Making Their Mark in Wisconsin History

–submitted by Valerie Renk

Angela Titus shared 10 inspiring stories from 10 inspiring people in Wisconsin History at the May 10 meeting. Titus highlighted people ranging from musician Al Jarreau to surfer Tom Blake.

Jarreau, for example, started in Psychology in Ripon College, ending as a Jazz Icon on the Hollywood walk of fame with seven Grammys. 

Edna Ferber is another example.  Starting in Appleton with a love for the theatrical, she quit school at 17.  She moved from reporting to fiction, winning a Pulitzer for her novel, “So Big” and wrote “Giant” and “Showboat.” 

Inspiring others included:

  • Electa Quinney – First Wis school teacher, part of native mass removal movement
  • Ezekiel Gillespie- Led black community through voting rights movement
  • Gary Gygax – Creator of Dungeons & Dragons from Lake Geneva, inspired $97 billion gaming industry
  • George Poage – Poage graduated 1893 from UW in History as fist African American big ten champion, competing in the 1904 Olympics, first black athlete to win a medal.
  • Jesus Salas – Salas became a farmworker justice leader, forming Obreros Unidos movement, later joining UW Board of Regents
  • Kate Newcomb – One of first woman doctors in 1917, Kate practiced in Boulder Junction
  • Tom Blake – Born in Milwaukee in 1902, Blake is thought to have transformed surfing from a Hawaiian sport to a national pastime
  • Benjamin Butts – came to Wisconsin at 11 with Wisconsin military returning from Virginia. Started barbershop across from Capitol. First Black person on Assembly staff; became an influencer due to his connections.

Titus invited Rotarians to a Black History Walking Tour, Wed, May 17 following the Rotary meeting, ending at 2.30pm.  Reservations required.  Use this link to sign up:

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch it here:

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