Famous Falls City Residents
David P. Abbott (1863-1934)
He was a realtor, author, and amateur magician. He was known nationally as the inventor of the “Talking Teakettle”. He was considered the most underrated magician in the 20th century.
John J. (Jug) Brown
A great player and later a great coach, he played on one of Lincoln High’s best teams, the unbeaten 1922 football team. He was all-state in basketball and on a state championship track team. His coaching career practically put Falls City on the map. The 1939 basketball team there won the Class A title with a 20-1 record. He had unbeaten football teams. The high school field in Falls City is named in his honor.
Alice Cleaver (1878-1944)
She studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, four years; the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts under William Chase and Cecelia Beaux, three years; and in Paris for one year until the outbreak of World War I ended her studies. She spent most of her career painting in her home town of Falls City, Nebraska in the manner of her Philadelphia training.
Emmett Dedmon (1918-1983)
As a journalist and author, he held various editorial positions with the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Daily News for most of his 38-year career. He wrote seven books and was inducted into Chicago Press Club Hall of Fame in 1982.
Gilbert L. Dodds (1918-1977)
He was the dominant American amateur miler of the mid-1940′s. He held the record for the fastest indoor mile run for six years; was the recipient of the Sullivan Award in 1943, the most prestigious trophy in American amateur athletics. He was also an educator and track coach.
Elmer S. Dundy(1830-1896)
Elmer Scipio Dundy was born March 5, 1830, in Trumbull County, Ohio. While teaching school in Pennsylvania, he read the law with a prominent attorney and was admitted to the bar in 1853. After practicing a few years in Pennsylvania, he arrived in Nebraska City via steamboat from St. Louis in 1857. After only a few months, Dundy moved to the unorganized village of Archer in Richardson County.
The embryonic Archer was made the county seat with Dundy, who set up his legal practice there, as one of its later incorporators. Dundy became not only successful but popular, frequently organizing dances at the double-log-walled Hotel Archer, where he also played the fiddle. When it was discovered that Archer had been inadvertently and illegally laid out on the Half Breed Tract, the county seat was moved 2 1/2 miles northwest to Falls City. Dundy himself and many of Archer’s houses then moved into Falls City. In 1866 the plat of Archer was vacated and today the only remnant of the town, once claiming a population of 300, is the cemetery.
Although the press claimed at one point that Dundy “pretended to be a Democrat … but acted as a Republican,” he was elected to the council of the territorial legislature from Richardson County. A year later, Dundy was “severely censured” and reprimanded for refusing, while under oath, to disclose the name of a man he admitted had attempted to bribe him on a banking bill with a “gold watch worth $150″ (which he refused) for his vote. Dundy was re-elected in 1860 and while still practicing law, in June 1863, President Abraham Lincoln, with the urging of Congressman Sam Daily, appointed him associate justice of the Supreme Court of the Territory of Nebraska. Dundy’s court area covered Nebraska from the Platte River to the Kansas line.
When Nebraska became a state in 1867, Dundy’s office was abolished. After being an unsuccessful candidate for the U.S. Senate, Dundy was appointed by President Johnson as U.S. district judge for the Nebraska District though his appointment was “sharply disputed” and not confirmed until April 1868.
In 1870, Dundy was chosen to represent Richardson County at the state Republican convention in Lincoln. The Richardson County contingency ultimately joined in the nomination of David Butler for his second term as governor even though Dundy personally opposed him but disliked Robert Furnas, the other candidate, even more. Dundy reported returning to “the Tichenor House (at 13th and L) filled with gloom over the victory.”
Only months later, Dundy and three others again met at the Tichenor House and drafted a paper calling for a legislative investigation of Butler, which ultimately led to his impeachment and removal from office. Though one of the principal candidates for a Senate seat in 1875, Dundy withdrew his name from the election.
Perhaps Dundy’s most famous role was as the judge in the 1879 Omaha trial of Standing Bear vs. Crook, where Dundy’s reputation as a friend of the underdog played out. On May 12, Dundy released his verdict, which stated that “an Indian (is) a person within the meaning of the law” and entitled to all the constitutional rights of a U.S. citizen.
Early in 1861 Judge Dundy was married to Miss Mary H. Robertson at Omaha, Nebraska. Four children were born of this union: E. S., Jr., May, Luna, and a daughter who died in childhood. Their home was at the current site of Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church, on Fulton Street.
Elmer S. Dundy died in Falls City in October 1896. Words of praise noted he had “the kindest of hearts towards members of the bar” and he was “always anxious to deal with those, though they have violated the law … inflicting … a very light sentence.” In fact, this apparent weakness caused some complaints wherein barristers and friends were given unquestionably light sentences.
Pee Wee (George F.) Erwin (1913-1981)
He was a musician, composer, bandleader, and trumpeter for well known bands of Benny Goodman, Ray Noble, and Tommy Dorsey in the 1930′s. He performed on radio and television, was a member of top Dixieland groups, and composed such jazz numbers as “Piano Man” and “Creole Rag.”
