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September 5, 1999

The Century's Newsmakers With 2000 looming, we present 100 icons who inspired 100 years in Michiana -- and beyond
By LINDA MULLEN

Our list of 100 fascinating people from Michiana who have done something out of the ordinary to help define this past century includes d octors, lawyers and an Indian chief. It also includes Tarzan of the Apes, two national evangelists and the nation's first female serial killer of the century. Except for governors and the longest-serving mayors from local cities, we excluded most politicians. To list state legislators from the past century for all of Michiana would be too lengthy and, some would argue, too boring. But we couldn't ignore the three governors who called Michiana home this past century.

Instead, we looked to list some people who would likely stimulate an "I-didn't-know-that" response.

We also excluded some like Oprah Winfrey, even though she has a home in LaPorte County; actor Chad Everett, who was born in South Bend; and Marjorie "Ma Kettle" Main, who lived for a while in Elkhart. In trimming the list to 100, we tried to keep people who really spent some formative years here or embraced our communities as adults.

And because we may overlook some people, we're not touting our list as the best 100. Rather, it's simply a list of 100 fascinating folks from Michiana.

Today, we list the first installment, including former Indiana Gov. Otis Bowen, who is featured on Page A1. Look here the next two Sundays for the rest.

 

ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY:ON-SCREEN

Sinbad (1946-) was born David Adkins in Benton Harbor and thought for a while he'd play professional basketball. Instead he became an actor and a comic.

He grew from being president of the National Honor Society in high school to appearing as a stand-up comedian 10 times on "Star Search." Eventually, he starred in his own sitcom on the FOX network and other productions, such as HBO's western-comedy movie "The Cherokee Kid" and with Arnold Schwarzenegger in "Jingle All the Way."

Jean (Verhagen) Hagen (1923-1977) graduated from Elkhart High School in 1941 and went on to become a stage and screen actress. She starred opposite such stars as Jimmy Stewart and Katherine Hepburn. One of her most popular roles, for which she twice was nominated for an Emmy Award, was as the wife of Danny Thomas in the 1950s situation comedy, "Make Room for Daddy." She also received an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actress in 1952's "Singin' in the Rain."

Her movie credits include: "Dead Ringer" (1964), "Panic in Year Zero" (1962), "Sunrise at Campobello" (1960), "The Shaggy Dog" (1959), "Spring Reunion" (1957), "Climax!" (1956), "The Big Knife" (1955), "Latin Lovers" (1953), "Half a Hero" (1953), "Arena" (1953), "Carbine Williams" (1952), "The Asphalt Jungle" (1950), "A Life of Her Own" (1950), "Adam's Rib" (1949) and "Ambush" (1949).

Elmo Lincoln (1889-1952) was named Otto Elmo Linkenhelt at his birth near Rochester, according to the Fulton County Historical Museum. The actor was chosen to be the first Tarzan of the movies. A copy of his death certificate is on file at the museum, and Lincoln's parents are buried in Fulton County.

However, the Internet Movie Database Web site claims that Lincoln was born in Johnstown, Pa. It is not disputed that he is buried in Hollywood Cemetery.

Nevertheless, Lincoln got the role in "Tarzan of the Apes" when, a few days after production began in 1918, the man originally hired to play Tarzan walked off the set. The film was one of the first to earn more than $1 million.

Chief Basil White Eagle (1917-), of Leiters Ford, is an Iroquois Indian who was three times nominated for Emmy Awards as host of the 1960s Chicago WTTW-TV popular children's show "Totem Club." Also in the 1960s, the Devoe paint company hired him to promote its distinction as being America's first paint and his face appeared on billboards nationwide, putting "war paint" on his face.

White Eagle has appeared in many big-name television shows and movies, such as 1940's "Northwest Passage," with Spencer Tracy, Robert Young and Walter Brennan; "How the West was Won"; "Bonanza"; "The Lone Ranger"; "The Rifleman"; "The Virginian"; and "Niagara" with Marilyn Monroe.

In 1989, White Eagle and his wife, Bobbie Bear, went to Fulton County to visit friends, and ended up moving here. They liked the local American Indian history, and moved to Leiters Ford where Chief Aubbeenaubbee once lived.

Richard "Dick" Bergman (1950-) of Plymouth, graduated from Plymouth High School in 1969 and was an all-star football player at Hanover College in 1973. He became an actor and portrayed Father Joe in the 1981-82 television series "Father Murphy," and appeared as Brett Fredericks in 1983 on the soap opera "Days of Our Lives."

Sydney Pollack (1934-) was born in Lafayette but his family moved to South Bend, where he graduated from Central High School. In 1986, he won Oscars for best director and best picture for "Out of Africa," which starred Meryl Streep and Robert Redford. He also was nominated in 1983 for both of those awards for "Tootsie," which starred Dustin Hoffman. His most recent role was in Stanley Kubrick's "Eyes Wide Shut."

Bernie Pollack, his brother, has established his own career in the motion picture business as a costumer.

Bernie Pollack has been the costume designer for such movies as "Indecent Proposal" (1993), "Clear and Present Danger" (1994) and "Message in a Bottle" (1999).

