USA Famous People of Nebraska

Nebraska Biographies

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Grace Abbott (1878 - 1939) Social reformer that helped to write the Social Security Act; born in Grand Island. • Grace Abbott Books
Fred Astaire Actor famous for his dance steps; born in Omaha. (May 10, 1899 – June 22, 1987), born Frederick Austerlitz, was an American film and Broadway stage dancer, choreographer, singer and actor. His stage and subsequent film career spanned a total of 76 years, during which he made 31 musical films. He is particularly associated with Ginger Rogers, with whom he made ten films. According to another major innovator in filmed dance, Gene Kelly, "The history of dance on film begins with Astaire." Beyond film and television, many classical dancers and choreographers, Rudolf Nureyev, Mikhail Baryshnikov, and Jerome Robbins among them, also acknowledged his importance and influence.

He was named the fifth Greatest Male Star of All Time by the American Film Institute. Astaire was born in Omaha, Nebraska, the son of Johanna "Ann" (née Geilus) and Frederic "Fritz" Austerlitz (born September 8, 1868 as Friedrich Emanuel Austerlitz). Astaire's mother was born in the United States to Lutheran German immigrants from East Prussia and Alsace, while Astaire's father was born in Linz, Austria, to Jewish parents who had converted to Catholicism; Astaire became an Episcopalian in 1912. He was the younger brother of Adele Astaire. • Fred Astaire Books • Fred Astaire Movies

Max Baer boxer, Omaha • Max Baer Books
Bil Baird puppeteer, Grand Island William Britton Baird (August 15, 1904 – March 18, 1987), professional name Bil Baird, but often referred to as Bill Baird, was an American puppeteer of the mid- and late 20th century.

One of his better known creations was Charlemane the lion. He wrote The Art of the Puppet (1965) and also provided the puppets for Dark Shadows. Baird also created the expandable nose Peter Noone wore as Pinocchio in the 1968 musical adaptation of the Carlo Collodi story that aired on NBC as a Hallmark Hall of Fame special. Baird's choice of his professional name inspired Termite Terrace cartoon writer Edward Stacey Pierce III to add a second "D" to his own professional name, calling himself  Tedd Pierce. • Bil Baird Books • Bil Baird Films

George Beadle geneticist, Wahoo • George Beadle Books
Marlon Brando (April 3, 1924 – July 1, 2004) was an American actor whose body of work spanned over half a century. He was named the fourth Greatest Male Star of All Time by the American Film Institute, and part of Time magazine's Time 100: The Most Important People of the Century who won an Academy Award for The Godfather; born in Omaha History of the legendary actor's life.Kanfer (The Voodoo That They Did So Well: The Wizards Who Invented the New York Stage, 2007, etc.) portrays Brando as a man unconsciously at war with himself. He hated his profession but was unable to do anything else. Compelled by his gluttonous appetite for women, he indulged in numerous sexual conquests but was unable to maintain a long-term relationship. He was so uncomfortable with his physical beauty that he eventually destroyed it with junk food - induced obesity. The actor could be enormously difficult to work with, a moody, spiteful troublemaker, exacting swift vengeance for any perceived slight. Yet despite his hang-ups, Kanfer joins the ranks of biographers and fans who believe that Brando was the greatest actor of the 20th century. He had an irresistible intensity, and the force of his stage and screen presence warped many a script into orbit around his character, most famously with his portrayal of Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire • Marlon Brando Books • Marlon Brando Movies
Warren Buffett (1930 - ) Successful stock investor; born in Omaha. • Warren Buffett Books
John William “Johnny” Carson (October 23, 1925 – January 23, 2005) was an American television host and comedian, known as host of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson for 30 years (1962-92).

Born in Corning, Iowa, Carson grew up in Norfolk, Nebraska. He left college after one year to join the U.S. Navy, being commissioned an ensign. He joined the U.S. Navy on June 8, 1943, as an apprentice seaman enrolled in the V-5 program, which trained Navy and Marine pilots.

