‘200 for 200’: The most prominent Illinoisans in 200 years of history

SHARE ‘200 for 200’: The most prominent Illinoisans in 200 years of history

The Land of Lincoln is also the land of world-class universities, medical centers, museums and corporations. As a result, any list of the 200 most prominent Illinoisans is virtually impossible to assemble given the plethora of talented and influential people who’ve lived and worked here. To assemble this list, the Sun-Times sought recommendations from eight experts, matching their respective lists of nominees. In all, 116 people matched at least twice, and we picked the remaining 84. One of our experts, Chicago treasure Timuel Black, who turns 99 on Dec. 7, made the list — the result of some of his counterparts recognizing his historical significance.

Grace Abbott, early 1900s social worker who promoted immigrant rights

Robert S. Abbott, Chicago Defender publisher who started the Bud Billiken Parade

Jane Addams, influential feminist and social worker, founder of Hull House

Dankmar Adler, architect who partnered with Louis Sullivan in development of steel-framed skyscrapers

Max Adler, Sears Roebuck and Co. vice president who established the Adler Planetarium in Chicago

Nelson Algren, writer known for “The Man with the Golden Arm” and “A Walk on the Wild Side”

Saul Alinsky, community organizer who worked to improve living conditions of the poor

John Peter Altgeld, 20th governor of Illinois who supported workplace safety and child labor laws

Philip Armour, meatpacking industrialist

Ernie Banks, iconic Cubs first baseman and shortstop

Saul Bellow, prolific 20th century writer, recipient of the Pulitzer Prize and the Nobel Prize for Literature

Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, Archbishop of Chicago, 1982-1996

Jesse Binga, first African-American to own a Chicago bank, opening his on the South Side in 1908

Timuel Black, author, educator and South Side activist known for coining the phrase “plantation politics”

Harry Blackmun, U.S. Supreme Court justice from Nashville, Illinois, who wrote the Roe v. Wade decision

RELATED: Order a copy of the Sun-Times 64-page Illinois 200 premium edition magazine See all ‘200 for 200’ nominations from our panel of experts

Shadrach Bond, first governor of Illinois

Myra Bradwell, first woman to be admitted to the Illinois bar

Carol Moseley Braun, first African-American female U.S. senator, 1993-1999

Gwendolyn Brooks, Pulitzer-Prize-winning poet and author

William Jennings Bryan, three-time presidential nominee, known for his “Cross of Gold” speech

Daniel Burnham, architect and city planner who developed the “Plan of Chicago”

Margaret T. Burroughs, educator and artist who co-founded the DuSable Museum of African American Hist

Dick Butkus, Chicago Vocational, University of Illinois and Bears legend

Jane Byrne, Chicago’s first female mayor

David Cerda, first Hispanic to be named to the Illinois Appellate Court

Anton Cermak, 34th mayor of Chicago

Sandra Cisneros, Chicago-born author best known for her novel “The House on Mango Street”

Hillary Rodham Clinton, U.S. senator, secretary of state, first lady and first woman to top presidential ticket for a major party


Bessie Coleman, first African-American and Native-American woman to obtain a pilot’s license

Edward Coles, second governor of Illinois and anti-slavery advocate

Charles Comiskey, baseball player, manager and White Sox team owner who was key in founding the American League

Daniel Pope Cook, Illinois’ first attorney general, also an anti-slavery advocate

Sam Cooke, hit soul music artist who also founded a record label and publishing company

Richard J. Daley, Chicago mayor from 1955-1976 who kept the city from “rust belt” decline

Richard M. Daley, 43rd mayor of Chicago whose tenure exceeded Richard J. Daley, his father

Clarence Darrow, lawyer who defended Leopold and Loeb

David Davis, associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court under Abraham Lincoln and U.S. senator from Illinois

Miles Davis, innovative jazz musician and composer

Eugene Debs, leading socialist who gained national attention for helping direct the Pullman strikers in 1894

John Deere, established the Moline-based agricultural equipment company

Oscar DePriest, first African-American non-southerner to serve in Congress

Leon Despres, Chicago alderman, 1955-1975, who often opposed then-Mayor Richard J. Daley

John Dewey, influential philosopher and educator who taught at the University of Chicago

