05/19/2014 10:02 am ET Updated Jul 19, 2014

List of Famous Illinoisans (PART II)

Following last month's 10 famous Illinoisians list, many readers responded with dozens of other well-known people from all over the Land of Lincoln.

Some other feedback suggested the previous list was too "Chicago-centric," since most of those featured were either from the Windy City or surrounding collar counties. This next installment includes 15 famous -- and in one case, infamous -- downstate Illinoisians, all of whom were born and/or raised south of I-80.

From musicians, professional athletes, actors, writers and both good and bad gunmen, here are 15 famous downstate Illinoisians. If you don't know much about them, there are some interesting tidbits of information following the list.

15 Famous Downstate Illinoisans
Wyatt Berry Stapp Earp (March 19, 1848 - Jan. 13, 1929):
  • Known as a gambler (met "Doc" Holliday while gambling in Texas).
  • Took part in the famous 30-second gunfight at O.K. Corral on Oct. 26, 1881 with his brothers, Virgil and Morgan Earp and Holliday, where they killed three outlaw cowboys they'd been feuding with.
  • Over the next five months, Virgil was attacked, leaving his left arm shattered and permanently crippled. His younger brother, Morgan, was assassinated.
  • Wyatt came out unscathed in every gunfight he took part in.
James Scott "Jimmy" Connors (Sept. 2, 1952):
  • Won 8 Grand Slam single titles, including 5 U.S. Opens, 2 Wimbledons and 1 Australian Open; 2 Grand Slam double titles at the U.S. Open and Wimbledon between 1974-1978.
  • On July 29, 1974, Connors became the first male tennis player to rank number 1 in the world, which he held for 160 consecutive weeks until Rodger Federer broke the record on Feb. 26, 2007.
Burl Icle Ivanhoe Ives (June 14, 1909 - April 14, 1995):
  • Attended Eastern Illinois State Teachers College -- now EIU -- from 1927 to 1929, until he walked out of an English class lecture on Beowulf and dropped out. EIU now has a building named after its most famous dropout.
  • Sang folk songs with the Almanacs, which associated with the anti-war group American Peace Mobilization (APM), until the Germans invaded the Soviet Union. APM then became pro-war and renamed itself American People's Mobilization, singing folk songs in favor of the U.S. involvement.
  • Accused of being a communist and blacklisted in 1950 until he testified before the House Committee on Un-American Activities, which allowed him to continue on with his career in film.
  • Starred in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, East of Eden and The Big Country, which he won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
June Squibb (Nov. 6, 1929):
  • Actress who has played supporting roles in various films including Scent of a Women, Alice, About Schmidt and The Age of Innocence.
  • Recently received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress in Nebraska.
Paul Tibbets (Feb. 23, 1915 - Nov. 1, 2007):
  • Brigadier general in the USAF.
  • Flew the lead aircraft during the first U.S. daylight heavy bomber mission in Europe on Aug. 17, 1942.
  • Helped with the development of the B-29 Superfortress.
  • In Sept. 1944, he became the commander of the 509th Composite Group that dropped both atomic bombs. The plane he flew over Hiroshima, the "Enola Gay," was named after his mother.
David Lee Murphy (Jan. 7, 1959):
  • Best known for his 1995 album, Out With a Bang, which included the most-played country song that year "Party Crowd," and his only number one single, "Dust on the Bottle."
Betty Friedan (Feb. 4, 1921 - Feb. 4, 2006):
  • Leader of the women's and feminist movement during the 1960s and 70s.
  • Authored the 1963 book, The Feminine Mystique.
  • Founded the National Organization of Women (NOW) in 1966, helped establish the National Women's Political Caucus in 1971 and founded the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws.
  • Later criticized extremist feminists and the abortion-centered position of many liberal feminists.
Richard Pryor (Dec. 1, 1940 - Dec. 10, 2005):
  • Regarded as one of the most influential stand-up comics in history, incorporating and critiquing racial and contemporary social issues in his writing and stand-ups.
  • Won an Emmy in 1973; 5 Grammy's; 2 American Academy of Humor Awards; the Writers Guild of America Award and received the first Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.
  • Listed number one of all-time greatest stand-up comics by Comedy Central.
George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr. (Feb. 14, 1859 - Nov. 22, 1896):
  • Engineer that created the first Ferris Wheel for the 1893 Chicago World's Columbian Exposition.
  • More than 2.5 million people rode on his invention until it was demolished in 1906.
Christian Ludolf "Buddy" Ebsen, Jr. (April 2, 1908 - July 6, 2003):
  • Began his career as a dancer with his sister Vilma.
  • Best known for his role as Jed Clampett on The Beverly Hillbillies.
  • Cast as the "Tin Man" in The Wizard of OZ , but was allergic to the aluminum dust used for the makeup and could not continue with the production.
Alison Krauss (July 23, 1971): 
  • Won 27 Grammy Awards from 41 nominations as of 2012 - the second-most awarded living recipient behind the classical composer, Sir Georg Solti, who has 31 awards.
  • Most awarded singer and female artist in Grammy history.
John Malkovich (Dec. 9, 1953): 
  • Has appeared in over 70 motion pictures including Places in the Heart, In the Line of Fire, Of Mice of Men and Being John Malkovich.
  • Started his own fashion company, Mrs. Mudd, in 2002.
  • On June 6, 2013 in Toronto, he saved a 77-year-old man's life after he tripped and slashed his throat on scaffolding equipment. Malkovich applied pressure to the man's neck to stop the bleeding before being taken to the hospital.
Jim Thome (Aug. 27, 1970):
  • Former professional baseball player who played for six teams between 1991-2012.
  • Best known for his power hitting with the Cleveland Indians, racking up 612 career home runs - the seventh-most in history.
  • Played for the Chicago White Sox between 2006-2009 and ended his career with the Baltimore Orioles in 2012.
James Earl Ray (March 10, 1928 - April 23, 1998):
  • Convicted on March 10, 1969 after pleading guilty for murdering Martin Luther King, Jr to avoid the death penalty.
  • Unsuccessfully tried to get a new trial by recanting his confession and eventually died behind bars of hepatitis C.
Carl August Sandburg (Jan. 6, 1878 - July 22, 1967):
  • Won three Pulitzer Prizes -- two for his poetry (Corn Huskers and Complete Poems) and one for his Abraham Lincoln biography, The War Years.
  • Joined the Social Democratic Party in Milwaukee (known as the Socialist Party of America in Wisconsin) and served as secretary to the city's socialist mayor, Emil Seidel, from 1910 to 1912.
  • Later moved to Evanston and then to Elmhurst from 1919-1930.
  • His childhood home in Galesburg is now operated by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency and is called the Carl Sandburg State Historic Site.

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