The Lincoln Journal Star is counting down “150 Notable Nebraskans” to celebrate the state’s sesquicentennial, with the final 10 revealed March 1 — the date Nebraska became a state in 1867.
We began our process by soliciting reader input, grouping individuals by category: art, literature and journalism; business; science and medicine; politics; sports; film and television; and a miscellaneous category that included philosophers, activists, Natives, educators and more.
Then we gathered a five-person panel of two local historians (Journal Star columnist Jim McKee and Ed Zimmer, the city’s historic preservation planner) and three longtime Journal Star staff members (features editor Jeff Korbelik, features writer L. Kent Wolgamott and sports copy editor Julie Koch).
The group winnowed the list to 150 people, using the words “notable” and “significant” as our guides. We chose people whose influence went beyond the state’s borders, gaining them recognition in their fields.
We hope our list will enlighten, entertain and, most of all, generate conversation.
1 of 10
150. Charles Starkweather
The most infamous Nebraskan, Lincoln garbage man Starkweather killed 11 people in Southeast Nebraska and Wyoming during a two-month murder spree in 1957 and 1958. He has been the subject of movies, books and Bruce Springsteen’s “Nebraska.”
149. Swoosie Kurtz
The Omaha-born daughter of an Air Force colonel is a two-time Tony and Emmy Award winner who appears regularly on TV, including a recent six-season run on the CBS hit sitcom "Mike & Molly."
148. Wynonie Harris
A blues shouter and R&B singer, Harris had 16 “race” and R&B hits in the ‘40s and ‘50s, notably “Good Rockin’ Tonight,” later recorded by Elvis Presley, one of those influenced by the Omaha-born forerunner of rock ‘n’ roll.
147. Mike Hill
Omaha-born Hill and his editing partner, Dan Hanley, are best known for working with director Ron Howard. Their collaboration dates back to Howard's "Night Shift" (1982) and includes a Best Film Editing Oscar for "Apollo 13" (1995).
146. Jack Van Berg
The Columbus native followed in his father's footsteps, and both are in the National Racing Hall of Fame. In 1987, he became the first thoroughbred trainer to win 5,000 races. He won the Kentucky Derby and Breeders' Cup Classic with Alysheba.
145. “Gorgeous George" Wagner
Wrestling’s first flamboyant “heel,” Butte-born Wagner grew his dyed-blond hair long, entered the ring in a sequined robe and became wrestling’s biggest drawing card when the sport hit TV in the late 1940s. He influenced Muhammad Ali, James Brown and every subsequent “heel.”
144. Buddy Miles
Miles, born in Omaha, was a fixture in late '60s/'70s rock, playing with Jimi Hendrix in the Band of Gypsies, as a member of Electric Flag, leading his own band and as the voice of the “California Raisins” TV ads.
143. Michael Forsberg
Not only are the Lincoln-born nature photographer's books found on coffee tables throughout the state (and beyond), but his photo of sandhill cranes flying near the Platte River at sunset will be used for a U.S. postage stamp celebrating Nebraska’s 150th birthday as a state.
142. Reinhold Marxhausen
A 40-year art department chair at Concordia, Nebraska (1951-91), Marxhausen painted two mosaic murals in the Nebraska State Capitol and appeared on "Late Night With David Letterman" in 1986 with his Star Dust moon rocks.
141. Victor Lewis
The Omaha-born University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate is widely recognized as one of the world’s top jazz drummers. In his 40-year career, Lewis has played with a who’s-who of jazz, writes songs, records solo albums and teaches.