Kansas Legends

The People Who Inspire Us.

“Buck” O’Neil

Kansas City, MO

First baseman and manager in the Negro American League with the Kansas City Monarchs. First African-American coach in Major League Baseball.

“Buster” Keaton

Piqua, KS

Vaudeville and silent film star.

Aaron Douglas

Topeka, KS

An artists dubbed "the father of Black American art."

Adolph F. Rupp

Halstead, KS

"The Baron of Basketball"; retired in 1972 as the basketball coach with the most wins in NCAA history with 876 victories.

Alfred Landon

West Middlesex, PA

Governor of Kansas 1933-1937 and ran unsuccessfully for President on the 1936 Republican ticket.

Amelia Earhart

Atchison, KS

Aviator that became the first woman passenger to cross the Atlantic by plane.

Barry Sanders

Wichita, KS

Record-breaking NFL football player with the Detroit Lions and 1988 Heisman Trophy winner.

Bennie Moten

Kansas City, MO

Ragtime oriented pianist and bandleader; helped establish the Kansas City jazz style with his Kansas City Orchestra.

Big Joe Turner & Pete Johnson

Kansas City, MO

Achieved national recognition with their participation in John Hammond's "Spirituals to Swing" concert in 1938 and became giants in boogie woogie in the 30's and 40's.

Carol Marinovich

Kansas City, KS

First woman mayor of Kansas City, Kansas.

Charles “Yardbird” Parker

Parsons, KS

Alto saxophonist jazz musician

Charles Curtis

Topeka, KS

The first Native American Vice President of the United States. Curtis served under Herbert Hoover as the nation’s 31st Vice President.

Clarence D. Batchelor

Osage City, KS

Pulitzer Prize winning political cartoonist.

Clyde Tombaugh

Burdett, KS

Astronomer who discovered Pluto in 1930; studied the night sky from his boyhood home in Burdett, Kan.

Clyde Vernon Cessna

Wichita, Kan.

Clyde Vernon Cessna founded the Cessna Aircraft Company.

Coleman “Hawk” Hawkins

St. Joseph, MO

"Father of the Jazz Sax." Attended college in Topeka, Kan. and was discovered in Kansas City in 1921.

Damond Runyun

Manhattan, KS

Noted as a sports writer and columnist, Runyun also wrote short stories, some of which included in the book, Guys and Dolls, later a successful Broadway musical and movie.

David Blanton

Wichita, KS

Invented the autopilot in 1954.

Dr. James Naismith

University of Kansas

Inventor, professor & physician at Kansas University that invented the game of basketball and its 13 original rules; known as the "Father of Basketball."

Dwight D. Eisenhower

Abilene, KS

Served as the 34th President of the United States (1953-1961) and Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe during World War II.

Edward Dwight, Jr.

Kansas City, KS

The first African-American trained as an astronaut and a well-known sculptor whose many works highlight the achievements of other Black pioneers and leaders.

Elizabeth “Grandma” Layton

Wellsville, KS

An artist that healed through creativity. Layton began creating art at the age of 68 gaining national and international recognition with a one-woman show at the Smithsonian Institution. www.elizabethlayton.com.

Emmett Kelly

Sedan, KS

Professional clown. Created the hobo cartoon character, Weary Willie.

Eugene Smith

Wichita, KS

Famed WWII and Life Magazine photojournalist.

Eva Jessye

Coffeyville, KS

Female dean of black music and the first internationally recognized black female choral group director.

Frank Marshall Davis

South Central, KS

Combined his vision with free verse to imagine a new way of expressing himself poetically. Ultimately, he would write three major collections of poetry: Black Man's Verse (1935), I Am the American Negro (1937), and 47th Street: Poems (1948).

Gale Sayers

Wichita, KS

NFL player for the Chicago Bears; youngest inductee into the Pro Football Hall of Fame at the age of 34.

Gerald Roberts

Strong, KS

Two-time all-around world champion cowboy and may be the greatest rodeo champion in Kansas history.

Glenn Cunningham

Atlanta, KS

Two-time Olympian track star dubbed “The Kansas Flyer”.

Gordon Parks

Fort Scott, KS

Writer/photographer, author of The Learning Tree, was born outside Fort Scott, Kan. and became the first black director, screenwriter and composer of a major motion picture.

Gwendolyn Brooks

Topeka, KS

The first African American to win a Pulitzer Prize.

Hattie McDaniel

Wichita, KS

Vaudeville, film, radio and television star that became the first African American ever to receive an Academy Award for her supporting role as Mammy in Gone With the Wind.