John P. Falter (1910-1982)
Born in Plattsmouth, Nebraska, John moved with his family in 1916 to Falls City where his father opened the the Falter Clothing Store. While at Falls City High School, he created the comic strip Down Thru the Ages, which was published in the Falls City Journal. After graduating high school in 1928, John studied at the Kansas City Art Institute and won a scholarship to the Art Students League in New York City. He eventually opened a studio in New Rochelle, N.Y., where he met other illustrators, including Frederic Remington and Norman Rockwell. Falter received a major break with his first commission from Liberty Magazine to do three illustrations a week in 1933. By 1938, he had acquired several advertising clients including Gulf Oil, Four Roses Whiskey, Arrow Shirts, and Pall Mall. Falter’s work appeared in major national magazines. In 1943, he enlisted in the Navy and his talents were applied to the American war effort to spur the recruiting drives. Falter designed over 300 recruiting posters. Falter’s first The Saturday Evening Post cover, a portrait of the magazine’s founder, Benjamin Franklin, is dated September 1, 1943. That cover began a 25-year relationship with The Saturday Evening Post, in which Falter produced 128 covers for the magazine until The Post ceased publication in 1969. Perhaps his most endearing cover was for December 1946, which depicted downtown Falls City dressed up for Christmas. Falter also did illustrations for Good Housekeeping, Ladies Home Journal, Cosmopolitan, McCall’s, Life and Look. He illustrated over forty books, one of his favorite projects was illustrating a special edition of Carl Sandburg’s Abraham Lincoln – The Prairie Years. An excellent portrait painter, Falter had Clark Gable, James Cagney, Olivia de Haviland and Admiral Halsey among his sitters. Falter completed over 200 paintings in the field of western art, with emphasis on the westward migration of 1843 to 1880 from the Missouri River to the Rocky Mountains. He was honored by his peers with election to the Illustrators Hall of Fame in 1976, and membership in the National Academy of Western Art in June of 1978. John Falter died in Philadelphia in May, 1982.
Lloyd Hahn (1898-1983)
Falls City’s Lloyd Hahn was America’s top middle-distance runner from 1923 until the day he retired, on his 30th birthday in 1928, after an 800-meter victory in Cologne, Germany. He ran at the Paris Games of 1924 and the Amsterdam Games of 1928, his background virtually unknown.
According to his parents, his running career began at age 4 “when he tipped over a beehive and outdistanced the irate inhabitants to the pond.”
Paying his own way to events, he took second in a tri-state meet at Tarkio, Mo., one year and won it by himself the next year with five firsts and a second. He won three gold medals at the state track meets in 1919 and 1920, setting the 440 state record as a senior.
Hahn went one year to Brown University. He then ran for the Boston Athletic Association, which he represented in his two Olympic appearances. He was sixth in the 1,500 in 1924 and fifth in the 800 in 1928 after breaking the world record during the Olympic Trials. At one time, he owned seven world records.
He was the first American to break any of Paavo Nurmi’s records. But his greatest race was in the 1927 Knights of Columbus Games at Madison Square Garden, where he bested famed Swedish schoolmaster Edvin Wide by 4 yards.
In his retirement, Hahn seldom left his farm southwest of Falls City – until he took an interest in another hometown runner, Gil Dodds. Hahn coached Dodds, who went on to win the 1943 Sullivan Award winner as the nation’s outstanding amateur athlete.
Barbara Frost Hemphill (1948-)
She is CEO of Hemphill Productivity Institute (HPI), whose mission is to help individuals and organizations create and sustain a productive environment so they can accomplish their work and enjoy their lives. HPI helps clients organize time, space, and information so they can maximize productivity and reduce stress. Barbara is the author of Kiplinger’s Taming the Paper Tiger at Home, Kiplinger’s Taming the Paper Tiger at Work, and Simplify Your Workday. Her most recent book, Love It or Lose It: Living Clutter-Free Forever! was launched on Home Shopping Network. She is currently writing a new book entitled Taming the Paper Tiger in the Digital Age: There’s an Easy Switch.
Her business grew out of the lessons learned growing up on a farm in Nebraska. Her formal training was in music and education. Barbara sees organizing as an art form, and invites her clients to: “paint a picture of the kind of life you want to live, and we will help you create and sustain a productive environment that will enable you to get there.” She has lived in the West Indies, India, New York City, and Washington, DC. While living in India, she adopted three children. In addition, she has two stepchildren and one grandchild. She now lives in Raleigh, North Carolina with her husband Alfred Taylor. Their home sits on 70 acres of woods overlooking a 30-acre lake. People love coming to Barbara’s home see whether she practices what she preaches!