He hoped to train as a pilot, but was sent instead to Columbia University for midshipman training. He performed magic for classmates on the side. Commissioned an ensign late in the war, Carson was assigned to the USS Pennsylvania, a battleship on station in the Pacific. He was en route to the combat zone aboard a troopship when the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki brought the war to a close.

The Pennsylvania was torpedoed on August 12, 1945 and Carson reported for duty on the 14th – the last day of the war. Although he arrived too late for combat, he got a firsthand education in the consequences of war. The damaged warship sailed to Guam for repairs, and as the newest and most junior officer, Carson was assigned to supervise the removal of 20 dead sailors. He later served as a communications officer in charge of decoding encrypted messages. He recalls that the high point of his military career was performing a magic trick for Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal. • Johnny Carson Books • Johnny Carson Films

Dick Cavett TV entertainer, Gibbon Richard Alva "Dick" Cavett (born November 19, 1936) is a former American television talk show host known for his conversational style and in-depth discussion of issues. Cavett appeared on a regular basis on nationally-broadcast television in the United States in five consecutive decades, the 1960s through the 2000s, a feat matched only by Johnny Carson. (Larry King's television talk programs in the 1960s and 1970s were limited to broadcast on local stations in Miami, WPST and WTVJ.)

In recent years Cavett has written a blog for the New York Times, promoted DVDs of his former shows, and hosted replays of his classic TV interviews with Groucho Marx, Katharine Hepburn and others on Turner Classic Movies channel.

Cavett was born at Good Samaritan Hospital in Kearney, Nebraska, the son of Erabel "Era" (née Richards) and Alva B. Cavett, both teachers. When grilled by Lucille Ball on his own show about his heritage, he said he was "Scottish, Irish, English, and possibly partly French, and, and uh, a dose of German". He also mentioned that one grandfather "came over" from England, and the other from Wales. • Dick Cavett Books • Dick Cavett Films

Grover Cleveland Alexander (1887 - 1950) One of the greatest pitchers in baseball history; born in Elba.• Grover Cleveland Books
Montgomery Clift actor, Omaha - Edward Montgomery Clift (October 17, 1920 – July 23, 1966) was an American film actor. He was known for his brooding, sensitive working-class character roles. He received four Academy Award nominations during his career.

Clift was born in Omaha, Nebraska, a son of William Brooks Clift, a vice-president of Omaha National Bank, and his wife, the former Ethel Fogg. Clift had a fraternal twin sister, Roberta (aka Ethel), and a brother, William Brooks Clift Jr (born 1918), who had an illegitimate son with actress Kim Stanley.

The future actor's mother, who was reportedly adopted at the age of one year, nicknamed "Sunny", spent part of her life and her husband's money seeking to establish the Southern lineage that reportedly had been revealed to her at age 18 by the physician who delivered her, Dr. Edward Montgomery, after whom she named her younger son. According to Clift biographer Patricia Bosworth, Ethel was the illegitimate daughter of Woodbury Blair and Maria Anderson, whose marriage had been annulled before her birth and subsequent adoption. This would make her a granddaughter of Montgomery Blair, Postmaster General under President Abraham Lincoln, and a great-granddaughter of Francis Preston Blair, a journalist and adviser to President Andrew Jackson, and Levi Woodbury, an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. None of these relationships, however, has been proven and remain speculative in the absence of documentation. • Montgomery Clift Books • Montgomery Clift Movies

James Coburn actor, Laurel • James Harrison Coburn, Jr. (August 31, 1928 – November 18, 2002) was an American film and television actor who appeared in nearly 70 films and made over 100 television appearances in his 45-year career. Perhaps best remembered for his natural charisma and charm, he played a wide range of roles and won an Academy Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for his performance in Affliction (1998).

