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Famous area residents through the years

The Examiner

The Kansas City area and the region beyond have been home to some of the nation’s “biggest tadpoles.” People like Dwight D. Eisenhower, of Abilene, Harry S. Truman of Independence and Emanuel Cleaver II, U.S. representative in Washington, D.C. He’ll go down in history

Portraits of the Past

Melissa Etheridge and Buffalo Bill Cody both grew up in Leavenworth. Ginger Rogers was born in Independence and went on to become a top Broadway performer, dancer and Oscar-winning actress. Burt Bacharach, the famous pianist and composer of so many songs that we’ve loved over the years, hailed from here.

Ted Stillwell

Walt Disney of Mickey Mouse fame and Fritz Freeling both started out in K.C. as film producers, directors, animators and cartoonists. Ernest Hemingway, the iconic novelist, lived and worked in our neighborhood for a time.

Comedian Red Skelton married my daddy’s cousin Edna Stillwell, and the two of them worked the old Fairmount Park’s dance marathons in the days before the Great Depression. KC’s Alexis Smith married Gene Barry, TV’s “Peter Gunn”.

The famous outlaws Frank and Jesse James grew up near Kearney, and the Younger brothers near Lee’s Summit. The trail blazer Jim Bridger returned from the Old West so his children could get some schooling in our local schools. Ol’ Jim never learned to read or write even though Independence named a middle school in his honor.

George Caleb Bingham, painter of the 19th century American West and longtime local resident, is buried in Kansas City’s Union Hill Cemetery. One of his most famous paintings, “Order No. 11 (Martial Law),” was painted in his studio at what is today the Bingham-Waggoner Estate. And, Thomas Hart Benton, who painted the mural “Independence and the Opening of the West” in the foyer of the Truman Library, lived much of his adult life here in K.C.

Robert Altman, is a native and Oscar-winning director whose films including “Kansas City,” “M*A*S*H*” and many others.

Ed Asner graduated from Wyandotte High School and became an Emmy-winning actor of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” – Lou Grant – he also starred in the famous mini-series of “Roots.”

Dee Wallace-Stone is also a Kansas City, Kansas native, and actress in 85 films including “E.T. – The Extra-Terrestrial.”

Let’s not forget David Cook, a Blue Springs native and an “American Idol” champ. The rappers Tech N9ne and Eminem are both of Kansas City. Neither can we forget the blues men Big Joe Turner and Charlie “Bird” Parker. Count Basie was born back East, but made it famous in our nightclubs of Kansas City. Gene Clark was a rocker, singer/songwriter with the 1960s rock group The Birds.

John Kander is a KC native and composer who has written scores for popular musicals including “Chicago,” “Cabaret” and “Kiss of the Spider Woman.” Pat Metheny is a Grammy-winning jazz guitarist from Lee’s Summit.

Wallace and Noah Beery made this list, and Joan Crawford made more movies than we can count. She was an Oscar-winning actress who moved to Kansas City as a child. She left KC to pursue show business after winning a local dance contest. Jean Harlow was a film actress known as the "Original Blonde Bombshell." Chris Cooper is a local native and Oscar-winning actor whose films include “Adaptation,” “American Beauty”, and “The Bourne Identity.”

Walter Cronkite the longtime anchorman for CBS News got his broadcasting start at KCMO. He was born in St. Joseph and is buried here in Kansas City.

Just a small sampling of our Big Tadpoles.

Reach Ted W. Stillwell at or 816-896-3592.