The village of Oak Park, Illinois has been the home to some of America’s most successful people. Sharing a border with the city of Chicago, Oak Park was one of America’s first fully developed suburbs, and historically has been considered one of the most beautiful suburbs in America.
Ten of its most noteworthy citizens are described below.
Ernest Hemingway Born in a part of Oak Park, Illinois in what was a part of Cicero, Illinois at the time of his birth, Ernest Hemingway (July 21, 1899 – July 2, 1961) was raised in Oak Park and attended Oak Park River Forest High School. A world renown novelist, Hemingway won the Pulitzer Prize in 1953 and the Nobel Prize in 1954. Hemingway never showed much nostalgia about his hometown, and he once even described Oak Park as being a town with “wide lawns and narrow minds.”
Bob Newhart Born in Oak Park, Illinois on September 5, 1929, Bob Newhart attended St. Ignatius College Prep (the Jesuit school of choice for boys from Oak Park). After getting a business degree from Loyola University in Chicago and serving in the army, Newhart turned to comedy. His first album The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart won Newhart a Grammy Award. He would produce seven more successful comedy albums over the next twelve years. Newhart is probably best known for the highly successful sit-coms, The Bob Newhart Show, set in Chicago and co-starring Suzanne Pleshette and Newhart, set in Vermont and co-starring Mary Frann.
Dan Castellaneta Born in Chicago, Illinois on October 29, 1957, Dan Castellaneta was raised in Oak Park, Illinois and graduated from Oak Park River Forest High School. Castellaneta is a three time Emmy Award winner for his work on The Simpsons. He not only plays Homer Simpson, but more than a dozen of the other characters on the show. Castellaneta’s portrayal of Homer Simpson is the longest running portrayal of the same character on prime-time television in history. He just recently surpassed James Arness and Kelsey Grammer.
Ray Kroc Born and raised in Oak Park, Illinois (October 5, 1902 – January 14, 1984), Ray Kroc is best known for his creation of the McDonald’s chain of international restaurants. After purchasing the name McDonald’s from the McDonald brothers of California, Kroc brought the restaurant back to the Chicago area, opening his first McDonald’s restaurant in nearby Des Plaines, Illinois. In 1974, Ray Kroc purchased the San Diego Padres baseball franchise.
Frank Lloyd Wright Interestingly, the man that is today most closely associated with Oak Park, Illinois did not live there until he was adult. At the age of twenty-two, Frank Lloyd Wright purchased a plot of land in Oak Park and built his first home. He soon thereafter drew recognition for his unique style of architecture and started obtaining regular commissions, many of them from Oak Park residents. His “Prairie Style” of design was directly influenced by the challenges of having to design and build in Oak Park. A personal scandal involving the wife of one of his clients led to Wright’s leaving Oak Park in 1909.
Edgar Rice Burroughs Born in Chicago, Illinois, Burroughs (September 1, 1875 – March 19, 1950) was raised in Oak Park, Illinois. In 1912, he published a pulp fiction novel called Tarzan of the Apes, a book that would go on to make him famous as well as very wealthy. Burroughs would not only go on to write many sequels, he would break with traditional wisdom and aggressively attempt to cross market the Tarzan brand by creating Tarzan comics, movies, and merchandise. In 1919, Burroughs purchased a ranch in California and called it Tarzana. His ranch and the surrounding area would be incorporated as the city of Tarzana in 1928.
Betty White Though raised in Southern California, Betty White was born in Oak Park, Illinois on January 17, 1922 and is an Emmy Award winning actress. White began her television acting career in 1953 on a show called Life With Elizabeth. She has worked regularly over the past fifty-plus years; her two most note worthy roles are Sue Ann Nivens on the Mary Tyler Moore Show and Rose Nyland on The Golden Girls. Because of White’s quick wit, she has been a regular on such game shows as Password and What’s My Line?
Kathy Griffin Born in Oak Park, Illinois on November 4, 1960 and raised in neighboring Forest Park, Illinois, Kathy Griffin attended Oak Park River Forest High School and graduated in 1978. She is an Emmy nominated comedian and actress. She is best known for her portrayal of Vicki on the successful sit-com Suddenly Susan. She has also performed in two HBO Comedy specials.
Thomas Lennon Born in Chicago, Illinois on August 9, 1970, Thomas Lennon was raised in Oak Park, Illinois and graduated from Oak Park River Forest High School in 1988. He is an actor and writer and is today most well known for his portrayal of Lt. Jim Dangle on the highly successful Comedy Central show Reno 911! Lennon has also written the screenplays for the movies The Pacifier and Night at the Museum.
Judy Tenuta Born in Oak Park, Illinois on November 7, 1949, Judy Tenuta is a an accordion playing comedian who has starred in her own specials on HBO, Showtime, and Lifetime. She won Best Female Comedian at the American Comedy Awards, and her two comedy albums have both been nominated for Grammy Awards. She was the voice of Edna on Duckman, and makes regular appearances on television.