place in the American Midwest and soon adopted a Midwest accent. To this day, her accent depends on her location - for instance, in an interview with Jay Leno she spoke in an American accent, but in an interview with Michael Parkinson she spoke with an English accent. In addition, she had her nose pierced in the early 1980s and dyed her hair various colors. Her high school classmates voted her as "Most Bizarre," "Class Clown", "Most Likely to go Bald" and "Most Likely to be Arrested." She was caught trying to jam the high school doors by filling their locks with glue on the eve of her graduation. • Gillian Anderson Books • Gillian Anderson Movies

Mary Astor actress, Quincy Mary Astor (May 3, 1906 – September 25, 1987) was an American actress. Most remembered for her role as Brigid O'Shaughnessy in The Maltese Falcon (1941) with Humphrey Bogart, Astor began her long motion picture career as a teenager in the silent movies of the early 1920s.

She eventually made a successful transition to talkies, but almost saw her career destroyed due to public scandal in the mid-1930s. She was sued for support by her parents and was later branded an adulterous wife by her ex-husband during a custody fight over her daughter. Overcoming these stumbling blocks in her private life, Astor went on to even greater success on the screen, eventually winning the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Sandra Kovak in The Great Lie (1941). She was a MGM contract player through most of the 1940s and continued to act in movies, on television and on stage until her retirement from the screen in 1964. Astor was the author of five novels. Her autobiography became a bestseller, as did her later book, A Life on Film, which was specifically about her career. • Mary Astor Books • Mary Astor Movies

Arnold O. Beckman inventor, Cullom • Arnold O. Beckman Books
Jack Benny comedian, Chicago (February 14, 1894 – December 26, 1974), born Benjamin Kubelsky, was an American comedian, vaudevillian, and actor for radio, television, and film. Widely recognized as one of the leading American entertainers of the 20th century, Benny played the role of someone comically "tight" with his money, insisting on remaining 39 years old despite his actual age, and often playing the violin badly.

Benny was known for his comic timing and his ability to get laughs with either a pregnant pause or a single expression, such as his signature exasperated "Well!" His radio and television programs, tremendously popular in the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s were a foundational influence on the situation comedy.

Benny was born on February 14, 1894, in Chicago, Illinois, and grew up in neighboring Waukegan, Illinois. He was the son of Meyer Kubelsky and Emma Sachs Kubelsky. Meyer was a Jewish saloonkeeper, later to become a haberdasher, who had emigrated to America from Poland. Emma had emigrated from Lithuania. Benny began studying the violin, an instrument that would become his trademark, when he was just six, with his parents' hopes that he would be a great classical violinist. He loved the violin, but hated practice. By age 14, he was playing in local dance bands as well as in his high school orchestra. Benny was a dreamer and a poor student and he was expelled from high school. He did equally badly in business school and at his father's trade. At age 17, he began playing the instrument in local vaudeville theaters for $7.50 a week. • Jack Benny Books • Jack Benny Films

Black Hawk (1767 - 1838) Sauk leader who led the Indians in the black Hawk War; born near Rock Island. One of the most respected personages in Native American history, BLACK HAWK (1767-1838), Sauk war chief of the Native American tribe in Illinois, was already a renowned name in the early 1800s, having fought for the British during the War of 1812. By 1832, when Black Hawk led warriors against encroaching European settlers on Sauk lands, he was so well-known that the engagement became known as the Black Hawk War. In his 1833 autobiography, Black Hawk-dictating to American newspaper editor JOHN BARTON PATTERSON (1805-1890)-tells his tale, from the "Indian wars" as he saw them to his capture, in 1832, by American forces and his subsequent meeting with President Andrew Jackson and grand tour of the United States. A provocative look at Black Hawk's wisdom and, ironically, his misunderstanding of the politics of the United States, this is a fascinating firsthand account of one of the foundational philosophical battles of American history. • Black Hawk Books
Harry A. Blackmun jurist, Nashville • Harry A. Blackmun Books
William E. Borah public official, Fairfield • William E. Borah Books
Ray Bradbury author, Waukegan • Ray Bradbury Books
Gwendolyn Brooks (1917 -  2000) The first African-American woman to win a Pulitzer Price; grew up in Chicago. Seventeen writers, educators, and close friends of the late poet contribute their praise through this collection of brief anecdotes from actual encounters with Gwendolyn Brooks. The contributors relate the poet's influences on their art, their lives, and the world; expressing their indebtedness for the revolutionary language of her poems, her universal maternity, and her outstanding kindness. Some of Brook's most influential poems are included such that this tribute keeps her words and wisdom alive.

