Wheaton, John Francis (1866–1922)

John Francis (J. Frank) Wheaton, a Twin Cities lawyer and orator, became the first African American elected to serve in the Minnesota legislature in 1898. A target of racial prejudice throughout his life, Wheaton believed in the political process as a means to improve the state’s civil rights laws.

Maas, Melvin (1898–1964)

Though he lived in a Democratic city and a Democratic political era—the Great Depression and World War II—the conservative Republican Melvin Maas represented St. Paul in Congress from 1927 to 1945, with one short interruption. He also received two World War II combat decorations, was awarded a Carnegie Hero Fund medal, and served the public for two decades after leaving politics.

Betty Crocker

For many Americans, the name Betty Crocker evokes an image of domestic perfection. From the often-reissued Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook to the iconic red spoon logo that bears her signature, Betty Crocker is one of the most recognized names in cooking. It comes as a surprise to some that “America’s First Lady of Food” is, in fact, fictional.

Johnston, Clarence H. (1859–1936)

The prolific architect Clarence H. Johnston left a built legacy unmatched in Minnesota. He designed scores of mansions and stately houses, mostly in St. Paul, as well as dozens of academic buildings, churches, schools, sports palaces, prisons, hospitals, and asylums.

Smith, Alice Gustava (Sister Maris Stella) (1899–1987)

Alice Gustava Smith, better known by her students and readers as Sister Maris Stella, taught English at the College of St. Catherine (now St. Catherine University) in St. Paul for nearly fifty years. During that time she also published books of verse that built her reputation as a skilled and spiritual poet.

Radisson, Pierre Esprit (1636/1640–1710)

Pierre Esprit Radisson’s 1659 expedition to Lake Superior and beyond opened a door to the North American fur trade. Through it, he earned a reputation as a courageous explorer and a cunning merchant. In the 2010s he is remembered as one of the first Europeans to travel to what became the state of Minnesota.

Wigington, Clarence (1883–1967)

Clarence Wigington, the nation’s first African American municipal architect, served as lead architect in over ninety St. Paul city projects. His legacy in brick and stone has lasted well into the twenty-first century. He designed both the enduring (schools, fire stations, park buildings) and the ephemeral (five Winter Carnival ice palaces).

Puckett, Kirby (1960–2006)

Kirby Puckett played twelve seasons as a center fielder for the Minnesota Twins. Known for both his playing skills and his spirit, “Puck” played a major role in rejuvenating the team and leading them to World Series victories in 1987 and 1991. Although his career was cut short by eye problems, he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2001.

Williamson, Jane Smith (1803–1895)

Jane Williamson was a schoolteacher and anti-slavery activist in Ohio before coming to the Presbyterian Dakota Mission at Lac qui Parle in 1843. She spent the remaining fifty-two years of her life working with the Dakota people.

Shoemaker, Francis H. (1889–1958)

Francis H. Shoemaker’s 1931–1932 journey from a Leavenworth prison cell to a seat in the U.S. Congress ranks among Minnesota’s most bizarre political odysseys. But little about Shoemaker surprised those following the meteoric career of the radical newspaper editor from Red Wing.


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