Famous sons and daughters


From The Lima News Archives



Hugh Downs

Hugh Downs


The Lima News archives

Phyllis Diller

Phyllis Diller


The Lima News archives

Charles Williams


Courtesy of Allen County Historical Society

Calvin Brice


Courtesy of Allen County Historical Society

William Fowler


Courtesy of Allen County Historical Society

Leslie Peltier


Courtesy of Allen County Historical Society

Maidie Norman


Courtesy of Allen County Historical Society

Helen O’Connell


Courtesy of Allen County Historical Society

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Read more about the 200th anniversary of Allen County at LimaOhio.com/tag/200.

From war heroes to Nobel Prize winners, Allen County has quite a list of people who have become famous. Here are some of them:

• U.S. Sen. Calvin Stewart Brice was born in 1845 and practiced law in Lima. He helped organize 11 railroads. A Democrat, Brice was the chairman of the Democratic National Committee from 1889 until 1892 and won election to the Senate in 1890, serving a single term in office. At the time of his death in 1898, he was preparing to launch a Chinese railroad.

• Comedienne Phyllis Diller was born in 1917 in Lima, where she grew up, attending Franklin Elementary School. Her first public appearance came at the age of 10, when she performed at her church, Trinity Methodist. Prior to becoming a comedienne and classical pianist, she attended Bluffton College.

• Television commentator Hugh Downs was born in 1921 and moved to Lima at age 2. He graduated in 1938 from Shawnee High School and attended Bluffton College, where he was perhaps its most famous dropout. He ended up in New York City, where he became a regular television presence from the mid-1940s until the late 1990s. Downs hosted NBC’s “Today” show and ABC’s news magazine “20/20.”

• Rear Adm. Edward L. Feightner grew up on a farm in Elida and became a man in the South Pacific during World War II. An ace fighter pilot, he had nine confirmed kills — including three Japanese Zeros in one day during a dogfight over Taiwan — and four probables. After the war, he became a member of the Navy’s elite Blue Angels demonstration team, flying the lead “solo” position. He served for 32 years, retiring in 1974. He later worked as an aerospace consultant.

• Nobel laureate William A. Fowler was born in 1911 and moved to Lima two years later. He was the president of his senior class in 1929 at Central High School. He graduated from The Ohio State University and Cal-Tech. His major contribution to physics was providing an explanation of how chemical elements of the universe were formed following the “Big Bang.” The overpass at Jameson Avenue and Elida Road now bears his name.

• Artist and sculptor Erwin F. Frey was born in 1895 in Lima. He moved to Cincinnati and later to New York City to pursue his study and interest in art. His reliefs, portraits and statues in bronze and stone appear in several state office buildings. Many of his works have been shown around the world.

• Caricaturist Alfred Joseph Frueh was born in Lima in 1880, attending St. Rose School. After graduation, he attended Lima Business College. While there, he enjoyed doodling and turning some of the shorthand symbols into teachers’ faces. After trying to farm and work at his father’s Lima Brewing Co., he left in 1903 to go to St. Louis, where he became a famous caricature artist for the newspaper there. He later went to The New Yorker, where he did caricatures and political commentary.

• Author Joan Doran Hedrick was a 1962 graduate of Lima Central Catholic High School. She won a Pulitzer Prize in Literature for a biography she wrote about Harriet Beecher Stowe.

• Grammy Award-winning jazz musician Joe Henderson was born in Lima in 1939. He earned the money to buy his first saxophone at age 7 by selling newspapers. Henderson lived with his parents and 14 brothers and sisters, attending South High School where he learned to read music in the high school band.

• Actor Dean Jagger was born in 1905 in Rockport. The late character actor won roles in more than 150 movies and received an Oscar for best supporting actor for his work in “12 O’Clock High.” He also won an Emmy for his 1989 performance in “This is the Life.”

• Robert W. King was born in 1906 in California and raised in Lima. A 1924 graduate of Lima Central High School, he won a gold medal in the high jump in the 1928 ninth Olympiad in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. He later became a doctor, and he died in 1965 in California.

