Award-winning poet Maya Angelou. Record-setting aviator Charles Lindbergh. The “King of Ragtime” music Scott Joplin.
These standouts in their respective fields all have one thing in common: A star on the St. Louis Walk of Fame.
Washington University’s Gerald L. Early, PhD, a noted essayist and American culture critic, will soon be joining a distinguished group when he receives a star embedded in the Delmar Boulevard sidewalk in The Loop.
A ceremony marking Early’s induction into the St. Louis Walk of Fame will be held in front of the Moonrise Hotel, 6177 Delmar Blvd., at 11:30 a.m. Thursday, April 11. The ceremony is open to the public.
Early, the Merle Kling Professor of Modern Letters at Washington University in St. Louis, will give an acceptance speech during the ceremony.
Joe Edwards, founder of the St. Louis Walk of Fame and owner of numerous Loop businesses, including Blueberry Hill and the Moonrise Hotel, will also make remarks and introduce Early.
“I’m delighted that the 120-member selection committee chose Gerald Early to join the other Washington University literary luminaries on the St. Louis Walk of Fame,” said Edwards.
“It’s amazing to me the number of literary greats on the walk who have connections to Washington University, from such faculty members as William Gass, Howard Nemerov and Stanley Elkin to alumni A. E. Hotchner and Tennessee Williams,” said Edwards. “Gerald Early is most deserving of his place alongside these acclaimed writers.”
Early’s star will be embedded at a later time near the corner of Delmar and Eastgate Avenue after construction is completed on the first phase of Washington University’s Loop Student Living Initiative.
The St. Louis Walk of Fame consists of more than 130 sets of brass stars and bronze plaques honoring individuals from the St. Louis area who made major national contributions to America’s cultural heritage.
“Gerald is one of our most outstanding, accomplished faculty members and I’m delighted that he is being recognized in this way,” said Barbara A. Schaal, PhD, the Mary Dell Chilton Distinguished University Professor and dean of the Faculty of Arts & Sciences.
“It’s a fitting honor for someone who has contributed so much to the cultural and intellectual life of St. Louis. To me Gerald represents the very ideal of a great humanities scholar. He’s kind, approachable and humble with a quick and discerning mind. The range of his intellectual curiosity and expertise are inspiring.”
Each star features the name of an honoree with an accompanying plaque summarizing the honoree’s accomplishments. All honorees must have been born in St. Louis or spent their formative or creative years here.
A native of Philadelphia, Early has been on the Washington University faculty since 1982.
He is a professor of English, of African and African-American studies, and of American culture studies, all in Arts & Sciences. He recently stepped down as director of Arts & Sciences’ Center for the Humanities after more than 11 years in that position.
A prolific writer, Early is author and editor of more than a dozen books and winner of prestigious literary prizes.
Early, who has received two Grammy Award nominations in the category of Best Album Liner Notes, writes on topics as diverse as boxing, baseball, jazz, literature, Motown, Miles Davis, Muhammad Ali, Sammy Davis Jr., and the Korean War.
His books include The Culture of Bruising: Essays on Prizefighting, Literature and Modern American Culture, which won the 1994 National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism, and This Is Where I Came In: Black America in the 1960s.
His most recent book is A Level Playing Field: African American Athletes and the Republic of Sports (Harvard University Press, 2011.)
Other works include One Nation Under a Groove: Motown and American Culture; Daughters: On Family and Fatherhood; and Tuxedo Junction: Essays on American Culture.
He has served as a consultant on Ken Burns’ documentary films on baseball, jazz, Jack Johnson and World War II, all of which aired on PBS. He appeared in the first three as an on-air analyst.
Last September, Early received the St. Louis American Foundation’s Lifetime Achiever in Education award at the Salute to Excellence in Education Scholarship and Awards Gala.
Showcase for St. Louis’ cultural heritage
Edwards founded the nonprofit St. Louis Walk of Fame in 1988 to provide a showcase for the cultural heritage of St. Louis and to advance the knowledge, awareness and appreciation of great St. Louisans and their accomplishments.
“The informational plaques set the St. Louis Walk of Fame apart from any project of its kind in the country, and help make it educational and inspirational as well as enjoyable,” Edwards says.
“The knowledge gained from the plaques instills pride in our community.”
To view a list of other St. Louis Walk of Fame inductees, visit http://www.stlouiswalkoffame.org/inductees/.