Jacoby Dickens, head of Chicago’s Seaway Bank and Trust, at one time the nation’s largest black-owned financial institution

Everett Dirksen, U.S. Senator from Illinois and civil rights champion


Walt Disney, entrepreneur whose namesake company became an entertainment and amusement park industry standard

Paul H. Douglas, economist, author, Chicago alderman and U.S. senator

Stephen A. Douglas, U.S. senator from Illinois known for the 1858 Lincoln-Douglas debates

Theodore Dreiser, novelist who championed social justice for radicals and political prisoners

Edward F. Dunne, 24th governor of Illinois and 38th mayor of Chicago

Finley Peter Dunne, Chicago writer whose observations on political and social issues were well regarded by Theodore Roosevelt

Jean Baptiste Point DuSable, credited as Chicago’s first permanent resident

Roger Ebert, Pulitzer-Prize-winning movie critic for the Chicago Sun-Times

Ninian Edwards, governor of the Illinois Territory, 1809-1818

Rahm Emanuel, 44th mayor of Chicago and former chief of staff to President Barack Obama

Louis Farrakhan, African-American activist and head of the Nation of Islam

James T. Farrell, novelist and short-story writer, known for his Studs Lonigan character

Enrico Fermi, physicist and maker of the first nuclear reactor

Marshall Field, shopping magnate, founder of Marshall Field and Co. department stores

Sunny Fischer, leader for women’s causes, anti-domestic violence activist

John Fitzpatrick, head of the Chicago Federation of Labor, 1906-1946

Redd Foxx, comedian and actor best known for 1970s sitcom “Sanford and Son”

Milton Friedman, conservative economist who advised Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher

Paul V. Galvin, along with his brother, Joseph, incorporated Motorola’s founding company, the Galvin Manufacturing Corp., in Chicago

Jeanne Gang, Chicago architect, perhaps best known for the Aqua Tower

Benny Goodman, band leader known as the “King of Swing”

Ulysses S. Grant, 18th president of the United States

Dick Gregory, comedian, civil rights activist and author who got his big break at Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Club

Buddy Guy, legendary blues guitarist

Luis V. Gutierrez, congressman, national immigration rights activist

George Halas, Bears founder, who was also the team’s head coach

Fred Hampton, leader of the Illinois Black Panther party, slain during a raid by police on Chicago’s West Side

Herbie Hancock, band leader, keyboardist and songwriter born in Chicago

Lorraine Hansberry, first African-American woman to have a play performed on Broadway

William Rainey Harper, first president of the University of Chicago

Carter Harrison Sr., 24th mayor of Chicago

Carter Harrison Jr., 30th mayor of Chicago, later left office and then was re-elected

Ben Hecht, screenwriter and reporter for the Chicago Journal and Chicago Daily News

Hugh Hefner, Chicago-born founder of Playboy magazine

Ernest Hemingway, Oak Park native, novelist, journalist and Nobel Prize in Literature winner

Mellody Hobson, president of Ariel Investments, first African-American woman to head The Economic Club of Chicago

William Holabird, architect who contributed to the Chicago School style

Gurdon Saltonstall Hubbard, established Chicago’s first stockyard; heavily promoted the Chicago area to easterners

Robert M. Hutchins, University of Chicago Chancellor, 1945-1951, who restructured the undergraduate program

Charles L. Hutchinson, businessman, influential president of the Art Institute of Chicago

Samuel Insull, helped establish the electrical infrastructure in the U.S.

Jesse Jackson Sr., civil rights activist, minister and politician

Mahalia Jackson, gospel singer with 30 albums who also was active in the civil rights movement

Helmut Jahn, architect perhaps best known for designing the James R. Thompson Center

William Le Baron Jenney, architect and engineer responsible for first skyscraper in 1884

Jens Jensen, landscape architect who designed Garfield, Humboldt, Douglas and Columbus parks

George E. Johnson Sr., founded Johnson Products Company, the first African-American-owned company to be listed on the American Stock Exchange

John H. Johnson, African-American publisher who launched Ebony and Jet magazines

Quincy Jones, Chicago-born record producer, musician and entertainment company executive

Michael Jordan, No. 23, led the Bulls to six NBA titles

Florence Kelley, social reformer who fought for minimum wage, 8-hour workdays and children’s rights

