The first person most people think of from Peoria is our famous son, Richard Pryor. Granted, Richard rose from the lowest of means to become perhaps one of the most influential comedians in the last 50 years. In the spirit of expanding the world’s view of Peoria, allow me to educate you on some of the other famous sons and daughters from Peoria.
Susan G. Koman
Although her life was shortened by breast cancer, perhaps our most famous Peorian is Susan G. Koman. Koman’s sister, Nancy Goodman Brinker, founded the Susan G. Koman Breast Cancer Foundation in 1982 as a promise between two sisters. More than 20 years later, the Komen Foundation is a global leader in the fight against breast cancer through its support of innovative research and community-based outreach programs. Working through a network of U.S. and international Affiliates and events like the Komen Race for the Cure®, the Komen Foundation is fighting to eradicate breast cancer as a life-threatening disease by funding research grants and supporting education, screening and treatment projects in communities around the world.
In 1986 Peoria became the first regional site for Komen Race for the Cure®. The Race was launched by the Junior League of Peoria as the focal point of its Women’s Health Awareness Project. Since 1994 the Komen Peoria Race for the Cure® has been administered by the Susan G. Komen Memorial Affiliate of Peoria, Inc.
The Race began with 1,275 women in 1986 and now attracts over 25,000 participants each year. In 2003 the Komen Peoria Race for the Cure® raised more than three quarters of a million dollars which was used to fund both national research efforts and local breast cancer programs. Since 1995 over $4 million has been awarded in grants to central Illinois hospitals and agencies by the Peoria Memorial Affiliate for awareness, education, screening and treatment.
Race day is made even more special with the addition of hundreds of men who line the streets and support all the runners and walkers as they form 3 Miles of Men. The Komen Peoria Race for the Cure® is so successful because of the enormous dedication of hundreds of volunteers who work hard to make the day a reality. We are also dependent on the tremendous generosity of our corporate sponsors, who underwrite the entire cost of holding the Race and contribute additional dollars to the cause itself.
Peorian’s In the News
November 1, 2015 – Ben Zobrist, and the Kansas City Royals beat the NY Mets to win the World Series.
June 2015 – Peorian, Shaun Livingston, and the Golden State Warriors win the NBA Championship
Feb 26, 2011 – Richwoods senior swimmer wins two state titles, makes history – Matt Elliott from Peoria Richwoods took home gold in the 200-yard individual medley and 100 breaststroke to become the first boys swimmer to win seven individual state titles.
Feb 13, 2011 – Peorian Wins AT&T Pebble Beach – DA Points won the tournament by 2 strokes cruising to his first-ever major win along side comedian Bill Murray. MORE
General John Shalikashvili
John Shalikashvili was actually born in Poland to Georgian refugee parents. In 1952, John was 16 when his family immigrated to Peoria. They were sponsored by Winifred Luthy, the wife of a local banker, who was previously married to his father’s cousin. The Luthys and the Episcopal Church helped the Shalikashvili family get started, finding jobs and a home for them. Dimitri, his father, worked for Ameren, and Maria was a file clerk at Commercial National Bank.
When John arrived in Peoria he spoke little English. He has recalled it this way:
“I spoke a little bit [of English]. But not much beyond yes and no and what time is it. And the stories that subsequently have been told that I learned English by watching John Wayne movies is only a little bit of a stretch… As school was over [at Peoria High School], I would run to the local movie theater. There I would sit through movies in order to learn English. In those days movies didn’t start at a specific time and end at a specific time, but they would roll continuously… The first time through it wouldn’t make much sense to me. But the second time through, it would begin to make a little more sense. Now in my memory, that is probably very faulty, a lot of those movies were John Wayne movies or at least were Wild West movies.”
Shalikashvili went to Peoria High School, where he was a long distance runner. He attended Bradley University in Peoria, and received a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in 1958. He is a member of Theta Chi Fraternity. He later received a master’s degree in International Affairs.
In May 1958, Shalikashvili and his family became American citizens. It was the first citizenship he ever held. He had previously been classified as “stateless”, since he had been born to parents who had been refugees.
John entered the army and applied to Officer Candidate School and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1959. He rose quickly in rank. Eventually, Shalikashvili was appointed Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1993 by President Clinton.
Wayne Downing (Namesake for Peoria Airport)
(Source: Wikipedia) Four-Star General Wayne Downing was a Vietnam War and Gulf War veteran who rose to Four-Star General and retired in 1996. He became world-famous when he came out of retirement in 2001 to coordinate the national campaign “to detect, disrupt and destroy global terrorist organizations and those who support them.”. He held the title of National Director and Deputy National Security Advisor for combating terrorism. He reported to then-National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice and Homeland Security director Tom Ridge. From 2003 until his death he held the Distinguished Chair at the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point.
Besides working for the US government in his retiree years, he also worked for NBC News as a military analyst. In 2006 he received the United States Military Academy’s 2006 Distinguished Graduate Award.
Downing died on July 18, 2007, of meningitis and was buried in the West Point Cemetery, West Point, New York on September 27, 2007. His grave is just north of the main cemetery building.
On September 24, 2008, the Metropolitan Authority of Peoria voted unanimously to change the name of the Greater Peoria Regional Airport to the “General Wayne A. Downing Peoria International Airport”.
Born in Peoria in 1951, singer-songwriter Dan Fogelberg often drew inspiration from his local roots. He who was raised by a river has now come “Full Circle.” Illness caused him to cancel his Fall 2004 tour for this latest album. While listening to his 1999 album, “The First Christmas Morning,” add a prayer for Dan. His song, “Same Old Lang Syne,” set in Peoria, recalls a holiday visit home. It’s a popular classic as we head into a new year.