Michael Warren (1946-) is another South Bend Central High School graduate, where he was a standout basketball player. He went on to play for UCLA during its national championship years, became an actor, and became best known as Bobby Hill on television's "Hill Street Blues."

Larry Karaszewski (circa 1961-) began his career on the 1970s television program on WNDU-TV's, "Beyond our Control," which allowed high school students to learn about television production by putting together a weekly show. After graduating from Riley High School, the South Bend native enrolled in the University of Southern California's School of Cinema and eventually became a screenwriter and director.

Sometimes credited as L.A. Karaszewski, his films include the upcoming "H.R. Pufnstuf" as well as "Foolproof" (1999), "Man on the Moon" (1999), "That Darn Cat" (1997), "The People vs. Larry Flynt" (1996), "Ed Wood" (1994), "Problem Child" and "Problem Child 2" (1990-91).

Vivica A. Fox (1964-) was born in South Bend and raised in Indianapolis. Next season she'll playing the wife of Arsenio Hall in an ABC sitcom. She was Will Smith's love interest in the movie "Independence Day."

She appeared as Wicked Stepsister One on actress Foxy Brown's video for "Big Bad Mamma," and has appeared in music videos for Puff Daddy, Aretha Franklin and Toni Braxton. She was chosen by People magazine as one of the 50 Most Beautiful People in the World in 1997.

Fox also appeared in the films "Set it Off," "Soul Food," "Batman & Robin," "Booty Call" and "Why Do Fools Fall in Love."

ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY: MUSIC

Tommy James (1947-) was born in Dayton, Ohio, but refers to Niles, where he lived as a teen-ager, as his hometown.

In 1960, at the age of 12, James formed a group called the Shondells. During 1968-69, Tommy James and the Shondells sold more single records (45s) than any artists in the world, including The Beatles.

Vice President Hubert Humphrey asked James to head his Youth Affairs commission while performing on his 1968 presidential campaign. Humphrey also wrote the liner notes for James' "Crimson and Clover" album, and the two remained friends until Humphrey's death in 1978.

Wendell Lukacs (1908-1995) and Julia Lukacs (1906-1997) were longtime hosts of "The Hungarian Radio Show," an English and Hungarian show on WSBT-AM, for 63 years, retiring in 1994. The show was mainly Hungarian folk music and traditional tunes. Many of the selections came from Wendell Lukacs' extensive record collection.

The couple was honored in 1993 by Foreign Languages Alive in Michiana Education for their work in maintaining the richness of ethnic diversity and foreign languages in the area.

He worked at Studebaker Corp. and the South Bend Medical Foundation. She retired from the South Bend Police Department where she worked in the treasurer's office. They were married for 60 years.

 

The Rivieras (circa 1963) are a South Bend rock band that broke through music's top 10 charts with the song "California Sun," released in 1963.

Marty (Bo) Fortson, singer, Otto Nuss, organist, Joe Pennell, guitarist, Doug Gean, bass player, and Paul Dennert, drummer, started their careers in 1961 while students at the old Central High School.

In high school, they called themselves the Playmates.

After changing their name to the Rivieras, after the then-popular Buick car, the group picked up Bill Dobslaw as its manager.

Dobslaw arranged a recording session at Columbia Studios in Chicago during the summer of 1962, when the band recorded "California Sun."

Three of the original five, Fortson, Gean and Nuss, still tour together along with Dave Sanders and Randy Sharkey, both also of South Bend.

 

David James (1946-) is the only American ever to win a senior level solo All-Ireland Championship on the hammered dulcimer, which looks like a table-top harp played with mallets, at the Fleadh Cheoil Na hEireann or Festival of the Music of Ireland.

In fact, he has won the competition twice. Once in 1989 and again in 1995.

He also has won several music competitions in the United States on the instrument, has written an instruction book about the instrument and has recorded two albums.

James has been a regular fixture on the South Bend music scene since the late 1960s and currently performs with the band Paddy's Racket.

 

Rome (circa, 1968-) is the nickname for the Benton Harbor native Jerome Woods, who had several songs on his debut album that hit the top of the R&B and singles music charts.

His song "I Belong To You (Every Time I See Your Face)" made it to No. 3 on Billboard magazine's R&B singles charts and No. 10 on the Top 100 Singles pop chart.

His self-titled album hit No. 8 on the R&B album chart and rose to No. 43 on the Top 200 pop album chart.

Raised by his grandmother in Benton Harbor, he graduated from Benton Harbor High School in 1986, and in 1997 returned there for a concert.

CULTURE

Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914) lived in Elkhart County before going into battle during the Civil War. He disappeared in 1913 and was presumed dead in a war in Mexico. Bierce was renowned as a mapmaker and writer, penning 1911's "The Devil's Dictionary."

Gertrude Felton Harbart (1908-), a nationally renowned artist, was born in Michigan City on Christmas Day in 1908 and lived much of her life in Long Beach. She studied at the Chicago Art Institute, the University of Illinois and took courses from such eminent artists as Hans Holfman, Arnold Blanch and Charles Birchfield. She taught art classes at the South Bend Art Association and has had her works displayed in the Hoosier Salon of Indianapolis and Madison Square Garden in New York. She has won several national awards.