Iva Pembridge Jarvis

Phillipsburg, KS

All-time great women's trap shooter; first female honorary member of the Kansas All Sport Hall Fame

Jack St. Clair Kilby

Great Bend, KS

2003 Kansan of the Year; invented the microchip, for which he shared the Nobel Prize in physics in 2000

Jay McShann

Muskogee, OK

Master of all jazz piano styles and a Kansas City jazz legacy for more than 60 years; developed the hard swinging music of Kansas City and helped launch jazz greats like Charlie Parker

Jess Willard

St. Clere, KS

Tallest man ever to win a world boxing championship; nicknamed "Pottawatomie Giant."

Jim Ryun

Wichita, KS

Olympic track star; first high school athlete to run the mile in less than four minutes.

Joe Engle

Chapman, Kan.

Commanded the second flight of the Space Shuttle Columbia.

John Cameron Swayze

Wichita, KS

The first TV network news anchor on the "Camel News Caravan" and the pitchman for Timex Watches and the expression "Takes a Licking and Keeps on Ticking.”

John Steuart Curry

Dunavant, KS

Artist painting canvases inspired by the lives of fellow Kansans as he celebrates the rural Midwest.

Julia Lee

Kansas City, MO

Singer and pianist; one of the great female blues singers of all time.

Klondike Kate

Junction City, KS

The famous Yukon territory dancehall girl of the 1898 Canadian gold rush.

Lester Young

Woodville, MO

Tenor saxophonist jazz musician.

Lynette Woodard

Wichita, KS

First Female Harlem Globetrotter, four-time All-America basketball player at K.U. and two-time U.S. Olympian. By unanimous vote in 1996, she was named the greatest female player in Big Eight Conference history.

Lynn Dickey

Osawatomie, KS

Green Bay Packers and Houston Oilers Quarterback; named by AP as the greatest quarterback in history of Big Eight Championships.

Mary Lou Williams

Atlanta, GA

Pianist and composer; promoted the Kansas City Swing style.

Maurice Green

Kansas City, KS

Holds several world and Olympic records.

Merle Evans

Columbus, KS

Circus maestro for the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus from 1919 until 1970.

Merrell Gage

Topeka, KS


Osage Indian


Native American tribe that prospered on the reservation; reported as the largest Native people in North American, with many Osage men averaging over 6-feet tall.

Ralph Houk

Lawrence, KS

Baseball manager that won three consecutive American league pennants and the 1961-1962 World Series championship with the New York Yankees.

Rick Mears

Wichita, KS

Racecar driver that won the Indianapolis 500 four times.

Robert Dole

Russell, KS

Five term Kansas Senator and World War II hero.

Ronald Evans

St. Francis, KS

Astronaut that commanded Apollo 17.

Rudolph Wendelin

Herndon, KS

Artists known for making Smokey Bear friendly and personable.

Russell Stover

Mount Ayr Township, KS

Confectioner and business owner.

Samuel Ramey

Colby, KS

Opera star; the most recorded bass in history.

Susanna Madora Salter

Argonia, KS

Nation’s First Woman Mayor

Tom Watson

Mission Hills, KS

One of the greatest & most successful professional golfers of all time.

Vivian Vance

Cherryvale, KS

Stage and film actress.

Walter P. Chrysler

Wamego, KS

Automotive mogul heading up the Chrysler corporation.

Walter Perry Johnson

Humboldt, KS

Hall of Fame Pitcher that pitched 110 shutouts in his 21-year career. Nicknamed “Big Train”.

Wes Santee

Ashland, KS

Olympic track star; first runner to break the four-minute mark in the mile run.

Wilbur “Buck” Clayton

Parsons, KS

Jazz trumpeter, songwriter and arranger (This medallion is under construction.)

William Allen White

Emporia, KS

Newspaper owner and editor, known as "The Sage of Emporia."

William Inge

Independence, KS

Novelist and playwright William Inge, born in Independence, Kansas in 1913, won the 1953 Pulitzer in drama for Picnic.

William Menninger

Topeka, KS

Co-founded of The Menninger Foundation and The Minninger Clinic which is an internationally known center for treatment of behavioral disorders.

William Purvis & Charles Wilson

Goodland, KS

Inventors; held the patent for America's first helicopter.

Wilt Chamberlain

University of Kansas

Played basketball for K.U. 1955-1958 where he led Kansas to the Big Seven championships in 1957 and 1958 and became the NCAA tournament MVP in 1957.

Wyatt Earp

Wichita & Dodge, KS

Assistant Marshall of Dodge City where he was known for "laying down the law" and was involved in the famous gunfight at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona.

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