About the Author
Jacqueline Bryant is an associate professor of English and affiliate faculty member of African American studies at Chicago State University; the author of The Foremother Figure in Early Black Women's Literature: Clothed in My Right Mind; and the editor of Gwendolyn Brooks' Maud Martha: A Critical Collection. Her works have appeared in African American Rhetoric, CLA Journal, Journal of Black Studies, and A Jubilee Project of Olivet Institutional Baptist Church. She lives in Chicago. •

William Jennings Bryan orator, politician, Salem • William Jennings Bryan Books
Edgar Rice Burroughs author, Chicago Edgar Rice Burroughs Books•
Marvin Camras inventor, Chicago Marvin Camras Books•
Gower Champion choreographer, Geneva • Gower Champion Books
John Chancellor TV commentator, Chicago John Chancellor Books•
Raymond Chandler writer, Chicago • Raymond Chandler Books
Hillary Rodham Clinton (1947 - ) Lawyer, politician, First Lady to President Bill Clinton, First Lady elected to the United States Senate; born in Chicago.

Picture-book biographies of presidential candidates are something of a trend these days (including two recent biographies of Barack Obama and one of John McCain by his daughter). Hillary Clinton may be out of this year?s race, but she was an important part of it, and this offers an appealing portrait of a person who pursued her goals with a single-mindedness others lack. Krull?s text has a lofty tone befitting the book?s subtitle, while Bates? pictures, with a stylish retro look, keep the focus on Clinton, capturing her in all her incarnations. Readers follow along as Hillary develops from a young girl who writes NASA that she wants to be an astronaut (NASA writes back that she can?t), to a teen inspired by an introduction to Martin Luther King Jr., to a woman involved in both career and causes. Bolstering the text is an effective five-page author?s note that divides the book by spreads and provides supplemental information. With inspiring messages sweeping across the pages (?Take the lead role in your own life?), this book champions both Clinton and hard work. Grades 1-3. --Ilene Cooper • Hillary Rodham Clinton Books

Jimmy Connors tennis champion, East St. Louis • Jimmy Connors Books
James Gould Cozzens author, Chicago • James Gould Cozzens Books
Cindy Crawford model, DeKalb Cynthia Ann "Cindy" Crawford (born February 20, 1966) is a former American model. Known for her trademark mole just above her lip, Crawford has adorned hundreds of magazine covers throughout her career. She was named #3 on VH1's 40 Hottest Hotties of the 90s. Her success at modeling made her a celebrity that has led to roles in television and film, and to work as a spokesperson.

Crawford was born in DeKalb, Illinois, the daughter of Jennifer Sue Crawford-Moluf (née Walker) and John Crawford. She was discovered at the age of 16 by a newspaper photographer. He noticed Cindy at work during her summer job of detasseling corn and took a picture of her. The photo and positive feedback she received were enough to convince her to take up modeling. She entered the Elite Model Management's Look of the Year contest at 17 and was the runner-up. The Elite modeling agency in Chicago then started representing her.

Crawford graduated from DeKalb High School in 1984, as valedictorian. She won an academic scholarship to study chemical engineering at Northwestern University, which she attended for only one quarter. She dropped out in order to pursue a full-time modeling career. After working for photographer Victor Skrebneski in Chicago, Cindy moved to Manhattan in 1986; she was signed with the Elite New York modeling agency. In 1987, she briefly appeared during the opening credits in the Michael J. Fox film The Secret of My Succe$s. • Cindy Crawford Books • Cindy Crawford Films

A-C ? D-H ? I-P ? R-Z