REO Speedwagon is a classic rock group that first formed in 1968, in the college town of Champaign, Illinois. Neal Doughty (keyboards) and Alan Gratzer (drums), college students at the time, first put the band together as a side project. Members Gary Richrath (guitar) from East Peoria, Gregg Philbin (bass), and Terry Luttrell (vocals) rounded out the band, and the group began by playing clubs and bars in Illinois.
They were playing in Peoria, Illinois, when they were discovered by a producer from Connecticut, who took them out to the east coast to sign a record deal with Epic Records. REO popularized the power ballad in the early 80’s but were first known for their rock epics like Golden Country and Ridin’ the Storm Out.
Richrath provided much of the creative and driving force in the early days of the band, writing much of the material for REO Speedwagon’s first twelve albums. In 1977, he and other members of the band took over their own production, which resulted in the band’s first platinum album. Richrath wrote many of the band’s songs including “Golden Country” from 1972, “Ridin’ the Storm Out” (1973), “Only the Strong Survive” (1979) and “Take It On the Run” from 1981.
(Source: Wikipedia) Our site would be incomplete if we didn’t recognize one of our most famous sons, Richard Pryor. Richard Franklin Lennox Thomas Pryor III (December 1, 1940 – December 10, 2005) was a Stand-up Comedian, actor, writer, and MC. Pryor was known for his views of racism and topical commentary, which employed colorful, vulgar, and profane language. As Bill Cosby reportedly once said, “Richard Pryor drew the line between comedy and tragedy as thin as one could possibly paint it.”
Pryor was born in Peoria and grew up in his grandmother’s brothel. His father was a former bartender and boxer. His grandmother raised him. In addition to his stand-up act, Richard wrote for popular shows such as Sanford and Son, The Flip Wilson Show, and the Lilly Tomlin special. He stared in several huge movies such as Blazing Saddles, Greased Lightening, Car Wash, Lady Sings the Blues, and The Toy with Jackie Gleason. Pryor actually co-wrote Blazing Saddles with Mel Brooks and was cast as the lead but didn’t get the part.
People from Peoria
- (Source: Wikipedia)
- Jack Brickhouse – announcer: voice of the Chicago Cubs
- Nancy Brinker – former Chief of Protocol of the United States; former United States ambassador to Hungary 2001-09-06 to 2003-06-19; founder of Susan G. Komen for the Cure; sister of Susan G. Komen
- Charles Correll – performer, star of Amos and Andy on radio
- Susan Dey – actress known for her roles as Laurie Partridge in the Patridge Family and Grace Van Owen on LA Law. Susan was actually born in Pekin, part of the Peoria area.
- Wayne A. Downing – Four-star general in the United States Army
- Philip José Farmer – science fiction and fantasy author
- Dan Fogelberg – musician
- Jim Jordan and Marian Jordan – stars of Fibber McGee and Molly on radio – Not from Peoria but helped make Peoria famous.
- Betty Friedan – feminist author: notably of The Feminine Mystique
- Joe Girardi – Major League Baseball catcher; manager of the New York Yankees – raised in East Peoria
- Dick Jauron – NFL Head Coach for the Buffalo Bills
- Curly “Boo” Johnson – Harlem Globetrotter
- Kate Klise – children’s book author
- Ray LaHood – U.S. Congressman from Illinois’ 18th congressional district who became head of Federal DOT .
- Tami Lane – Hollywood prosthetic makeup artist: 2005 Academy Award for Makeup winner for The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
- Ralph Lawler – announcer: legendary voice of the Los Angeles Clippers
- Shaun Livingston – basketball player for the Los Angeles Clippers
- Camryn Manheim – actress; lived in Peoria until age 12
- Elaine “Spanky” McFarlane – singer; lead singer of 60’s folk rock bands: Spanky and Our Gang, and The Mamas and the Papas – replacing Cass Elliott
- Carla McGhee – basketball forward: gold-medalist in basketball at the 1996 Summer Olympics
- Robert H. Michel – former U.S. Congressman from Illinois’ 18th congressional district: longest-serving Republican leader of the House of Representatives
- Richard Pryor – comedian and actor
- Gary Richrath – guitarist from REO Speedwagon
- Jeff Salzenstein – tennis player
- Matt Savoie – figure skater: U.S. bronze medalist, member of 2006 Winter Olympics U.S. team
- David Ogden Stiers – actor: Major Charles Emerson Winchester III on M*A*S*H. That’s right, the stuffy Major from Boston was actaully from Peoria. The show actually had quite a few midwestern connections. William Christopher (Father Mulcahy) grew up in Winnetka, IL. Henry Blake mentioned Bloomington many times on the show and was genuinely from Bloomington (Normal to be accurate).
- Rick Telander – author and sports journalist: Chicago Sun-Times sports columnist; panelist on Sportswriters on TV
- Jim Thome – baseball player for the Chicago White Sox, Philadelphia Phillies, Los Angele Dodgers, and Minneapolis Twins.
- John Coleman – meteorologist: founder of The Weather Channel; weatherman for several TV stations in Peoria, Chicago, and New York.
- Colonel Robert G. Ingersoll – popular and controversial orator and former Illinois Attorney General
- Sam Kinison – comedian and actor; often associated with Peoria, but actually went to high school in East Peoria, Illinois
- General John M. Shalikashvili – former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
- D.A. Points – Professional Golfer
- Tom Gilles, pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays
- AJ Guyton, point guard drafted to the Chicago Bulls with the 32nd overall pick in the 2000 NBA draft
- Sergio McClain, former NBA D-League forward for the Asheville Altitude and University of Illinois
- Howard Nathan, former NBA point guard for the Atlanta Hawks
- Frank Williams, NBA point guard and 25th overall pick in the 2002 NBA draft
- Ben Zobrist, professional utility baseball player known for his ability to play nearly any position and bat at the highest level.