Edward Kelly, 36th mayor of Chicago and first mayor from the Bridgeport neighborhood

Herb Kent, Hall of Fame DJ who worked 65 years in the Chicago radio market

Otto Kerner Jr., 33rd governor of Illinois

John Kinzie, early Chicago settler, husband of Juliette Kinzie

Juliette Kinzie, Chicago historian, wife of John Kinzie

Ardis Krainik, Lyric Opera of Chicago general director, 1981-1997

Ray Kroc, expanded McDonald’s Hamburgers into a multinational chain

Ring Lardner, sports columnist who wrote for Chicago’s Inter-Ocean, the Chicago Examiner and Chicago Tribune

Julia Lathrop, social reformer and first female head of a federal bureau: the United States Children’s Bureau

Leon Lederman, U. of C. professor who won Nobel Prize for physics in 1988, founder of the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy

Abraham Lincoln, 16th president of the United States

Mary Livermore, journalist, abolitionist and women’s rights advocate

Owen Lovejoy, lawyer, minister and abolitionist active with the Underground Railroad

Frank O. Lowden, 25th governor of Illinois who supported women’s suffrage

Rudy Lozano, Mexican-American activist and Chicago community organizer

Michael J. Madigan, speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives

Annie Malone, cosmetics magnate and philanthropist, born in Southern Illinois

Edgar Lee Masters, attorney, author of “Spoon River Anthology”

Curtis Mayfield, rhythm and blues singer, songwriter and producer, born in Chicago

Cyrus McCormick, industrialist and inventor, developed the mechanical reaper

Robert R. McCormick, Republican alderman who owned the Chicago Tribune

Mary McDowell, social reformer who promoted social and economic diversity in Chicago

Joseph Medill, newspaper editor and publisher, and 26th mayor of Chicago

Ralph Metcalfe, track and field Olympian and politician

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, famed architect, early proponent of steel-and-glass modern architecture

Abner Mikva, congressman, federal judge, presidential adviser

Harriet Monroe, editor and founding publisher of Poetry Magazine

Dwight Lyman Moody, evangelist and founder of the Moody Church

Joy Morton, founder of the Morton Salt Company who established the Morton Arboretum in Lisle

Archibald Motley, African-American painter and contributor to the Chicago Black Renaissance

Elijah Muhammad, leader of the Nation of Islam, mentor to Louis Farrakhan

Cardinal George Mundelein, Archbishop of Chicago, 1915-1939

Walter Loomis Newberry, businessman and philanthropist whose estate founded the Newberry Library

Edward “Butch” O’Hare, heroic Naval pilot for whom Chicago’s busiest airport is named

Barack Obama, 44th president of the United States and first African-American president

Michelle Obama, former first lady of the United States

William B. Ogden, first mayor of Chicago

Richard B. Ogilvie, 35th governor of Illinois

Richard Oglesby, 14th governor of Illinois who promoted care for the mentally ill and disabled

Anthony Overton, African-American lawyer and businessman

Bertha Palmer, wife of Potter Palmer who worked to support the impoverished and make kindergarten part of the Chicago education system

Potter Palmer, husband of Bertha Palmer, partner of Marshall Field, promoted large-store window displays

Sara Paretsky, mystery novelist known for her female protagonist, V.I. Warshawski

Albert Parsons, socialist, radical newspaper editor, hanged following the Haymarket affair

Cecil Partee, first African-American to serve as Illinois Senate president and Cook County state’s attorney

Walter Payton, No. 34. “Sweetness.” Bears Super Bowl running back

John Mason Peck, pioneer missionary, anti-slavery advocate

Bessie Louise Pierce, wrote “A History of Chicago,” a three-volume set of the city’s early years

Toni Preckwinkle, Cook County board president

Jorge Prieto, immigrant Mexican-American physician, and immigrant and worker rights advocate

Jay Pritzker, entrepreneur who started Hyatt Hotels

Richard Pryor, Peoria-born comedian

George Pullman, founder of company responsible for the Pullman rail sleeper car

Al Raby, Chicago teacher who worked to desegregate schools and housing

Ronald Reagan, 40th U.S. president, born in Dixon, Illinois

Jerry Reinsdorf, lawyer, CPA and owner of the Bulls and White Sox

Martin Roche, architect who helped contribute to the Chicago School; also helped in the design of Graceland Cemetery

John Rogers Jr., founder and chairman of Ariel Investments, the well-known Chicago financial firm

John Wellborn Root, architect and one of originators of the Chicago School

Julius Rosenwald, philanthropist and one of the owners and leaders of Sears, Roebuck and Co.

