Every local holds a sense of pride for the place they grew up. Pride for the city and the city’s reciprocated pride for its citizens is one of the most unifying aspects of a community. Louisville is certainly no exception. Our locals have accomplished so many amazing things, many of them overcoming tremendous odds, that it would be wrong not to brag on them a little bit.
In 2002 the local non-profit Greater Louisville Pride Foundation (GLFP) began the Hometown Heroes program to enhance civic pride throughout the city. The original intent of the campaign was to honor Louisville native Muhammad Ali by installing a giant photographic mural on the side of the LG & E building, but it quickly evolved to recognizing other famous Louisvillians from a variety of professions who have inspired others and represented the city in a positive manner. Essentially public art, these vinyl banners stretch as high as 60 feet and can be found hanging on the sides of buildings all throughout the Louisville-Metro Area.
The Hometown Heroes campaign is so special because it relies on the support and participation of fellow locals to fulfill their mission of building an exciting and positive image of Louisville.
The story behind the latest banner: Jennifer Lawrence
The latest banner was revealed Saturday, September 26, on the side of the Kentucky Center for the Arts. Louisville’s sweetheart, Jennifer Lawrence, doesn’t yet have her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, but she’s made an impact on the lives of many in our community. You may have seen her Hometown Hero banner on your commute to work, but when you learn how Jennifer earned the honor to hang around town with “The Greatest” and “The Colonel,” you might be surprised.
The banner is the result of the efforts of a group of North Oldham Middle and High School students, dubbed the “Lawrence Ladies,” who are quite fond of the homegrown celebrity. Zoe Kuhn, an eighth grader at North Oldham Middle School, figured out how to make this a reality.
“I was thinking, well it’s just a poster, how much could that actually be?” Zoe said.
Well, $10,000 to be exact. Zoe and her friends, determined to get Jennifer on the side of a building, launched a grassroots campaign to raise the necessary funds. The group set up a gofundme.com account, and it wasn’t long before news of their effort began to spread country-wide by word of mouth.
Jennifer on being named a Hometown Hero:
“I feel so lucky to be born and raised a Louisville girl. Louisville gave me a perspective and informed my identity in a beautiful and honest way.”
We feel the same way, Jen.
Who are Louisville’s Hometown Heros?
Many of us know them by name, and now we can recognize them by their faces. But, what makes these people Louisville icons and Hometown Heroes? How many do you recognize?
1930 Bishop Lane on the Watterson City East Building, along 1-264 West at Newburg Road
His record low tournament score at the 1964 PGA Championship stood for 30 years. He ended the tournament three shots ahead of runners-up Arnold Palmer and defending champion Jack Nicklaus.
Dr. Harold Kleinert and Dr. Joseph Kutz
Jewish Hospital Heart and Lung Building
These doctors are synonymous with the field of hand and upper extremity surgery and are best known for the nation’s first hand transplant.
Fifth Street, just north of Muhammad Ali Boulevard
His professional boxing career only consisted of 34 fights, 13 of which were wins by knockout. He died saving a friend from drowning in the Ohio River in 1960. The National Boxing Association created the Rudell Stitch Sportsmanship Award, and he was one of only four people to be awarded two Carnegie Hero Medals for risking his life to save another.
138 South Third Street, between West Market and West Main streets, facing north
Tom created the Bulleit Distilling Company to revive his great-great-grandfather Augustus Bulleit’s legendary bourbon, which hadn’t been in production since 1860. Today, a variety of Bulleit bourbons and rye whiskeys are distributed internationally and are regarded by critics as some of world’s best whiskeys.
303 W. Market St., facing west
A graduate of St. Xavier High School, he played college football at Vanderbilt University and became the Buffalo Bills’ first-round pick in the 1986 NFL draft. He was selected for the Pro Bowl roster in 1990, 1992 and 1995. He became head football coach for St. X in 2013.
Derby Dental Building on Shelby St., facing south
Victor headed out to Hollywood in 1932 when he was 19. His looks and charm earned him many female fans and the nickname “The Hunk.” Of his 55 film and television credits, one of his most famous roles was as the long-haired hero in the 1949 biblical film Samson and Delilah.
Courtyard Marriott, across from the KFC Yum! Center
Denny has called Louisville home since 1971, when he became the 17th head basketball coach at the University of Louisville, where he led the team to 23 NCAA tournament appearances and two national championships during his 30 years at UofL.
George Garvin Brown
West Main Street between First and Second streets
In 1870, he began distilling his own whiskey and sealing it in glass bottles to assure his customers of its high quality. He named his whiskey Old Forester Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. Today, that company is known internationally as Brown-Forman and is one of the largest American-owned spirits and wine companies.
J. Graham Brown School at the corner of First Street and Muhammad Ali Boulevard
She studied with the Louisville Ballet Academy before being offered a full-time scholarship to the School of American Ballet, the official school of the New York City Ballet. She entered the company’s corps de ballet in 1986 and became a principal dancer with the New York City Ballet in 1991. She was also a FACES of the South.
