The 50 Greatest Pittsburghers of All Time
These are the people who, throughout the past 200-plus years, helped put Pittsburgh on the map. From familiar names to unexpected choices, these 50 made contributions both locally and nationally to fields ranging from business and government to culture and sports –– all of which put the spotlight on Pittsburgh.
(page 7 of 11)
31. Father Charles Owen Rice
For 71 years, Father Charles Owen Rice advocated for and ministered to those who fought for workers’ rights in Pittsburgh and beyond.
“The Labor Priest,” as he was known, was moved by the Depression-era plight of the millworkers in his first parish, St. Agnes in Oakland. Rice helped organize the Catholic Radical Alliance, an organization that lent its support to organized labor and, later, to the homeless.
Undeterred by pressure from other clergy members, Rice increasingly found himself at the center of the labor- and civil-rights movements, delivering the invocation at the first-ever convention of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), marching with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in New York City, speaking out against the Vietnam War, ministering to Pittsburgh during the decline of the steel industry and joining picket lines through the 1990s.
Rice died in 2005, eight days short of his 97th birthday. —HBK
32. Madalyn Murray O’Hair
Madalyn Murray O’Hair, born in Beechview in 1919, was one of the founders of the modern atheist movement in the United States and worked tirelessly throughout her life to ensure the Constitutional right to the separation of church and state.
Through her organization, American Atheists, Murray filed numerous lawsuits to ensure that one set of religious beliefs would not be imposed on others in the public space.
Her most notable court case, Murray v. Curlett (which later was consolidated with Abington School District v. Schempp) enshrined the notion that mandatory Bible readings in public schools was unconstitutional. She was murdered, along with her son Garth Murray and granddaughter Robin Murray O’Hair, in 1995. —HBK
33. Honus Wagner
Honus Wagner (1874-1955) gained lasting pop-culture fame because of a hyper-valuable baseball card; two of the 57 authentic prints of his T206 1909-11 are valued at more than $2 million.
Wagner is more than just the face of a rare collectible, however — he is one of the greatest baseball players of all time, ranking 7th on the all-time hits list.
The shortstop, nicknamed “The Flying Dutchman” for his speed on the bases, played for the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1900-17, leading the team to its first World Series championship in 1909. In 1936, Wagner was one of the initial five players inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. The Flying Dutchman retired in 1917 but returned to the Pirates to work as the team’s hitting coach from 1933-52. —HBK
34. Dan Marino
Is Dan Marino the greatest quarterback of all time?
He led the NFL in pass attempts for five seasons and in completions for six. In the Miami Dolphins’ storied 1984 season, he threw for two or more touchdowns in a staggering 15 games. That was also the year Marino, born in Oakland, recorded the first-ever 5,000-yard season.
He’s bested in career passing yards only by Brady, Favre, Manning and Brees — despite the fact that all those guys played dozens more games than him.
In an era of dominant quarterbacks, Marino, 57, was the most reliable and accomplished; in a region known for producing more legendary arms than any other part of the country, Marino edges out the competition. The Dolphins legend is the king of the Cradle of Quarterbacks. —SC
35. Gene Kelly
Long before he was dancin’ and singin’ in the rain, Gene Kelly (1912-1996) was a Pittsburgh boy with dreams of playing shortstop for the Pirates.
The son of a traveling salesman father and an arts-loving mother, Kelly graduated from the University of Pittsburgh and spent years teaching at his family’s dance studio in Squirrel Hill before heading to New York City to search for work on Broadway.
After his breakout role in the musical “Pal Joey,” he landed in Hollywood, where he went on to star in hits such as “Anchors Aweigh” in 1945, “An American in Paris” in 1951 and, of course, “Singin’ in the Rain” in 1952.
Noted for his accessible, athletic dance style, Kelly was awarded an honorary Oscar in 1951 “in appreciation of his versatility as an actor, singer, director and dancer, and specifically for his brilliant achievements in the art of choreography on film.” —JS
The behind-the-scenes debates over the 50 Greatest Pittsburghers.
Read more here.