Coburn was born in Laurel, Nebraska, the son of Mylet S. (née Johnson) and James Harrison Coburn, Sr., a garage mechanic. His maternal grandparents were immigrants from Sweden. He grew up in Compton, California, and attended Compton Junior College. He enlisted in the US Army in 1950 serving as a disc jockey on an Army radio station in Texas and narrated Army training films in Mainz, Germany. Attending Los Angeles City College he studied acting with Jeff Corey and Stella Adler then made his stage debut at the La Jolla Playhouse in Billy Budd. Coburn was selected for a Remington Products razor commercial when he was able to shave off eleven days of beard growth in less than 60 seconds while joking that he had more teeth to show on camera than the other 12 candidates for the part. • James Coburn Books • James Coburn Movies

Sandy Dennis actress, Hastings Sandra Dale “Sandy” Dennis (April 27, 1937 – March 2, 1992) was an American theater and film actress.

Dennis made her television debut in 1956 in The Guiding Light and her film debut in Splendor in the Grass (1961). However, she was more committed to following a career in the theater. She won consecutive Tony Awards for her performances in A Thousand Clowns and Any Wednesday. She won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Honey, the fragile, neurotic young wife of George Segal, in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966). She followed this with well-received performances in Up the Down Staircase (1967), The Fox (1967), Sweet November (1968) and The Out-of-Towners (1970). In 1964, she appeared in the television episode "Don't Mention My Name in Sheboygan" of Craig Stevens's CBS drama, Mr. Broadway. • Sandy Dennis Books • Sandy Dennis Movies

Mignon Eberhart author, Lincoln • Mignon Eberhart Books
Harold Edgerton inventor, Fremont • Harold Edgerton Books
Ruth Etting singer, actress, David City (November 23, 1897 – September 24, 1978) was an American singing star and actress of the 1920s and 1930s, who had over sixty hit recordings and worked in stage, radio, and film. Her signature tunes were "Shine On Harvest Moon," "Ten Cents a Dance," and "Love Me or Leave Me." Her other popular recordings included "Button Up Your Overcoat," "Mean to Me," "Exactly Like You," and "Shaking the Blues Away."

Born in David City, Nebraska, she left home at age seventeen to attend art school in Chicago. Her job designing costumes at the Marigold Gardens nightclub led to employment singing and dancing in the chorus there. She became a featured vocalist at the nightclub, and married gangster Martin "Moe the Gimp" Snyder on July 12, 1922. He managed her career, booking radio appearances, and eventually had her signed to an exclusive recording contract with Columbia Records.

She made her Broadway debut in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1927, and appeared in a number of other hit shows in rapid succession, including Simple Simon and Whoopee!. • Ruth Etting Books • Ruth Etting Movies • Ruth Etting Discography

Henry Fonda (1905 - 1982) Actor who won an Academy Award for On Golden Pond; born in Grand Island. This book is pure pleasure from beginning to end. It feels like returning home to a wonderful, favourite place after a long time away, to find the hearth fires lighted and the lovely, familiar house redolent with the aroma of the evening meal. The musical sound of loved one's voices can be heard in the next room as the fire crackles...This is a warm, intimate visit with Henry Fonda, beginning long before he was famous. It is written by Howard Teichmann, as the stories were shared with him by Henry Fonda. Henry Fonda had always refused requests in past to authorize a biography, but he came to like and trust Mr. Teichmann and they created a beautiful tableau together. • Henry Fonda Books • Henry Fonda Films
Jay W. Forrester inventor, Climax • Jay W. Forrester Books
Bob Gibson baseball player, Omaha • Bob Gibson Books
Hoot Gibson actor, Tememah (August 6, 1892 – August 23, 1962) was an American rodeo champion and a pioneer cowboy film actor, director and producer.

Born Edmund Richard Gibson in Tekamah, Nebraska, he learned to ride a horse while still a very young boy. His family moved to California when he was seven years old. As a teenager he worked with horses on a ranch, which led to competition on bucking broncos at area rodeos. Given the nickname "Hoot Owl" by co-workers, the name evolved to just "Hoot".

