USA Famous People of Wisconsin

Wisconsin Biographies

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Don Ameche (1908 - 1993) Actor who won an Academy Award for his performance in Cocoon; born in Kenosha. It's about time somebody wrote a book about Don Ameche. He was a huge star in movies and on radio for many years. He was a top star at Twentieth Century-Fox and appeared in such classic films as MIDNIGHT, THE STORY OF ALEXANDER GRAHAM BELL (remember the old joke about Don Ameche inventing the telephone?), HEAVEN CAN WAIT, and so many others in the golden era of Hollywood and then later had a second career in films in such 80's hits as TRADING PLACES and COCOON. On radio, who will forget THE BICKERSONS? But his is a career that began in vaudeville and included all aspects of show business. This book gives a behind the scenes look at the more complex private man. Long married and yet long estranged from his wife. We see the peaks and valleys of any long running Hollywood career and in Ameche's case he made a remarkable late life comeback. It's all here and told with style and sensitivity--with lots of great pictures. Enjoy!  • Don Ameche Books • Don Ameche Movies
Roy Chapman Andrews (January 26, 1884 – March 11, 1960) naturalist and explorer, Beloit Roy Chapman Andrews was never much of a scholar, and anyone who looked at his high school report card might have foretold an undistinguished future. But, from an early age, Andrews's ambitions lay outside the social norm; an ardent fan of Robinson Crusoe and a devoted outdoorsman, Andrews wanted nothing more than to be an adventurer. He got his chance when he talked his way onto the staff of the American Museum of Natural History in 1906, under whose auspices, 15 years later, he was to mount the first of his central Asian expeditions. This decade-long program of exploration took Andrews and his team into the heart of the Gobi, one of the last uncharted regions on earth. • Roy Chapman Andrews Books
John Bardeen (May 23, 1908 – January 30, 1991) inventor, Madison The fact that he won an unprecedented two Nobel prizes in physics (in 1956 and 1972) may be the only extraordinary thing about John Bardeen. He grew up in a middle-class home in Wisconsin with his doctor father, interior designer mother and four siblings. He apparently worked hard, cared deeply about his family, loved sports, was, by all accounts, a gracious and likable colleague and devoted himself to his graduate students. He was also tenacious in pursuit of answers to complex problems in his discipline. Working with William Shockley and Walter Brattain, Bardeen developed the world's first transistor in 1947 and, ten years later, with J. Robert Schrieffer and Leon Cooper, he created a theory of superconductivity. Hoddeson (Crystal Fire) and Daitch attempt a portrait of this unassuming Midwesterner, but offer little more than a rough sketch. As they write in their preface, "We are painfully aware that this book merely scratches the surface of its subject." Little insight is offered beyond descriptions of Bardeen's friends, co-workers and activities. The authors attempt to provide a conceptual framework by examining "the meaning of true scientific genius," but this is largely done in a superficial, 17-page epilogue. Bardeen deserves more public recognition than he received during his life; this book may help in some measure, but it won't bring readers any closer to the man himself. • John Bardeen Books
Richard I. Bong (September 24, 1920 – August 6, 1945) America's leading air ace during World War II; born in Superior. Wisconsin-born Richard Bong was the highest-rated flying ace in World War II, famous for having shot down 40 Japanese planes during a 3 year career as a fighter pilot. The recipient of a Silver Star and a Congressional Medal of Honor, Bong was killed after the war in a flying accident just months after marrying the love of his life, Marge Vattendahl.

Pete Barnes is a National Board certified teacher who teaches fifth grade social studies, science, and math in New Albany, Ohio. He has written articles for youth audiences in the American history magazine Cobblestone, for educators in the magazine Instructor, and for fellow teachers in the magazine Teaching K-8. Pete has a bachelor's degree from The College of William and Mary and a Masters degree in education from The Ohio State University. This is his second book in the Badger Biographies series. • Richard I. Bong Books

