Born Oct. 14, 1857, in Portland, Ind. Elwood Haynes was educated in the Jay County public schools. He obtained admission to the Worcester County Free Institute of Industrial Science in Worcester, Mass., in 1873 and graduated from that institution three years later. For his senior thesis he analyzed tungsten’s effect upon iron and steel–an idea he used later in inventing Stellite, an extremely hard, heat-and-corrosion-resistant tool metal.
After graduation, Haynes returned to Portland to teach. He eventually became principal of Portland High School, but left to conduct postgraduate work in chemistry, biology and German at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
With the discovery of natural gas near Portland in 1886, Haynes left teaching and became superintendent for the Portland Natural Gas and Oil Company. In 1890 he was appointed field superintendent for the Indiana Natural Gas Company of Chicago, which had its headquarters in Greentown, Ind. While working for that firm, Haynes’s inventive mind came up with a method to prevent pipelines from freezing by dehydrating the gas prior to its being pumped through the lines. During a lull in his duties in 1891, Haynes began preparing plans and drawings for a new method of travel–a horseless carriage. Moving to Kokomo in 1892 as manager of the gas plant there, he continued to work on his idea. In November 1893 he purchased a one-cylinder, one-horsepower gasoline engine and, a few months later, hired Elmer and Edgar Apperson for 40 cents an hour to construct the vehicle. It was ready for its first test run on July 4, 1894. The car was towed by a horse and buggy (to avoid frightening horses on the busy Kokomo streets) out into the countryside on the Pumpkinvine Pike. With Haynes at the controls, the car traveled about six miles at a speed approaching six or seven miles per hour–becoming one of the first cars in the country to achieve such a feat. With this success behind them, Haynes and the Apperson brothers formed a partnership to design and build the Haynes-Apperson automobiles. Back then, the Haynes touring car was sold for about $3,000. Both Haynes and Apperson Brothers automobiles were built in Kokomo until the 1920s.
In 1910 Haynes donated his Pioneer auto to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, where it is on permanent display. Previously on display in Reno, Nevada, a 1910 Haynes Model 19 can be found in Portland’s Community Resource Center. Haynes died on April 13, 1925. The Kokomo inventor, if not the first, was among the first Americans to build and drive a gasoline-powered, self-propelled vehicle. He is still remembered today as a brilliant metallurgist and a pioneer in Indiana’s automobile industry.
Darrell “Pete” Brewster
Darrell Brewster got his start playing football and basketball at Portland High School. In 1948 he was named Indiana High School Basketball All Star. After high school, He went to Purdue University, located in West Lafayette, Indiana, on a basketball scholarship. While at Purdue, he also played Varsity football on the 1952 College Football All Star Team. Brewster went on to play nine seasons in the NFL. He earned two NFL championships with the Cleveland Browns in 1954 and 1955. During that time he also accumulated 210 receptions, 3,758 receiving yards, and 21 touchdowns as an offensive end. After his playing career ended in 1960, Brewster was a receivers coach with the Kansas City Chiefs and the Minnesota Vikings, earning a Super Bowl ring with the Chiefs in Super Bowl IV.
Brewster is enshrined in the Indiana Football Hall of Fame and the football field at East Jay Middle School has been dedicated in his name. In 2007 he was inducted into the Purdue Athletic Hall of Fame.
After retiring from football, he lived in Peculiar, Missouri on the outskirts of Kansas City for many years, until his death in 2020.
Born June 9, 1932 in Portland, Indiana, Jack Imel was an American singer, dancer, musician, and television producer who is best known for his work on The Lawrence Welk Show. A tap dancer since the age of four, Imel later took up playing the marimba. He appeared in clubs and concerts in and around his hometown throughout his elementary and high school career. Later, with the advent of the Korean War, Imel joined the U.S. Navy and considered a career as a sailor, but towards the end of his tour of duty he was stationed in San Diego. He made the trip up to Los Angeles to audition for the television show of bandleader Lawrence Welk, and wowed the maestro with his dancing and marimba-playing abilities. He was invited to join the cast of the show, and cemented his status on it in his debut performance in 1957. After Imel spent about three months on the show, the Welk Show began receiving mail saying that he was “conceited” and a “show-off.” To rectify the situation, Welk suggested that Imel take a place in the band, since all soloists on the show came from the band. Since the marimba was not designed to be a part of the orchestra, Jack was given unique percussion instruments to play, such as bells, the triangle, and the maracas. With this development, fans began to accept Imel wholeheartedly.
