Time for Virginia to Save the Real Hall of Fame!

By Lloyd the Idiot

12/1:  Revised to correct status of selection committee.

I recently toured the Pantheon, the Parisian tribute to great French leaders (yes, I realize that “great French leaders” is a bit of an oxymoron, but stay with me here I’m making a point).  It was, despite my distinctively American bias, extremely impressive.  Entombed there are Frenchmen who made significant contributions to not just their country, but all humanity – Voltaire, Rousseau, the Curies and Victor Hugo, to name a few.

The tour triggered a childhood memory of my reading about an American Hall of Fame in our old World Book encyclopedia, so, when I returned, I looked it up, using 21st century Google technology this time.  It turns out that the American equivalent to the Pantheon, if you even want to call it an “equivalent,” hasn’t been updated since I read about it as a child.  Indeed, it now tragically dishonors the 102 great Americans memorialized there.  And it’s time to do something about it.

The Hall of Fame for Great Americans began in 1900 on the campus of what was then New York University.  While initially a success and source of great national pride, the once celebrated portico has fallen into great disrepair.  It now sits in a gritty area of the Bronx on the campus of Bronx Community College, NYU having relocated in 1973 and taking with it much of the status that the Hall once had.  No one has been elected to the Hall since 1976, the selection committee apparently having been disbanded.  In fact, the current organization, to the extent there is one, can’t even afford the busts of the people they’ve already elected.  It’s a national disgrace, and meager efforts to refurbish it have been unsuccessful.

Considering the success of, and importance given to, our myriad lesser halls of fame, we can and should offer the memory of our greatest Americans something better than a sparsely frequented portico in the Bronx with rusting busts and crumbling columns.  We should house the stories of those great Americans in a building befitting their contributions, and place it where they can inspire the many great Americans yet to come.  As it is now, it’s like keeping the portrait of a beloved grandfather in the basement bathroom.

Here’s what I suggest.  First, transfer the Hall of Fame to the nation’s capital, preferably on land either adjacent to the home of the greatest American, George Washington, or adjacent to our most hallowed ground, Arlington National Cemetery.  A shrine to the achievement of the American spirit would fit perfectly in this area, already so rich in history.  As to funding, like other civic memorials, the new Hall of Fame could be funded by a public-private partnership.  It could even be funded in conjunction with, or as a part of, the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History.  However, some initial support, financial and emotional, from the state and local government obviously would help get this project off to a great start.  As such, I urge Governor McDonnell and the General Assembly to commit to an exploration of this in the upcoming legislative session.  We Virginians have always taken the lead on historic preservation.  This is another great opportunity to show our leadership in that regard.

In addition to a new facility, the Hall of Fame obviously needs new management and a new management structure.  One historian referred to the current state of the committee as a case of “organizational comatosis,” but I think that’s being generous.   As mentioned above, the committee apparently has been disbanded and the community college now charged with the Hall’s upkeep does little more than occasionally rake the leaves from around the busts.   Even when functioning, the committee made some poor decisions on maintenance and even its selections.  Grover Cleveland.  Really?

This brings me to my final point – the Americans who should be added to the Hall of Fame.  Quite a few great Americans are missing from the current list so I’ve taken the liberty of setting forth below some greats whom I believe should be added  (some have not been dead for the requisite 25 years,  but I’ll put them on the list anyway).  Feel free to add yours.  It will show just how much we have achieved as a nation and how proud we are of the Americans who have come before us.


Among those on my list:


Dwight Eisenhower

Ronald Reagan

John C. Fremont

Richard E. Byrd, Jr.

Amelia Earhart

Albert Einstein

Robert Oppenheimer

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Henry Ford

John D. Rockefeller

Walt Disney

John Wayne

Earl Warren

Noah Webster

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton


  • Matt Genkinger says:

    Milton Friedman

  • Loudoun Insider says:

    Sarah Palin

  • Leej says:

    Sarah Palin 😉 she has disappeared off the planet earth lately

    Now that had me on the floor laughing. 🙂

  • Loudoun Insider says:

    That was the intent, I hope no one took that seriously!

  • Leej says:

    LI of course not that was why I was rolling on the floor laughing. 😉 That was funny.

  • On a more serious note, I think that a hall of fame would bring in some significant tourism – especially if it’s placed on the grounds that once were part of Washington’s Mt. Vernon.

  • BlackOut says:

    John Glenn
    Neil Armstrong
    George C. Patton
    (Glad to see John Phillip Sousa there already)
    Louie Armstrong
    John F. Kennedy
    Steven Jobs
    Martin Luther King
    Frank Sinatra

  • Fred says:

    Jack Kemp
    John Wooden
    Tom Laundry

  • BlackOut says:

    Laundry?? Hahaha. Says alot about a cowboy fan.

    At least you got the Buffalo guy right.

  • Greg L says:

    I spent some time looking at some of the unfamiliar names on the list of honorees, and a number of them are utterly puzzling as to why they’re honored in such a way.

    From my perspective, it might be better just to start the whole exercise over and dispense with unknown lesbian actresses, relatively inconsequential writers and poets, and the not-so-well remembered inventor of the sewing machine. I think we could pick out some more meaningful people if we weren’t encumbered by the perspectives of some of the people who were selecting these honorees.

  • Greg, that’s what I was thinking. New York state, much less Bronx Community College, is not going to let go of any of it. May as well start from scratch. Speaking of looking over the list, check out the Bronx CC virtual tour of the Hall. Pathetic. http://www.bcc.cuny.edu/halloffame/

    BO, I thought of Jobs and Apollo 11, too, but they haven’t been dead for 25 years. Good picks, though.

    Fred, 50-0.

  • […] great Americans.   You’ll recall that  I suggested just such a study in a previous post, Time for Virginia to Save the Real Hall of Fame.  And while my characterization of the importance of the resolution may be a bit colored, Del. […]

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