Carrie Catt  (January 9, 1859 – March 9, 1947) woman suffragist, Ripon Grade 6-9-This appears to be the first biography of Catt written for a young adult audience. Unfortunately, Somervill's obvious respect and sympathy for her subject fail to enliven the dry text. The suffragist's long life clearly encompassed vast changes in personal, political, and societal arenas, and her active participation in working for change is outlined here. As well as describing Catt's early years, the author provides background on the social issues of the times. This introductory material flows well, but it is followed by a chronological history of Catt's years of work in a variety of organizations that is considerably less effective. Despite Somervill's efforts, it may be difficult for those without a deeper understanding of the women's suffrage movement, its organizations, and its internal rivalries to follow the many events described. Several poor-quality, black-and-white photos, mainly portraits of Catt and her colleagues, accompany the text. • Carrie Catt Books
Seymour Cray (September 28, 1925 – October 5, 1996) Developed the super-computer; born in Chippewa Falls.Before Bill Gates ever tinkered with an operating system, one name represented the cutting edge of computing technology: Seymour Cray. He pioneered the supercomputer and honed that edge through each model he engineered, including those built under the auspices of two companies he founded-Control Data Corporation and Cray Research. In this engrossing study, Murray, a senior editor at Design News magazine, follows the development and influence of the supercomputer from its origins as a WWII codebreaking machine through its Cold War application in developing nuclear weapons to its modern-day uses in weather research and other fields. Along the way, he shows clearly how the supercomputer brought us from the age of punchcards and vacuum tubes to that of transistors and, now, silicon chips. • Seymour Cray Books
Ellen Corby (June 3, 1911 – April 14, 1999) actress, Racine an American actress. She is most widely remembered for the role of "Grandma Esther Walton" on the CBS television series The Waltons, for which she won three Emmy Awards. Corby began her career as a writer, working on the Paramount Western Twilight on the Trail and 1947's Hoppy's Holiday. She landed her first acting job in 1945, playing a maid in RKO's Cornered.

In 1948 she received an Academy Award nomination and a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress playing a lovelorn aunt in I Remember Mama (1948). Over the next four decades, she worked steadily in both film and television, often playing maids, secretaries, waitresses or gossips. She was a favorite in western films (including Shane, 1953) and had a recurring role as "Henrietta Porter" in the western television series Trackdown (1957 – 1959). Other television appearances included Wagon Train, The Rifleman, I Love Lucy, Tightrope, Meet McGraw (as a maid), The Virginian, Channing, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Get Smart, Gomer Pyle, The Beverly Hillbillies and The Andy Griffith Show. • Ellen Corby Books • Ellen Corby Films

William Defoe (born July 22, 1955) actor, Appleton an American film and stage actor, and a founding member of the experimental theatre company The Wooster Group. He is best known for his roles in To Live and Die in L.A., Platoon, The Last Temptation of Christ, Shadow of the Vampire, Finding Nemo, Mississippi Burning, The Boondock Saints, American Psycho, the Spider-Man films and Antichrist.

Dafoe met director Elizabeth LeCompte at the Performance Group. LeCompte and Dafoe were part of the restructuring of The Performance Group and became professional collaborators and founding members of The Wooster Group, and began a relationship. Their son, Jack, was born in 1982. The pair eventually split in 2004. Dafoe married Italian director and actress Giada Colagrande on March 25, 2005.

Dafoe's brother, Donald, is a transplant surgeon and researcher. • All William Defoe Books • William Defoe Movies

Tyne Daly (born February 21, 1946), Madison an American stage and screen actress, Daly was born Ellen Tyne Daly in Madison, Wisconsin into a creative family; she is the daughter of actor James Daly. Her younger brother is actor Timothy Daly. She is also related to former game show host and newsman John Charles Daly. Her sister-in-law, Amy Van Nostrand, is also an actress.

Widely known for her work as Detective Lacey in the television series Cagney and Lacey. She won the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical in Gypsy in 1989. Daly has been identified as a feminist role model, particularly based on her television roles in Cagney and Lacey and Judging Amy. Her role as Lacey showed a woman detective at a time where the idea was still novel; the show was also novel in presenting Lacey primarily in a work environment, rather than always showing the character at home. She has also been outspoken about maintaining a natural appearance as she ages, and for the run of Judging Amy, Daly's hair was shown in its naturally gray state • Tyne Daly Books • Tyne Daly Movies

August Derleth (February 24, 1909 – July 4, 1971)  Author; born in Sauk City. an American writer and anthologist. Though best remembered as the first publisher of the writings of H. P. Lovecraft, and for his own contributions to the Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos genre of horror, Derleth was a prolific writer in several genres, including regional writings, historical fiction, poetry, detective fiction, science fiction, and biography.

