Meet Some Of Springfield's Most Notable Figures

Mar 17, 2017

Next in our road trip series, KLCC’s Tiffany Eckert introduces us to some of the notable people who hail from Springfield. (Listen to interviews and watch the slideshow!)

In the Springfield Museum, there’s a painting of a man with piercing blue eyes and a long reddish brown beard. It’s the likeness of Elias Briggs, the city’s founder.

Museum docent Paco Shiraldi: “In 1849, Mary and Elias Briggs came from Kentucky along the southern route. They found a spring in a field and developed their homestead around it.”

(ringing school bell)

Agnus Stewart was the first teacher in Springfield. She traveled with her family by wagon train from Missouri to Oregon. In 1854, Springfield School District Number 19 was formed and Miss Stewart was appointed to teach.

(sound of students in hallways.)

Today, Agnus Stewart Middle School serves nearly 700 Springfield students.

(Starting shot and runners)

Announcer: “And they’re off!” And on the outside Dellinger comes up for the United States. Bill Dellinger jumps into the lead. This is a two time Olympian, this is his third Olympics...”

Springfield’s William “Bill” Solon Dellinger won the Bronze medal in this race at the Olympic Games in Tokyo. He also set a personal record.

Announcer: “Bill Dellinger of the United States in the lead right now…”

Dellinger coached at Thurston High School in Springfield and then at Lane Community College before heading to the University of Oregon. In 1969, Dellinger coached cross country --just when Steve Prefontaine came on the scene. (cheers) At 83 years old, he continues to attend the Bill Dellinger Invitational.

American novelist and countercultural figure Kenneth Elton Kesey grew up in Springfield. Kathy Floyd Shults is 80 years old and she remembers attending  Springfield High School with Ken Kesey.

Shults: “Ken was very different. Different, Different. He participated in wrestling. And his girlfriend that he ended up marrying was Faye Haxby and I ran around with her two sisters which were Freshmen so I got to see more than lots of people did, (laugh.) at their home.”

Ken Kesey’s daughter Sunshine says she still sees the lasting legacy of her fathers novels, “One Flew Over The Cookoos Nest” and “Sometimes a Great Notion.”

Sunshine Kesey:”I am pleasantly surprised by so many people who say they came here to Oregon because they read my dad’s books.”

Kesey’s notoriety extended. He was ringleader for the Merry Pranksters, experimented with psychedelic drugs in the 60’s, inspired the Grateful Dead band members and became the subject of Tom Wolfe’s book, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test

Ken Kesey:”I was a lot more than the Tom Wolfe depiction. I think this is a problem for a lot of American writers and has been for a long time. It’s not a good idea to be observed too much.”

Ken Kesey’s mother, Geneva Jolley, just celebrated her 100th birthday and she still lives in her home in Springfield. She understands her famous son’s point of view.

Jolley: “I wish we could clear the table and let him go on being his own person.”

U.S. Congressman Peter DeFazio knows why he’s one of Springfield’s notable figures.

DeFazio: “I think I’m the first ever United States representative ever to reside in Springfield.”

Congressman Peter DeFazio was first elected to the U.S. Congress in 1986 and is now the longest serving House member in Oregon’s history. He says coming from Springfield has advantages.

Defazio:”You know when I get to my rural areas down on the coast and out there, talking about living in Springfield, a small town, there’s a certain prejudice out there in some of my rural areas about Eugene and the University. So, it sometimes helps me relate to folks.”

(The Simpson’s theme music)

After 23 seasons on the air, Simpson’s creator Matt Groening finally revealed that the town of Springfield, Oregon, was the inspiration for the show's setting. Homer, Marge, Lisa, Bart and Maggie are the city’s most notable cartoon figures.

Lisa Simpson types a letter: “An Open Letter to the people of Springfield: Today our town lost what remained of its fragile civility, drown in a sea of low-fat pudding.”

Theodore Sturgeon is considered one of the great classic science fiction writers of all time. He lived quietly on Hayden Bridge Road in Springfield for many years until his death in 1985. Two of Sturgeon's best known works are the short story "Slow Sculpture" and the award winning novel More than Human.

(Star Trek theme)

The original television series "Star Trek" produced two of Sturgeon’s scripts.

Sturgeon’s daughter Noel says the scripts her dad wrote for Gene Rodenberry’s Star Trek series exhibited his deep interest in relationships and characters.

In the Star Trek episode, "Amok Time" Mr. Spock goes into an odd state and seeks a mate on planet Vulcan. Sturgeon is credited with providing one of the most famous lines ever spoken in a science fiction genre:

Mr. Spock: “Live long and prosper”:

(Star Trek theme fades)