- Joe Louis Barrow, boxing legend
- Andrew J. Blackbird/Mack–e–te–be–nessy, Ottawa educator
- William Crapo Durant, automobile pioneer
- Dr. Grace Eldering, created Whooping Cough vaccine
- Dr. Pearl Kendrick, created Whooping Cough vaccine
- Gordie Howe, hockey legend
- Elijah McCoy, inventor
- Walter Reuther, UAW leader
- Eero Saarinen, architect
- Dr. Jonas Salk, created Polio vaccine
- Mary Spencer, state librarian
- Danny Thomas/Muzyad Yahkoob, actor/St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital
Created in 2006, the Michigan Walk of Fame honors state residents, past and present who have made significant contributions to the state, nation or the world. Inductees are recognized with an 18” x 30” bronze plaque embedded in the sidewalks of downtown Lansing, the state's capital city. Each plaque features a star containing the inductee’s name and a description of his or her achievements.
“As Michigan's capital, Lansing is proud to pay tribute to our state heritage through the Michigan Walk of Fame,” states Mayor Virg Bernero. “Coupled with the Capitol Building, our museums, theaters and festivals, the Michigan Walk of Fame is another great reason to visit Lansing.”
The Michigan Walk of Fame inductees were selected from more than 600 nominees submitted by residents of all 83 Michigan counties. The judging process was conducted statewide via the Internet utilizing the talent and expertise of historians, business, civic and community leaders in the respective Michigan Walk of Fame categories.
The Michigan Walk of Fame is a strategic partnership between the Lansing Principal Shopping District (PSD), the Michigan Historical Museum and the City of Lansing. The walk is supported through individual and corporate sponsorships and utilizes no public funding. Downtown Lansing Inc., the PSD's 501(c)3 agency, coordinates the project's fundraising efforts. Individual contributions can be made to the Michigan Walk of Fame at www.michiganwalkoffame.com.
2007 Michigan Walk of Fame Inductee Biographies
Joe Louis Barrow, 1914–1981, Athletics and Recreation
Joe Louis learned to box as a teenager at Detroit's Brewster Recreation Center. With power in both hands and great strength, Louis quickly rose through the amateur ranks and turned pro in 1934. He won the world heavyweight title in 1937 at the age of 23.
All Americans cheered Louis's 1938 knockout of German Max Schmeling. Two years earlier Schmeling had become a Nazi hero by defeating an ill–prepared Louis. During World War II Louis assisted the Army in promoting the war effort, but he refused to appear before segregated audiences. Having defended his heavyweight title 25 times, he retired undefeated in 1949.
Andrew J. Blackbird/Mack–e–te–be–nessy, c.1815–1908, Education & Literature
Educated first in Odawa (Ottawa) skills and traditions, Andrew J. Blackbird struggled to find the resources to attend Euro–American schools. He eventually studied at Ypsilanti State Normal School. His command of English enabled him to work as an interpreter for the Mackinac Indian agency. He helped gain Michigan citizenship for Native Americans under the 1850 Constitution and became the first postmaster of Harbor Springs in the 1860s. Blackbird also helped widows and children of Civil War soldiers obtain benefits. His History of the Ottawa and Chippewa Indians of Michigan, published in 1887, includes a grammar of the Odawa language and his autobiography, one of the first written by a Native American.
William Crapo “Billy” Durant, 1861–1947, Agriculture, Business and Industry
Unlike most automotive pioneers, Flint's William Durant was not an inventor. Co–owner of the nation’s largest horse–drawn carriage company, he was a superb salesman who saw the sales and marketing potential of the automobile.
Impressed with a 1904 Buick, Durant reorganized that company. In 1908 he incorporated General Motors, which was capitalized at $2,000. Within the first two years, Durant brought more than 30 firms into GM, including Buick, Cadillac, Oakland (Pontiac), Oldsmobile and the predecessors of AC Spark Plug and GMC Truck. Forced out of GM, Durant formed Chevrolet and other companies. After gaining and losing control of GM again, he created Durant Motors, which had factories in Flint and Lansing.
Gordie Howe, b. 1928, Athletics and Recreation
Known as Mr. Hockey, Gordie Howe scored his first professional goal in his 1946 National Hockey League debut. Howe established the most records by any athlete in any sport, including 2,589 career points, 1,071 goals and 29 all–star appearances. He is the only player to play a professional sport in five different decades and was the first father to play on a major sports team with his son, playing with both Mark and Marty.
Howe helped lead the Detroit Red Wings to four Stanly Cup Championships. A member of 11 Halls of Fame, Howe is celebrated for his openness to fans and contributions to community, as well as his extraordinary play.