Derleth, a Guggenheim Fellow in 1938, considered his most serious work to be his ambitious Sac Prairie Saga, a series of fiction, historical fiction, poetry, and non-fiction naturalist works designed to memorialize life in the Wisconsin he knew. Derleth was a pioneering naturalist and conservationist in his writing. The son of William Julius Derleth and his wife Rose Louise Volk, he grew up in Sauk City, Wisconsin. He was educated in local parochial and public high school. Derleth wrote his first fiction at age 13. Forty rejected stories and three years later, according to anthologist Jim Stephens, he sold his first story, "Bat's Belfrey", to Weird Tales magazine. Derleth wrote throughout his four years at the University of Wisconsin, where he received a B.A. in 1930. • August Derleth Books

Jeanne Dixon  (January 5, 1904– January 25, 1997) born in Medford was one of the best-known American astrologers and psychics of the 20th century, due to her syndicated newspaper astrology column, some well-publicized predictions and a best-selling biography Dixon was born as Lydia Emma Pinckert to German immigrants, Gerhart and Emma Pinckert, in Medford, Wisconsin, but raised in Missouri and California. Dixon's birthdate is often reported as 1918 and Dixon would offer this date to reporters, at one point even producing a passport to this effect, but she once testified in a deposition that she was born in 1910. An investigation by a reporter for the National Observer, who interviewed family members and examined official records, indicates that Dixon was born in 1904. • Jeanne Dixon Books
Chris Farley (February 15, 1964 – December 18, 1997) actor, Madison Best of the Month, May 2008: You don't have to be a rabid Chris Farley fan to enjoy The Chris Farley Show, an honest, endearing oral biography about a truly funny, deeply troubled addict that is as likely to make you cry as it is to make you laugh out loud. Made up mostly of excerpts from intimate interviews with family, childhood friends, famous castmates, and writers, The Chris Farley Show is a vivid portrait of a performer, told plainly by the people who knew him best at every stage of his life. These hundred or so interviews piece together the complex back-story of a hugely talented, big-hearted guy who could make the funniest people in the business laugh with "just a look," but whose vulnerability and "puppy dog personality" charmed friends and family into letting him off the hook--preventing him from getting help when he needed it most. Funny and heart wrenching, The Chris Farley Show is a must-read for fans of Farley and of the people who loved him (including David Spade, Chris Rock, Tim Meadows), as well as anyone looking for a glimpse into life on the stage.• Chris Farley Books • Chris Farley Films
Zona Gale (26 August 1874 – 27 December 1938) was an American author and playwright, born in Portage Gale was born in Portage, Wisconsin, which she often used as a setting in her writing. She attended Wayland Academy in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, and later entered the University of Wisconsin–Madison, from which she received a Bachelor of Literature degree in 1895, and four years, later a master's degree.

n 1912, Gale moved back to Portage, which she would call home for the rest of her life, although making trips to New York. In 1920, she published the novel Miss Lulu Bett , which depicts life in the Midwestern United States. She adapted it as a play, which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1921. In the same year, Gale took an active role in the creation of the Wisconsin Equal Rights Law, which prohibits discrimination against women. In 1928 at the age of fifty-four she married William L. Breese, also of Portage. • Zona Gale Books •

Eric Heiden (born June 14, 1958) ) Five-time gold medallist speed skater of the 1980 Winter Olympics; is an American former long track speed skater who won all the men's speed skating races, and thus an unprecedented five individual gold medals, and set four Olympic records and one world record at the 1980 Winter Olympic Games in Lake Placid, New York, United States. He also took the Athlete's Oath at those same games. He was born in Madison, Wisconsin.

After starting his undergraduate education at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, Heiden earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Stanford University in 1984 and earned his M.D., also from Stanford, in 1991. He completed orthopedic residency training at Cal-Davis in 1996, and after a year at a sports medicine clinic in Birmingham, Alabama, returned to California to practice as an orthopedic surgeon in Sacramento. At that time, he also served as team physician for the NBA's Sacramento Kings and the Sacramento Monarchs of the WNBA. In 2002 and 2006, he was team physician for the U.S. Olympic Speedskating Team. He opened a sports medicine-based practice at The Orthopedic Specialty Hospital (TOSH) in Murray, Utah and has recently expanded Heiden Orthopaedics with an additional office in Park City, Utah. • Eric Heiden Books