Imel’s career as a producer began with the hiring of tap dancer Arthur Duncan in 1964. With two hoofers on the show, Imel decided he needed to diversify, and began pitching production ideas. The show brass found them interesting, and he was invited to the production meetings; eventually, he became a full-fledged associate producer of the show. Beginning in the 1970s, Imel was paired with Mary Lou Metzger in specialty song and dance routines. They quickly became one of the most popular items on the show. Imel also became known for wearing animal costumes in various numbers, alongside dancer Bobby Burgess.
Imel married his wife Norma in 1951 and their marriage lasted until his death in 2017. They resided in West Hills, California for many years . He is survived by Norma and their five children.
In Jack’s hometown of Portland, Indiana, Jack Imel Boulevard is named in his honor.
An American dancer and choreographer, Ms Tharp was born in Portland on July 1, 1941, to William and Lecile Tharp. Twyla is the niece of the late Bernice Gibble whom many remember as a teacher at Portland High School. The Tharp family lived in Dunkirk until 1951, when they moved to Rialto, California. Here her parents owned a drive-in theater on the path of Route 66. Twyla worked in the theater’s snack bar where she could watch the stars on the screen.
Her mother, a piano teacher, began giving Ms. Tharp lessons when she was only two. At age four, Twyla began dance classes and was soon studying ballet, tap, jazz and modern dance. She graduated from Barnard College in New York City with a degree in art history and in 1963, joined the Paul Taylor Dance Company. Two years later, she formed her own company. Ms. Tharp’s work encompasses choreography with classical music, jazz and contemporary pop music. She has created more than 135 dances, choreographed for five Hollywood movies, directed and choreographed two Broadway shows and written two books. Her first book was an autobiography in 1952, Push comes to Shove, and her second, The Creative Habit: Learn it and Use It for Life, was published in 2003. In 2008 she was named as a Kennedy Center honoree. Prior to the Kennedy Center honors, Ms. Tharp had received many other honors and awards, including two Emmy Awards, 17 honorary doctorates and the 2004 National Medal of the Arts presented at the White House. Ms. Tharp has been quoted as saying, “I thought I had to make an impact on history. I had to become the greatest choreographer of my time. That was my mission. Posterity deals with us however it sees fit. But I have it 20 years of my best shot.” We are pleased to add Twyla Tharp to our growing list of celebrities from Jay County.
Born as Kenneth Dollins at Portland, IN. on September 8th, 1901, MacDonald was an American film actor. He made more than 220 film and television appearances between 1931 and 1970. MacDonald developed a flair for comedy, and he made memorable appearances in Stooge comedies including Monkey Businessmen, Hold That Lion, Crime on Their Hands, Punchy Cowpunchers, and Loose Loot. He appeared six times as Colonel Parker in the ABC western series Colt .45. During the final portion of his acting career, MacDonald appeared occasionally in motion pictures, including a small role as Jerry Lewis’s father in the 1961 feature, The Ladies’ Man, and as a member of the court martial board in The Caine Mutiny (1954).
One of Portland’s most accomplished residents in the sport of national harness horse racing is Jerry Landess. He has won nearly 2000 horse races, and the horses that he has driven have won includes over 2 million dollars. Some of his lifetime accomplishments include: former director of the United States Trotting Association, 2 time recipient of the Sagamore of the Wabash Award, Chaplain of the American Legion Post 211 and recipient of the Jay County Chamber of Commerce Lifetime Achievement Award.
