Winner to be selected in September
LINCOLN — Civil rights leader Malcolm X survived the first cut to be inducted into the Nebraska Hall of Fame on Friday along with educator/author Louise Pound and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer/director Howard Hanson.
The seven-member State Hall of Fame Committee pared the list of eight nominees to the three finalists after a brief discussion on Friday. The commission took testimony about the candidates at public hearings held last month in each of the state’s three congressional districts, and considered written testimony.
Final pick next month
A final selection will be made Sept. 12 at a public meeting at the State Capitol.
Pound, an English professor who was a pioneer in linguistic studies and the only woman in University of Nebraska history to letter in a men’s sport, received votes of six of the seven board members, with Malcolm X receiving five and Hanson four.
Every five years the Hall of Fame Commission picks a new inductee into the state Hall, which is located in the State Capitol. A person must be deceased for at least 35 years to be inducted.
There are 26 members of the Hall, including Buffalo Bill, Ponca Chief Standing Bear and Boys Town founder Father Flanagan, but no African-American inductees.
Fifteen years ago, Malcolm X was deemed too controversial to be inducted.
Omaha home burned
And there has been discussion that Malcolm X, born as Malcolm Little in Omaha in 1925, didn’t live long enough in Nebraska. His family fled the state when he was about 1 year old after being terrorized by the Klu Klux Klan, who burned down their house.
The stated criteria for induction is that a person was born in Nebraska, gained prominence while living in Nebraska, or who lived in the state and “whose residence in Nebraska was an important influence on their lives and which contributed to their greatness.”
One member of the Hall of Fame Commission, Sara Crook, a retired Peru State College history professor, said that while Malcolm X’s contributions as a civil rights leader are unquestioned, she didn’t think he considered himself “a Nebraskan.”
Only once did he return to Nebraska, she said, and that was much later in his life.
‘Looking for a Nebraskan’
“I think we need more diversity in our Hall of Fame. I’m all on board with that,” Crook said. “I’m looking for a Nebraskan to put into the Nebraska Hall of Fame.”
But two other commissioners, Jill Dolberg, the interim director of History Nebraska, and Tim Heller of Omaha, said they didn’t share the same concern.
“He truly had a world-wide impact,” Heller said. Dolberg said he was one of the most influential civil rights leaders of the 20th Century.
Both commissioners said that what happened to his family in Omaha likely influenced his entire life.
Former State Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha, who has advocated for Malcolm X in the past, attended Friday’s meeting but did not speak.
After the meeting, Chambers said that “fame is notoriety” and there is no question that Malcolm X generated more of that than any of the other candidates.
There is a movie, “Malcolm X,” and a book, “The Autobiography of Malcolm X,” about his life, as well as other writings and recordings of his speeches about Black empowerment and as a minister with the Nation of Islam. There is also a museum at the site of his birthplace in North Omaha.
Malcolm X set a standard
“Here was a man out in the open, saying things all of us were afraid to say,” Chambers said. Malcolm X, he added, “set a standard” for young black men.
Pound, who’s brother Roscoe, a famed botanist, is already in the Nebraska Hall of Fame, was promoted as an inspiration to women at a time when women were considered property of their husbands. At NU, she lettered in the men’s sport of tennis. She traveled to Germany to earn her doctorate degree because women weren’t able to obtain such a degree in the U.S.
Hanson, who was from Wahoo, was the longtime director of the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. He is probably the state’s most renowned musician, said Ron Hull, a long-time broadcaster with NETV and the chairman of the commission.
The Rev. Hiram Hisanori Kano of Litchfield, a Japanese-American Episcopal priest who was said to be the only Nebraska interred during World War II, just missed the cut after receiving three votes.
Four others got votes
Receiving one vote were Grover Cleveland Alexander, the third winningest baseball pitcher of all time; Ernst Herminghaus, a landscape architect whose work included Lincoln’s Pioneers Park and the State Capitol; and Calvin Chapman, a former mayor of Nebraska City who participated in the Underground Railroad.
Also nominated was Elzada Urseba Clover, the first botanist to catalog plants in the Grand Canyon.
Source: Nebraska Regional News