Phil Martin Simms
Southern High School east wall at Preston Highway
He was a first-round selection by the New York Giants in the 1979 NFL draft. He became a nationally known football announcer for various networks, including ESPN, NBC and CBS.
OK Storage building, East Broadway at Barrett Avenue
He was born without eyes and with arms and legs that can never fully extend. He beat the odds when he joined the University of Louisville marching band. He won the hearts of our community and inspires others every day.
Tori Murden McClure
Kentucky Exposition Center, facing I-65 South past the Crittenden Drive exit
In 1999 Tori became the first woman and the first American to row solo across the Atlantic Ocean. She also holds the honor of being the first woman and the first American to travel over land to the geographic South Pole, skiing 750 miles from the ice shelf to the pole. Read her FACES of Louisville article here.
Watterson City building, along I-264 West at Newburg Road
He is the greatest all-around football player in Notre Dame history, winning the Heisman trophy in 1956, despite Notre Dame’s losing season. He was selected first overall in the 1957 NFL draft by the Green Bay Packers and is a member of the National High School, College and Pro Football Halls of Fame.
Watterson City building, along I-264 East at Newburg Road
In 1980, he helped the University of Louisville win the school’s first NCAA championship. That same year he received the Wooden Award that honored him as the top college basketball player in the country. He was a first-round draft pick by the Utah Jazz and became Rookie of the Year.
John A. “Bud” Hillerich
Heyburn Building at Fourth and Broadway
Bud created a custom bat for his favorite baseball player, Pete Browning, “The Louisville Slugger,” after he broke his bat during a game. That bat helped spark the development of the company we all know and love today that is synonymous with America’s favorite pastime, The Louisville Slugger.
Starks Building, on Muhammad Ali between Third and Fourth streets
Before we knew her as a co-anchor on “Good Morning America,” Diane Sawyer was a WLKY weather reporter. She moved to Washington to serve in President Nixon’s administration, then became the first female correspondent of “60 Minutes.” She’s most recently been reporting top stories from behind the desk of “ABC World News.”
Justice Louis Brandeis
Chase Bank Building
Judge Louis Brandeis is one of the most celebrated justices in the history of the United States Supreme Court. President Woodrow Wilson nominated the Louisville native to the highest court in the land in 1916. During his 23 years on the bench, Justice Brandeis is credited with helping draft some of the greatest defenses of freedom of speech and the right to privacy to be handed down.
BP Apartment Building at Third and Guthrie streets
Colonel Sanders is famous for his “finger-lickin’ good” fried chicken. He was made an honorary “Kentucky Colonel” by Governor Ruby Laffoon for his contribution to the state’s cuisine when his original recipe became so popular. He didn’t begin to franchise his iconic image and recipe until 1955 when he was already 65 years old.
Second and Broadway
World-famous jockey Pat Day has accomplished an impressive resume of more than 8,800 wins in his 32-year racing career. He ranks second in all-time Breeder’s Cup wins with 12 victories and is the all-time leading rider at both Churchill Downs and Keeneland. Day retired from racing in 2005.
426 Baxter Ave.
Bob Edwards was one of the most listened to people on radio from 1979 to 2004 as the first host of NPR’s Morning Edition. The Louisville-native and graduate of the University of Louisville successfully made the transition to satellite radio with The Bob Edwards Show on Sirius XM Radio.
Glassworks Building at Ninth and Market Streets
Ed Hamilton’s artworks can be found in many venues across the country. The Louisville native’s 8-foot bronze sculpture of York can be found on The Belvedere, and his 18,000-pound sculpture of Abraham Lincoln can be found in Waterfront Park.
Mary T. Meagher
Originally installed on Norton Suburban Hospital, but had to be removed when the hospital expanded.
Mary T. Meagher’s two world records in 1981 at the U.S, Swimming National Championships which stood for nearly two decades. She won gold medals at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles and was named the female World Summer of the Year in both 1981 and 1985. She was elected to the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1993.
Pee Wee Reese
Fetzer Building at 209 E. Main St.
The DuPont Manual School alumni played shortstop for the Brooklyn (and Los Angeles) Dodgers from 1940 to 1958 where he helped lead the team to two World Series titles in 1955 as a player and in 1959 as a coach. He helped smooth the integration of Major League Baseball with his public and personal support of his teammate and friend, Jackie Robinson. He was elected in to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1984.
LG & E Building at Third Street and River Road
The three-time world heavyweight boxing champion is still regarded as on of the greatest athletes in the history of sports. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005 and the President’s Award from the NAACP in 2009. Sports Illustrated crowned him the “Sportsman of the Century” and recently renamed their Legacy Award in his honor.
Louisville is home to some pretty great people, places and businesses. Stay up-to-date with everything the city has to offer by downloading the StyleBlueprint App. It’s FREE!