Born and raised in Portland, IN., White-Arnold went on to become an Olympic Athlete. White-Arnold was a member of the U.S. Archery Team at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece. She placed 36th in the women’s individual ranking round with a 72-arrow score of 623. She is a member of the 13th-placed American Women’s Olympic Archery Team.
Kevin A. Ford
Jay County’s very own NASA astronaut, Kevin A. Ford was born at Portland in 1960. On October 23, 2012, Ford was launched into space as part of Expedition 33 aboard Soyuz TMA-06M. Ford became commander of Expedition 34 on November 18, 2012 with the departure from the ISS of the Soyuz TMA-05M spacecraft, which returned the Expedition 33 crew to Earth. He, along with the crew of Soyuz TMA-06M, returned to Earth on March 16, 2013.
Richard T. James
One of Jay County’s most prominent political figures includes Richard T. James, who was born at Portland, IN. on February 10th, 1910. In 1944, he was elected to the office of the Lieutenant Governor of Indiana under Republican Governor Ralph Gates. He served in this position between January 8th, 1945 and January 10th, 1948 when he resigned. His resignation from the office of the Lieutenant Governor was a result of his appointment to the office of the Vice-President and Treasurer of Butler University at Indianapolis, IN.
Leon Ames was an American film and television actor, born on January 20th, 1902 in Portland, IN. His television roles included leads in the adaptations of Life With Father (1953–55) and Father of the Bride (1961–62). Ames was one of the founders of the Screen Actors Guild in 1933. He served as its president in 1957. In 1980, after 50 years in show business, Leon Ames was presented with the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award.
Jay County’s own natural resource conservationist, Glasgow was born in Portland, IN. on March 29, 1914. He was the director of the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission from 1966 to 1968 during the administration of Governor John McKeithen. Glasgow served from 1969 to 1970 as the assistant U.S. Secretary of the Interior under Walter Hickel. His duties involved administration over American Fish, Wildlife, Parks, and Marine Resources. The tenure of this position occurred during the first half of the first term of U.S. President Richard M. Nixon.
Venture capitalist and former Wall Street securities analyst, Meeker was born in 1959 in Portland, IN. Her primary work is on Internet and new technologies. In 1995, Meeker and Chris DePuy at Morgan Stanley, published The Internet Report, a landmark Morgan Stanley industry report, which became known as “the bible” for investors in the Dot com boom. She is a partner at the Silicon Valley venture capital firm, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. In 2014, Meeker was listed as the 77th most powerful woman in the world by Forbes magazine.
Born as Thaman Pierce Daily on May 5th, 1911 at Portland, Indiana, he was an American swing music and Dixieland jazz cornetist and valve trombonist. Daily was the leader of Pete Daily and his Chicagoans in the 1940s and 50s. They recorded for 36 Capitol Records, Dixie by Daily and Pete Daily’s Dixieland Band. In 1942, he moved to the West Coast and after service in World War II, formed the Chicagoans. He played long engagements at several Hollywood night clubs in the 1950s including: Sardis, The Royal Room, Hangover, Mike Lyman’s.
John P.C. Shanks
An early prominent figure of Jay County, Shanks was a well-known lawyer and earned the rank of Colonel during the American Civil War. He studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1848 and commenced his law practice in 1849 at Portland, IN. He served as prosecuting attorney of Jay County in 1850 and 1851. In addition, Shanks served as a member of the Indiana State House of Representatives in 1855. During the Civil War, he served in the Union Army as a Colonel and commanded the 7th Indiana Cavalry Regiment. Shanks died in Portland, IN. on January 23, 1901 and was interred in Portland’s Green Park Cemetery.
A Jay County native and pro-Athletics Coach, Williams was born January 27th, 1947. He is a retired American WABA and WNBA basketball coach, and most recently was head coach of the women’s basketball program at Rice University in Houston, Texas. Williams coached the WABA team, the Dallas Diamonds. In the 1980-81 season, the team went 27-9, and he was named Coach of the Year. Williams retired from pro and collegiate basketball coaching at the end of the 2014–15 season, with a 141–170 record at Rice and an overall head coaching record of 342–309.