• Rear Adm. Thomas Lynch was born in 1942 and raised in Lima. He is a 1960 graduate of Lima Central Catholic High School. Lynch served as the 54th superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Md.

• Leonard F. Mason was born in 1920 and lived in Lima and later in Lafayette. Mason was killed on the island of Guam in 1944 when two enemy machine guns opened fire on his platoon. Although mortally wounded, Mason cleared out the hostile position in the face of almost certain death. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor and the USS Leonard F. Mason was named in his honor.

• William E. Metzger Jr. was born in 1922 and graduated in 1940 from Central High School. Metzger was killed in 1944 when the B-17 bomber he was co-piloting crashed in Germany. Metzger had given his parachute to a wounded crewman, for which he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. Lima’s Metzger Lake reservoir was named in his honor.

• Maidie Ruth Norman was born in 1913 and moved to Lima at the age of 3. She was a member of the 1930 class of Central High School. She was one of the first black professionals in Hollywood in 1946, with credits including more than 200 stage roles. She was the founder of the American National Theatre Academy and was an inductee into the Black Film Makers.

• Singer Helen O’Connell was born in 1920 in Lima and lived until age 8 on East Circular Street. She became a star as a “girl singer” with the Jimmy Dorsey Band during the big band era. Although her family later moved to Toledo, O’Connell always claimed that Lima was her home. She died in 1993.

• Leslie C. Peltier was born in 1900 on a farm east of Delphos. As a young boy, he was given a book on the stars for Christmas. He was so interested in the heavens that as a youngster he picked 900 quarts of strawberries to earn money to buy his first telescope. He eventually built a small observatory on his Scott’s Crossing farm, where, on May 14, 1936, he discovered a new comet, which was named in his honor. In all, he discovered or co-discovered 12 comets and two stars before his death in 1980.

• Vice Adm. Edmund B. Taylor was born in 1904 and raised in Lima. He was a 1921 graduate of Lima Central High School. During his Navy career he received many honors, including the Distinguished Service Medal, the Navy Cross, Silver Star, Bronze Star and Purple Heart. He died in 1973.

• Leon L. Van Autreve was born in 1920. He was a graduate of Delphos Jefferson High School and later Ohio Northern University. He enlisted in the Army and served in Africa, Germany and Vietnam. He retired in 1975 after 32 years service as the highest ranking non-commissioned officer in the Army. He also served as an adviser to the Army Chief of Staff.

• Charles I. Williams was a 1935 graduate of Lima Central High School. He served as a Tuskegee Airman, retiring as a lieutenant colonel from the Air Force.

Hugh Downs
https://www.limaohio.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/54/2020/09/web1_hugh-downssmaller-1.jpgHugh Downs The Lima News archives
Phyllis Diller
https://www.limaohio.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/54/2020/09/web1_phyllis-dillersmaller-1.jpgPhyllis Diller The Lima News archives
Charles Williams
https://www.limaohio.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/54/2020/09/web1_Williams-Charles-1943-1.jpgCharles Williams Courtesy of Allen County Historical Society
Calvin Brice
https://www.limaohio.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/54/2020/09/web1_BriceCalvin-SbyBaker1890-1.jpgCalvin Brice Courtesy of Allen County Historical Society
William Fowler
https://www.limaohio.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/54/2020/09/web1_fowlergreenbank-1.jpgWilliam Fowler Courtesy of Allen County Historical Society
Leslie Peltier
https://www.limaohio.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/54/2020/09/web1_Leslie-Peltier3-1.jpegLeslie Peltier Courtesy of Allen County Historical Society
Maidie Norman
https://www.limaohio.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/54/2020/09/web1_Norman-Maidie-Gamble-1.jpgMaidie Norman Courtesy of Allen County Historical Society
Helen O’Connell
https://www.limaohio.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/54/2020/09/web1_O-Connell-Helen-1988-1.jpgHelen O’Connell Courtesy of Allen County Historical Society

From The Lima News Archives

ONLY ON LIMAOHIO.COM

Read more about the 200th anniversary of Allen County at LimaOhio.com/tag/200.

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