Ring Lardner (1885-1933) was a reporter at the South Bend Times in 1906 and 1907 then moved to Chicago as a sportswriter, specializing in baseball coverage.

In 1916, a compilation of his short stories was published under the title "You Know Me, Al." He spent his childhood in Niles and, in 1928, Lardner wrote the plays "Elmer the Great" with George M. Cohan and "June Moon" in 1929 with George S. Kaufman.

He died of tuberculosis in 1933.

Ernest Sandeen (1908-1997) taught at the University of Notre Dame from 1946 to 1978 and wrote six books of poetry, including "Like Any Road Anywhere," "A Later Day, Another Year" and "Can These Bones Live?" Notre Dame English professor and poet John Matthias called Sandeen "the very center" of the local literary community for much of the five decades Sandeen lived in South Bend. After his retirement, Sandeen remained active with members of a local literary group who met to critique each other's work.

Kenneth Rexroth (1905-1982), a noted poet, essayist and translator was born in South Bend and lived in Elkhart until about 1920. He played a key role in the San Francisco Poetry Renaissance of the 1950s, pronouncing San Francisco "a culturally happening" place. Poet Allen Ginsberg arrived at Rexroth's doorstep in 1953, joining the young poets who would soon participate in the Bay Area Beat scene, particularly Gary Snyder, Michael McClure and Philip Whalen. Rexroth organized the Six Gallery poetry reading that caused a literary sensation in 1955.

Isamu Noguchi (1904-1989) graduated from LaPorte High School in the 1920s, and it was there that he discovered a talent in art, specifically sculpting. Dr. Edward Rumely became a guardian of sorts, since Noguchi's parents lived in Los Angeles and Japan, and he arranged for Noguchi to have an apprenticeship with Gutzon Borglum, the sculptor of Mount Rushmore. He attended Columbia University and the Leonardo da Vinci Art School in New York, then received a Guggenheim Fellowship in Paris. He was commissioned to create sculpture gardens around the world. His largest commission is the symbol for freedom of the press, mounted above the main entrance of the Associated Press building in Rockefeller Center.

George W. Rogers (1844-1909) was the first president of LaPorte County's historical society, from 1906 to 1909. Every year a descendant of his has maintained a seat on the society's board of directors.

GIVE ME THAT OLD-TIME RELIGION

Rev. Lester Frank Sumrall (1913-1996) of South Bend founded LeSEA (Lester Sumrall Evangelistic Association) in 1957, the patriarch ministry that spawned 130 books by Sumrall, study guides, 11 television stations, a satellite ministry, an FM radio station, short-wave radio stations reaching more than 90 percent of the world's population, and a magazine, World Harvest.

LeSEA Global Feed the Hungry (1987) has given millions of pounds in food and supplies around the globe. Sumrall began traveling in 1934 to more than 110 countries. His funeral here was attended by more than 3,000 mourners and included a eulogy by Rev. Oral Roberts.

Rev. William C.R. Sheridan (1917-) was ordained as an Episcopal priest in 1943 and was pastor of St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Plymouth from 1947 until 1972. He was elected Episcopal bishop of the Diocese of Northern Indiana, where he served 15 years.

Sheridan and his wife, Rudith, live in a restored country church in Culver. In 1997, he wrote a book, "A Gathering of Homilies," which was privately published by a former parishioner. Sheridan was consecrated a bishop in the chapel of the Sacred Heart church at the University of Notre Dame in 1972, the first time a non-Roman Catholic priest was consecrated there.

Rev. William Ashley (Billy) Sunday (1862-1935) was born in Ames, Iowa, played professional baseball in Chicago and Pittsburgh in the National League from 1883-1889, and became a fire-and-brimstone evangelist in 1903.

In 1920, he moved with his wife, Helen "Nell" Thompson, to Winona Lake, where his boisterous revivals attracted potential evangelists like Billy Graham. Before his death in 1935, Sunday claimed to have physically "preached to 100 million people" by hosting revivals across the United States in tabernacles that held 5,000 to 15,000.

Rev. Theodis Hadley (1921-) has been the pastor of Elkhart County's Canaan Baptist Church for one-third of the century, from 1966 through today. Under his leadership, a new church was built and paid for, and the congregation grew to be one of the largest predominantly African-American churches in Michiana. In 1950, at the Bethel Baptist Church in Three Rivers, Hadley was called to preach the gospel. He then pastored at Calvin Community Church in Cass County from 1958 to 1965.

Benjamin "King Ben" Purnell, (1861-1927) and his wife, Mary, founded the House of David in Benton Harbor in 1903. America's oldest and most famous religious colony grew to more than 1,000 during the 1930s.

The House of David congregation operated its own hotels, hospital, greenhouses, bus line, trolley car line, restaurants and the biggest tourist court in America at the time. Their religious beliefs requiring long hair and unshaven faces made them talked about the world over. But because of their belief in celibacy, only about five members survive today, all in their 80s and 90s.


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