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.
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36. William “Red” Whittaker
Considered to be the “Father of Field Robotics,” Carnegie Mellon University researcher William “Red” Whittaker, 70, has developed autonomous vehicles as well as robots designed to work in unpredictable environments, such as outer space, mines and notably one that helped to clean up radioactive material at the Three Mile Island nuclear plant.
Whittaker is the Fredkin Professor of Robotics, director of the Field Robotics Center and founder of the National Robotics Engineering Consortium, all at CMU, and chief Scientist of RedZone Robotics.
A former Marine who got his master’s and doctorate from CMU, Whittaker has been often recognized for his work, including winning first place in the DARPA Grand Challenge Urban Challenge in 2007 for driverless cars. —BH
37. Daisy Elizabeth Adams Lampkin
After a childhood in Reading, Pa., Daisy Elizabeth Adams Lampkin moved to Pittsburgh where she became involved with the suffrage movement.
She joined the New Negro Women’s Equal Franchise Federation, which would become the Lucy Stone League, and served as president for 40 years. She also established the first Red Cross chapter among black women, organized local chapters of the Urban League and NAACP and became a writer, editor and vice president of the Pittsburgh Courier.
In 1924, Lampkin was invited to meet with President Calvin Coolidge and other black leaders on racial equality; she was the only woman in attendance. Among many other accomplishments, she’s credited with organizing the NAACP’s 1931 National Convention in Pittsburgh and recruiting a young attorney named Thurgood Marshall to become a member of the NAACP’s Legal Defense Committee, where he led the organization to win Brown vs. the Board of Education and subsequently became a Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
She died at age 81 in 1965. —LD
38. Annie Dillard
There are few authors who can impart so much meaning in a single sentence as Annie Dillard, which is likely why her first nonfiction work, “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek,” won her a Pulitzer at age 29 and her other work also has been widely lauded.
Dillard, born Meta Ann “Annie” Doak in 1945, lived in Point Breeze growing up and based her memoir, “An American Childhood,” on her youth here; she’s also well-known for her novels, “The Living” and “The Maytrees.”
Dillard, 73, left Pittsburgh to attend college in Virginia and since has spent time teaching in Washington state and at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. —LD
39. Myron Cope
Each of Pittsburgh’s professional franchises has a singular voice: Bob Prince for the Pirates, Mike Lange for the Penguins. But Myron Cope (1929-2008), the voice of the Steelers for 35 years, left the team and the city a greater legacy in the form of a twirling, yellow towel.
One of the most identifiable pieces of sports merchandise in the world (and beyond — it has been to space), the Terrible Towel begat the concept of the “rally towel,” which has spread far and wide; at Cope’s insistence, all proceeds from the towel benefit Allegheny Valley School, a home for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities where his son once resided.
Writer, broadcaster, humanitarian — yoi and double yoi! —SC
40. Chuck Noll
During a news conference following a frustrating Steelers’ loss in 1970, coach Chuck Noll was asked how did he feel? “The same way I always do,” Noll replied. “With my fingers.”
Armed with a dry-as-the-desert wit and a mind that engaged in much more than football, Noll took a team with a 1-13 record and transformed it into a four-time Super Bowl champion.
The Steel Curtain, Immaculate Reception and Franco’s Italian Army became part of Pittsburgh’s lexicon and lore during Noll’s 23-year stewardship.
But as biographer Michael MacCambridge observed two years after Noll’s death in 2014 at age 82, he “was not forgotten, exactly. But neither was he celebrated. He never found the place in the public imagination that [Vince] Lombardi and others did.” When he retired in 1991, Noll left the limelight and returned to his other pursuits that included piloting planes and sailboats, fine wine, classical music and cultivating rose bushes. —RC
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