Woody Herman  (May 16, 1913 – October 29, 1987) band leader, Milwaukee born Woodrow Charles Herman, better known as Woody Herman, was an American jazz clarinetist, alto and soprano saxophonist, singer, and big band leader. Leading various groups called "The Herd," Herman was one of the most popular of the 1930s and '40s bandleaders. His bands basically played jazz and blues, often verging into rather experimental fare for the eras in which the bands were playing. Concord Music Group's website mentions these awards won by the various Woody Herman orchestras: "Voted best swing band in 1945 Down Beat poll; Silver Award by critics in 1946 and 1947 Esquire polls; won Metronome poll, band division, 1946 and 1953; won NARAS Grammy Award for Encore as best big band jazz album of 1963; won NARAS Grammy Award for Giant Steps as best big band jazz album of 1973." Woody Herman was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1987. • Woody Herman Books • Woody Herman Films • Woody Herman Discography
Loretta Sell Hildegarde (February 1, 1906 - July 29, 2005) singer, Adell an American cabaret singer, best known for the song "Darling, Je Vous Aime Beaucoup." She was born Hildegarde Loretta Sell in Adell, Wisconsin, and raised in New Holstein, Wisconsin, as a Roman Catholic in a family of German extraction. Sell worked in vaudeville and traveling shows throughout her career, appearing across the United States and Europe. She was known for 70 years as "The Incomparable Hildegarde," a title bestowed on her by columnist Walter Winchell.  She trained at Marquette University's College of Music in the 1920s. From the 1950s through the 1970s, in addition to her cabaret performances and record albums, she appeared in a number of television specials and toured with the national company of the Stephen Sondheim musical Follies. Her autobiography, Over 50 .... So What!, was published by Doubleday in 1961. • Loretta Sell Hildegarde Books •
Harry Houdini (March 24, 1874 – October 31, 1926, born Erik Weisz later spelled Ehrich Weiss) Famous magician and escape artist; from Appleton. was a Hungarian American magician and escapologist, stunt performer, actor and film producer. He also was a famous skeptic who set out to expose frauds purporting to be supernatural phenomena.

Harry Houdini grew up with four brothers and one sister. He is famous for escaping safes, handcuffs and walking on tightropes. He was introduced to magic at the age of seven. On his journey Harrry Houdini became one of the most famous magicians in the world. Houdini performed for more than one million people in his lifetime.

In 1893, while performing with his brother "Dash" at Coney Island as "The Houdini Brothers", Harry met fellow performer Wilhelmina Beatrice (Bess) Rahner, whom he married. Bess replaced Dash in the act, which became known as "The Houdinis". For the rest of Houdini's performing career, Bess would work as his stage assistant. • Harry Houdini Books

Thomas Hulce (born December 6, 1953)  an American actor and producer perhaps best known for playing Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in the feature film Amadeus. Hulce was born in Whitewater, Wisconsin and raised in Plymouth, Michigan. His mother, Joanna (nιe Winkleman), sang with Phil Spitalny's All-Girl Orchestra, and his father, Raymond Albert Hulce, worked for the Ford Motor Company He wanted to be a singer as a small child, but switched to acting when his voice changed.

He graduated from Interlochen Arts Academy and then obtained his degree from North Carolina School of the Arts.

Hulce has been nominated for four Golden Globes, two Helen Hayes Awards and has won an Emmy Award for his performance in The Heidi Chronicles, as well as his aforementioned Tony award for producing the musical Spring Awakening. • Thomas Hulce Books •

George F. Kennan (February 16, 1904 – March 17, 2005) diplomat, Milwaukeewas an American advisor, diplomat, political scientist, and historian, best known as "the father of containment" and as a key figure in the emergence of the Cold War. He later wrote standard histories of the relations between Russia and the Western powers. During his career, Kennan received a number of awards and honors. As a scholar and writer, Kennan was a two-time recipient of both the Pulitzer Prizes and the National Book Award, and had also received the Francis Parkman Prize, the Ambassador Book Award and the Bancroft Prize. Among Kennan's numerous other awards and distinctions were the Testimonial of Loyal and Meritorious Service from the Department of State (1953), Princeton's Woodrow Wilson Award for Distinguished Achievement in the Nation's Service (1976), the Order of the Pour le Mιrite (1976), the Albert Einstein Peace Prize (1981), the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade (1982), the American Academy of Arts and Letters Gold Medal (1984), the Franklin D. Roosevelt Foundation Freedom from Fear Medal (1987), the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1989), the Distinguished Service Award from the Department of State (1994), and the Library of Congress Living Legend (2000). Kennan had also received 29 honorary degrees and was honored in his name with the George F. Kennan Chair in National Security Strategy at the National War College and the George F. Kennan Professorship at the Institute for Advanced Study • George F. Kennan Books
Julius Frank Anthony Kuczynski (February 18, 1914 – March 7, 2000), known professionally as Pee Wee King (February 18, 1914 – March 7, 2000), Singer and an important figure in country music; born in Milwaukee was an American country music songwriter and recording artist best known for co-writing "The Tennessee Waltz."

He was born in Milwaukee to a Polish American family and lived in Abrams, Wisconsin, during his youth. King learned to play fiddle from his father, who was a professional polka musician. In the 1930s, he toured and made cowboy movies with Gene Autry. King joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1937.