Current and 39th Governor of Nebraska. He was born in Falls City and lived in Fairbury, McCook, Benkelman and Wahoo, where he graduated from high school. In 1970, he graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point and served five years in the U.S. Army, rising to the rank of captain. He is also a graduate of the Army’s Airborne and Ranger Schools. He was first elected to state office in 1994 as the State Treasurer. He was elected as Lt. Governor in 2002 and was sworn in as Governor in January 2005 when the previous governor was appointed to a federal position.
Patricia K. McGerr (1917-1985)
She was an author, editor, and publicist, known as the freelance writer who created the mystery form “whodunit?” in which the victim of the crime, not the culprit, is the unknown person to the reader. Over 40 years she wrote 17 novels and 46 short stories and received three awards, including first prize in the 1967 short story contest of the Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine.
Named The World-Herald’s Nebraska high school coach of the year in 1955 at Falls City and its college coach of the year in 1961 at Peru State. At Falls City from 1946 to 1956, his football teams were 71-17 and his basketball teams were 126-47 and won the 1956 Class A title. At Peru State from 1956 to 1973, his football record was 23-20-4 and his basketball record 250-174 with four trips to the NAIA nationals. He was elected to the Helms Athletic Hall of Fame in 1957, the NAIA Football Hall of Fame in 1957, the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame and Peru State Hall of Fame in 1986. He died in 1994 at age 77.
John H. Morehead (1861-1942)
John H. Morehead, the eighteenth governor of Nebraska, was born in Columbia, Iowa, on December 3, 1861. His early education was attained in the Iowa public schools, and later he attended the Shenandoah Business College. After moving to Nebraska in 1884, Morehead worked as a teacher and farmer, and eventually established his own mercantile business. He first entered politics as the Richardson County treasurer, a position he held from 1896 to 1899. He also served as mayor of Falls City in 1900, and was a member and president of the Nebraska State Senate from 1910 to 1912. As senate president, Morehead succeeded to the office of lieutenant governor, where he served from 1911 to 1912. He next secured the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, and was elected governor by a popular vote in November 1912. He was reelected to a second term in 1914. During his tenure, a workmen’s compensation law was sanctioned; the state deficit was reduced; the “blue sky” act was authorized; several appointments were made to the first board of control; and the first state budget was instituted. After completing his term, Morehead left office, but continued to stay active in politics. He served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1923 to 1935, and was a delegate to the 1940 Democratic National Convention. Governor John H. Morehead passed away on May 30, 1942, and was buried in the Steele Cemetery in Falls City, Nebraska.
Kenneth L. Sailors (1921-)
He was a professional and college basketball player, educator, and coach. He was considered among the pioneers in basketball for inventing the one-handed jump shot in 1934. He played on the University of Wyoming’s NCAA national championship basketball team in 1943, the same year he won the Chuck Taylor Medal as the outstanding college player of the year; played five seasons from 1946 to 1951 in the Basketball Association of America and the fledgling National Basketball Association for such teams as Cleveland, Denver, Boston, and Baltimore with a career total of 3,480 points in 276 games and was selected as one of the 100 greatest players of the first century of basketball by the Basketball Alumni Foundation in 1991.
Allan Tubach (1939-)
For more than four decades, Tubach’s painting subjects have included people, landscapes and architecture from around the world. His greatest emphasis is urban and rural Nebraska. A large number of pieces focus on the cities of Omaha and Lincoln, but also the artist’s boyhood home area of Richardson County in the southeast corner of the state. J. Brooks Joyner, Director of the Joslyn Art Museum, said “Allan Tubach’s work unfolds before us like a cubistic tapestry of his collective observations of particular locations. They are breathtaking, spacious and dynamic compositions.”
Arthur J. Weaver (1873-1945)
He was born on a farm near Falls City and educated in its public schools. After receiving his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Nebraska in 1896 and a year later his law degree, he started his practice in Falls City. He served as city and county attorneys and in 1915, as mayor. In 1928, he was elected governor. He was actively involved with the agricultural, recreational and historical development of Nebraska.
David Wiltse (1940-)
From Falls City and a graduate of the University of Nebraska he is the author of ten plays, twelve novels and several dozen television films, television series pilots, feature film scripts, and magazine articles. His home town of Falls City was the locale of his two most recent novels, “Heartland” and “The Hangman’s Knot” and an earlier work, “Home Again”, was set in the town of Cascade, a thinly disguised version of Falls City. The fictitious Cascade is also the setting for “A Dance Lesson” which is a partly autobiographical recollection of his youth. Mr. Wiltse’s Nebraska theme is also part of the play “A Grand Romance”, a memory play dedicated to his grandmother, a native of Lincoln, and his grandfather, a former professor at the University of Nebraska. Mr. Wiltse is a recipient of a Drama Desk Award as Most Promising Playwright, an Edgar Allan Poe Award from the Mystery Writers of America, and the Nebraska Sower Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Arts. He lives in Weston, Connecticut.