Dr. Grace Eldering, 1900–1988, Medicine, Science and Technology
Dr. Pearl Kendrick, 1890–1980, Medicine, Science and Technology
In 1932 a severe outbreak of whooping cough struck Grand Rapids. Pearl Kendrick, director of the Michigan Department of Health laboratory there, and her colleague Grace Eldering decided to tackle the highly contagious disease. Causing thick mucus and severe coughing, whooping cough was particularly dangerous to young children.
With few models to follow, the scientists put in long hours collecting and studying samples and standardizing diagnostic methods. Speaking to professional, civic and parents'''' groups, they built the community cooperation and support needed to test their vaccine and demonstrate its success. Thanks to their work, children can be protected from a disease that once killed 6,000 children each year in the United States.
Elijah McCoy, 1843–1929, Agriculture, Business and Industry
Born in Canada to parents who had once been enslaved in Kentucky, Elijah McCoy studied engineering in Scotland. He settled in Ypsilanti after the Civil War, intending to work as a mechanical engineer. Although discrimination limited him to the position of railroad fireman, it failed to dampen his curiosity or his creativity.
McCoy developed an automatic lubricating device for locomotives that saved both time and money by oiling the engine as it operated. It was the first of more than 50 patents he was awarded. His lubricators were used internationally on trains, boats and in factories. Among the other devices McCoy patented were a folding laundry table and a lawn sprinkler.
Walter Reuther, 1907–1970, Civic & Community Leadership
Walter Reuther was a skilled die maker in Ford auto plants. Following a family heritage of labor and political activism, he joined the young United Auto Workers (UAW) in 1936 and quickly emerged as a leader. He gained national attention in May 1937, when Ford security agents attacked him and other UAW workers handing out leaflets on an overpass near the Rouge factory.
Union members elected Reuther their president in 1946. He held that post until his death. During his tenure, autoworkers made economic gains and obtained greater job security, paid vacations, medical insurance and pensions. An early proponent of universal health care, Reuther also supported the civil rights and environmental movements.
Eero Saarinen, 1910–1961, Arts & Entertainment
Eero Saarinen grew up in Finland and the United States surrounded by art and design. He taught design at Cranbrook and worked in his father's architectural firm. His independent artistic vision was first revealed in the simple, dramatic arch of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial in St. Louis.
The General Motors Technical Center in Warren established Saarinen as an interpreter of the post–war International Style. Inspired by automotive engineering, he developed innovative construction techniques, such as gaskets derived from those used in automobile windshields. His work included the curves and cantilevers of the TWA Terminal at New York's Idlewild (now JFK) Airport and Dulles Airport in Virginia.
Jonas Salk,1914–1995, Medicine, Science and Technology
Jonas Salk developed the first successful polio vaccine. Poliomyelitis, also known as infantile paralysis, was a feared disease that could cause paralysis or death.
Salk began his career at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health, and his mentor there conducted the tests that demonstrated that the vaccine was “safe, effective, and potent.” Salk’s vaccine used a “killed” polio virus that could immunize without risking patient infection. The 1954–55 national testing involved almost two million children in one of the first double–blind placebo–controlled tests. U.S. polio cases dropped 85–90 percent in the first two years of the vaccine’s use.
Mary Spencer, 1842–1923, Education & Literature
When Mary Spencer became state librarian in 1893, she immediately unlocked the library's bookcases, giving users free access to their contents. Recognizing that “the trend of library work at the present time is democratic,” she worked for thirty years to make the library available and useful to citizens throughout the state.
Spencer built one of the nation's earliest traveling library programs, sending cases of books for extended periods to Grange Halls, YMCAs, ladies'''' clubs and church organizations. She also promoted collegiality and professional collaboration, allowing local libraries in the state to become “associates” of the state library, with access to its collections.
Danny Thomas/Muzyad Yahkoob, 1914–1991, Civic and Community Leadership
Danny Thomas's first audiences on Detroit radio knew him as Amos Jacobs, the anglicized form of his Lebanese birth name. His CBS radio show in the late 1940s made him nationally known, but he is best known as a television producer and star, and especially his long–running sitcom, Make Room for Daddy.
In the early 1950s Thomas began to fulfill a promise made during his financially precarious Detroit years. Mobilizing fellow entertainers, the city of Memphis, Tennessee, and the American public, he built St. Jude Children's Research Hospital for children with catastrophic diseases. Thomas also founded ALSAC, a charity through which his fellow Arab Americans and others continue to support the hospital.