In 1910, film director Francis Boggs was looking for experienced cowboys to appear in his silent film short, Pride of the Range. Gibson and another future star of Western films, Tom Mix, were hired. Gibson made a second film for Boggs in 1911. After the director was killed by a deranged employee, Gibson was hired by director Jack Conway to appear in his 1912 Western, His Only Son.

Acting for Gibson was then a minor sideline and he continued competing in rodeos to make a living. In 1912 he won the all-around championship at the famous Pendleton Round-Up in Pendleton, Oregon and the steer roping World Championship at the Calgary Stampede. • Hoot Gibson Books • Hoot Gibson Movies

Joyce C. Hall (1891 - 1982) Founder of Hallmark Cards; born in David City. • Joyce C. Hall Books
Howard Hanson composer, conductor, Wahoo (October 28, 1896 – February 26, 1981) was an American composer, conductor, educator, music theorist, and champion of American classical music. Director for 40 years of the Eastman School of Music, he built a high quality school and provided opportunities for commissioning and performing American music. He won a Pulitzer Prize for one of his works and received numerous other awards.

Hanson was born in Wahoo, Nebraska to Swedish parents, Hans and Hilma (Eckstrom) Hanson. In his youth he studied music with his mother. Later, he studied at Luther College in Wahoo, receiving a diploma in 1911, then at the Institute of Musical Art in New York City, where he studied with the composer and music theorist Percy Goetschius in 1914. Afterwards he attended Northwestern University, where he studied composition with church music expert Peter Lutkin and Arne Oldberg in Chicago. Throughout his education, Hanson studied piano, cello and trombone. Hanson earned his BA degree in music from Northwestern University in 1916, where he began his teaching career as a teacher's assistant. • Howard Hanson Books • Howard Hanson Discography

Leland Hayward producer, Nebraska City (September 13, 1902 – March 18, 1971) was a Hollywood and Broadway agent and theatrical producer. He produced the original Broadway stage productions of Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific and The Sound of Music.

Hayward was born in Nebraska City, Nebraska, the grandson of Monroe Leland Hayward, a senator from Nebraska. His parents, William Hayward and Sarah Tappin, divorced when he was nine. He studied at Princeton University, but dropped out. He took on a number of jobs including newspaper reporter and press agent, but eventually became a talent agent in Hollywood. In the early forties, he handled about 150 artists including Fred Astaire who had been his first client, James Stewart, Ernest Hemingway, Boris Karloff, Judy Garland, Ginger Rogers, as well as the two former husbands of his wife, Henry Fonda and William Wyler. Some of his female clients he dated as well, including Greta Garbo and Katharine Hepburn.

In 1945 Hayward sold his talent agency and became a Broadway producer in New York. His 1949 production of South Pacific was a great success. He produced both the play and the movie Mister Roberts. • Leland Hayward Books • Leland Hayward Films

David Janssen actor, Naponee (March 27, 1931 – February 13, 1980) was an American film and television actor who is best known for his starring role as Dr. Richard Kimble in the television series The Fugitive (1963–1967).

Janssen was born David Harold Meyer in Naponee, Nebraska, to banker Harold Edward Meyer (May 12, 1906 – November 4, 1990) and Berniece Graf (May 11, 1910 – November 26, 1995). They were married on May 22, 1930, in Nebraska and divorced in 1935. Following his parents' divorce, his mother moved with five-year-old David to Los Angeles, California. She eventually married Eugene Janssen (February 18, 1918 – March 30, 1996) on September 29, 1940 in Los Angeles. His father married Reva Kroeger in 1941. David used his stepfather's name after he entered show business as a child. He attended Fairfax High School in Los Angeles. His first film part was at the age of thirteen, and by his twenty-fifth birthday, he had appeared in twenty films and served two years as an enlisted man in the United States Army. During his Army days Janssen became friends with fellow soldiers Martin Milner and Clint Eastwood. • David Janssen Books • David Janssen Films

Susette La Flesche artist, Omaha • Susette La Flesche Books
Francis La Flesche ethnologist, Omaha • Francis La Flesche Books
Frank W. Leahy football coach, O'Neill • Frank W. Leahy Books
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