VIDEO: Kansas Hall of Fame Laureates Honored

On Friday, June 15, six individuals and one business were inducted into the Kansas Hall of Fame, in recognition of their contributions to the state of Kansas and the U.S. The ceremonies took place at the Great Overland Station in Topeka. The Master of Ceremonies was PBS journalist Jim Lehrer, a Wichita native. The event also included Kansas legislators and local celebrities were also in attendance.

The word “honored” was echoed among those accepting the awards. One laureate in particular had plenty to say about being back in his home state.

“It feels great to be amongst such interesting and talented company,” said actor Ed Asner.

Asner, the 83-year old actor, traveled with his family from his home in Los Angeles to attend the ceremony in person. Asner’s best known for his role as Lou Grant on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” and more recently, as Carl Frederickson in the Pixar movie “Up!”

During his acceptance speech, Asner told stories of growing up in Kansas City, KS. He attended Wyandotte High School, where he was going to pursue a future in journalism. After being told that he “wouldn’t be able to make a living at it,” he went to serve in the military during WWII. While in the military, he began acting in stage productions.

“The first time I ever really acted, I had an epiphany,” said Asner. “After that, I’ve been seeking more epiphanies, hoping to get a big one just like that first time.”

Asner wrapped up his speech by thanking Kansas for his upbringing.

“I’m happy to be back in the place that was so gentle and comforting to me when I was a child growing up,” said Asner.

Asner was not the only person accepting awards Friday night. William Allen White, the famous author and newspaper publisher from Emporia, was honored as well. White’s great-grandson, Chris Walker, accepted the award on his behalf. Walker is the current publisher and editor of the Emporia Gazette.

“I’m thrilled at the recognition that my great-grandfather is getting tonight,” said Walker. “His writing has really transcended time. The words that he wrote are so prevalent to today; it’s great that people still appreciate him.”

The other inductees include Alfred Landon, the governor of Kansas from 1932 to 1937, and his daughter, Nancy Landon Kassebaum Baker. Baker was a U.S. Senator from 1978 to 1996. She accepted her father’s award, as well as her own.

George Washington Carver, Cyrus Holliday, and the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway were also inducted into the Hall of Fame. Carver’s award was accepted by Dr. Gilbert Rochon, the president of Tuskegee University in Alabama. Holliday’s and the ATSF’s awards were accepted by Carl Ice, the president of BNSF Railway.

The night began with a short meet-and-greet session, with the inductees waiting by exhibits dedicated to them. The exhibits will be on display in the Great Overland Station until July 15.

After the meet-and-greet session, cocktails and dinner was served. Each laureate was showcased in a short documentary film. Ed Asner was the last laureate to speak, and took his time telling a very tender message.

“Life’s been a ball,” said Asner. “Thank you Kansas, and thank you everyone.”