Iowa is home to well-known, lesser-known figures


Kim Brooks
Babbling Brooks Column
By: 
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

On Dec. 28, the State of Iowa celebrated its 173rd birthday. Iowa officially became the 29th state in 1846 on this date. 

That means in 2021, Iowa will mark its terquasquicentennial (175th birthday). 

In honor of our great state’s birthday, I thought I would share some fun facts about well-known, famous Iowans… 

We all know about famous Iowans such as Elijah Wood who’s known for his role as Frodo in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. Or Brandon Routh who portrayed Clark Kent/Superman is a string of movies in the mid-2000s. And let’s not forget about Iowa’s number-one cheerleader Ashton Kutcher. Iowa is also home to one of our nation’s presidents, Herbert Hoover. 

But there are some well-known Iowans I’m sure you don’t know about… 

Iowa was home to a Nobel Peace Prize winner: Norman Borlaug. He founded the Green Revolution that engineered increases in crop yields. His genius saved many people from starvation. Borlaug not only received the Nobel Peace Prize, but also the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. 

Famed late night TV show host Johnny Carson is also from Iowa, Corning to be exact. Carson was host of “The Tonight Show” from 1962-92. Carson is also a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. 

George Washington Carver was the first African American student, and later faculty member, of Iowa State University. Carver was a botanist who developed practical uses for alternative crops. 

Musician brothers, The Everly Brothers, grew up in Shenandoah, Iowa. They’re known for such songs as “Bye Bye Love” and “Wake Up Little Susie.” Years before their fame, their father, Ike Everly, performed on the country radio station out of Waterloo, KXEL. The Everly Brothers have been inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll and County Music halls of fame. 

Bob Feller is known as one of the greatest baseball pitchers of all time. He became known as “Rapid Robert,” and pitched for the Cleveland Indians, starting when he was just 17 years old. He pitched for the Indians in two World Series games, winning the championship in 1948. He took time away from the sport to serve for four years in the navy during WWII. A museum dedicated to Feller’s fame is located in Van Meter, Iowa. 

Gallup Polls are known throughout history in conducting public opinion polls on a wide variety of topics, naming politics. Gallup Polls are heard more often than not during presidential election seasons. While Iowa is known as the first state in the nation to host the caucuses, the founder of the Gallup Poll was also from Iowa. 

George Gallup came from Jefferson, Iowa. He attended Drake University, and founded the American Institute of Public Opinion in 1935. 

While President Hoover hailed from Iowa, so did his wife and First Lady, Lou Henry Hoover. One interesting fact about Lou: She was the first female geology major at Stanford University. 

Iowa is also home to a vice president: Henry Wallace from Orient, Iowa. Wallace was VP under Franklin Roosevelt. He was also secretary of Commerce and Secretary of Ag, both under Roosevelt. Wallace couldn’t seem to pinpoint a political party; he went from Republican to Progressive to Democratic back to Progressive.

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