Mike Royko, Pulitzer-Prize-winning columnist who wrote for the Chicago Daily News, Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune

Arthur Rubloff, real estate developer whose projects reshaped the face of Chicago

Bobby Rush, South Side congressman

Paul Samuelson, first American recipient of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, adviser to presidents Kennedy and Johnson

Carl Sandburg, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and author

Gale Sayers, Bears running back, NFL legend

Robert Sengstacke, award-winning Chicago Defender photojournalist during the civil rights era

Paul Simon, author, U.S. senator who ran for president

Joseph Smith, Mormon church founder murdered by anti-Mormon mob in western Illinois

Georg Solti, long-serving music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra

August Spies, radical labor activist and newspaper editor hanged following the Haymarket affair

Ellen Gates Starr, social reformer who partnered with Jane Addams in the founding of Hull House

Adlai Stevenson, 23rd vice president of the United States

Adlai Stevenson II, 1952 and 1956 Democratic presidential candidate who promoted progressive causes

Win Stracke, co-founder of Old Town School of Folk Music

Louis Sullivan, architect known for pioneering modern, steel-structure skyscrapers

Billy Sunday, baseball outfielder-turned-evangelist

Gustavus Swift, meat industry magnate who used ice-cooled rail cars to distribute products nationally

Lorado Taft, influential art educator and sculptor

Studs Terkel, historian, actor and Pulitzer-Prize-winning author

William Hale Thompson, 31st and 33rd mayor of Chicago, “Big Bill” notoriously maintained an alliance with Al Capone

Emmett Till, 14-year-old Chicagoan whose brutal murder in Mississippi helped fuel the civil rights movement

Carlos Tortolero, president and founder of the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago

Lyman Trumbull, U.S. senator from Illinois who co-authored the 13th Amendment

Scott Turow, lawyer and prolific novelist

Bill Veeck, former owner of the White Sox

Charles Henry Wacker, Chicago businessman who championed Daniel Burnham’s plan for the city

Charles R. Walgreen Sr., founder of Walgreens drug stores

Aaron Montgomery Ward, founder of catalog mail-order retail business allowing wide distribution of goods to rural areas

Harold Washington, first African-American mayor of Chicago

Dinah Washington, “Queen of the Blues,” who got her start in Chicago, where she grew up

Muddy Waters, musician known for laying the foundation of Chicago blues

Ida B. Wells, African-American journalist and civil rights activist

Jesse White, Illinois secretary of state, one of the state’s longest-serving politicians

Frances E. Willard, 19th century temperance and women’s rights crusader

Daniel Hale Williams, physician and civil rights leader; first African-American surgeon to perform a pericardium repair

Oprah Winfrey, reinvented the talk-show genre as host of “The Oprah Winfrey Show”

Frank Lloyd Wright, architect known for his Prairie School style

Richard Wright, African-American novelist who penned “Native Son” and “Black Boy”

William Wrigley, founder of chewing gum manufacturer William Wrigley Jr. Company

Addie Wyatt, U.S. labor and civil rights leader; first African-American woman to be a vice president of a major labor union

Charles Yerkes, financier and early investor in Chicago’s public transportation system

Ella Flagg Young, superintendent of Chicago’s schools, 1909-1915; first woman in U.S. to head a major urban school system

The Latest
Some business owners are helping to fill the gaps in communities that don’t have a chain coffee shop offering specialty drinks and food.
Players, fathers enjoy “once in a lifetime experience”
The man was in good condition at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, police said.
Three 16-year-old boys were shot, one of them fatally, while they were getting into a car about 7 p.m. Friday in the 5600 block of North Rockwell Street.
Multiple people from a car fired shots, prompting a guest of a repass service at the Salvation Army to return shots. One person has been arrested, but police are searching for other suspects.