In 1946, while the bandleader of the Golden West Cowboys, King, together with the band's vocalist, Redd Stewart, composed "The Tennessee Waltz," inspired by "The Kentucky Waltz" by bluegrass musician Bill Monroe. King and Stewart first recorded "The Tennessee Waltz" in 1948, and it went on to become a country music standard.

King's other songs included "Slow Poke" and "You Belong to Me." His songs introduced waltzes, polkas, and cowboy songs to country music. • Pee Wee King Books •

Robert Marion La Follette, Sr. nicknamed "Fighting Bob" La Follette (June 14, 1855 – June 20, 1925) was an American politician who served as a U.S. Congressman, the 20th Governor of Wisconsin (1901–1906), and Republican Senator from Wisconsin (1906–1925). He ran for President of the United States as the nominee of his own Progressive Party in 1924, carrying Wisconsin and 17% of the national popular vote. politician, Primrose

This reference work analyzes all of the major speeches of one of the most significant politicians of the first part of the 20th century. La Follette's oratory made him a driving force in American politics. As governor of Wisconsin, U.S. senator, and political reformer, he gave many key speeches, the texts of which are provided in this book. Burgchardt shows how Senator La Follette used melodramatic scenarios to enlist citizens in his reform crusade against the "gravest danger" that he foresaw in the United States. The reference also provides a chronology of his major speeches and a bibliography of primary and secondary works. • Robert Marion La Follette, Sr. Books

Wladziu Valentino Liberace (May 16, 1919 – February 4, 1987), better known by only his last name Liberace, was a famous American entertainer and pianist. During the 1950s–1970s (when Elvis Presley and The Beatles were at the height of their popularity), he was the highest paid entertainer in the world Famous musician ;born in West Allis.

"Don't be misled by this flamboyant exterior. Underneath I remain the sameAa simple boy from Milwaukee." Thus spake Liberace in one of his more modest moments. Even as a child, Liberace was well liked and, well, bigger than life; when he came to a high school party dressed as Greta Garbo, he received no flak from classmates. Born Walter Liberace in 1919, the pianist and entertainer began playing clubs in the 1930s, and by the early '40s began cultivating the extravagant performance style (e.g., a Strauss waltz version of "Home on the Range") and the unrestrained costumes for which he became famous. He soon became a cultural icon who attracted adoration from middle-brow, usually female audiences as well as overt antagonism, often fueled by homophobia. In this absorbing and insightful biography, Pyron (Recasting: Gone with the Wind in American Culture) charts more than the life of the performer; he uses that life to reflect on how artifice, camp, gender, homosexuality, gay sensibility and homophobia shape American popular culture. • Wladziu Valentino Liberace Books • Liberace Movies & TV • Liberace Discography

Allen Ludden (October 5, 1917 – June 9, 1981) was an American television personality, emcee and game show host. tv host, born in Mineral Point Ludden hosted many game shows, including the GE College Bowl, but he was most well-known for hosting both the daytime and prime time versions of Password on CBS and ABC between 1961 and 1975. His opening TV catch phrase, "Hi doll", was directed toward his beloved real-life mother-in-law, Tess White, mother of Betty White. He ended Password with a "password of the day", and then "So long, see you tomorrow, I hope." Ludden began hosting an updated version of the game, Password Plus, on NBC, in 1979, but chemotherapy treatments for stomach cancer forced him off the show in late October 1980. Bill Cullen filled in as host during this time. Other shows hosted by Ludden include Liar's Club, Win With the Stars, and Stumpers! He also hosted the original pilot for The Joker's Wild and hosted a talk-variety show, Allen Ludden's Gallery. • Allen Ludden Books • Allen Ludden Movies & TV
Alfred Lunt actor, Milwaukee (August 12, 1892 – August 3, 1977) was an American stage director and actor, often identified for an incomparable, long-time professional partnership with his wife, actress Lynn Fontanne. Broadway's Lunt-Fontanne theatre was named for them.

The careers of Lunt and Fontanne span 60 years of theater from vaudeville, through the Depression and the Theatre Guild, and beyond, through Peter Brook's dazzling production of The Visit in the late 1950s. The Lunts were the premier husband-wife acting team on the English-speaking stage from their marriage in 1922 through their retirement in 1972. This well-researched and scholarly study makes extensive use of the Lunts' papers and presents a thorough picture of their personalities, development, and impact. Brown is especially good on the uniqueness of their style. The story extends well beyond the central characters to engage the reader in the history of theater ideas and practices during this period. Highly recommended. Thomas E. Luddy, English Dept., Salem State Coll., Mass. • Alfred Lunt Books • Alfred Lunt Movies

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