The Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame:
Its Origins, Composition, and Purpose
The Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame exists to honor and recognize, and to extol and publicize, the achievements of those Rhode Island men and women who have, in the words of the Hall of Fame induction citation, “made significant contributions to their community, state, and/or nation.” It is also our mission to tell the story of Rhode Island History using the biographies of our inductees, noting their collective impact upon every phase of Rhode Island’s development.
An important purpose of our Hall of Fame–other than to honor our inductees and their achievements and to teach Rhode Island History to our students and the general public–is to raise Rhode Island’s collective image and self-esteem. It is the nemesis of negativity. The Hall of Fame recounts the achievements of its inductees and their contributions to the development of Rhode Island, America, and beyond, in such a way as to make Rhode Islanders not only knowledgeable concerning our heritage, but also intensely proud of it as well.
The Hall of Fame was founded in 1965 through the initiative of its first president, Providence Journal reporter and artist Frank Lanning. Since that time, the Hall of Fame has held annual induction banquets to honor its newest members. These well-publicized events have attracted as many as 740 attendees at such venues as Rhodes-on-the-Pawtuxet in Cranston, the Rhode Island Convention Center, the Inn at the Crossings in Warwick, and the Providence Marriot Hotel.
In addition, since 1997 the Hall of Fame has conducted more than two dozen “Historical Convocations” in order to give proper acknowledgment and representation to Rhode Islanders of earlier generations dating back to natives and the eras of discovery and settlement. By providing this historical dimension, the Hall of Fame has become a vehicle for the teaching of Rhode Island history, and it is a much more comprehensive and creditable Hall of Fame by virtue of its inclusion of all Rhode Islanders, past and present.
Its historical convocations have been held at several historic sites such as the Providence Art Club, the Scholar-Athlete Hall of Fame, the Benefit Street Armory of the Marine Corps of Artillery, Mount Hope Farm in Bristol, the Aldrich House of the Rhode Island Historical Society, the Bristol County Statehouse and Courthouse, and the Conley Conference Center in Providence.
The strength of the Hall of Fame is found in its hardworking, dedicated, twenty-five member volunteer Board of Directors headed, since 2003, by Dr. Patrick T. Conley, Historian Laureate of Rhode Island and a 1995 inductee. Its board has consisted of a diverse array of professors, attorneys, judges, businesspersons, media personalities, generals, sportsmen, accountants, writers, building contractors, and heads of more specialized Halls of Fame. It has included the chairpersons of such heritage-oriented organizations as its two affiliates, the Heritage Harbor Foundation and the Rhode Island Publications Society, as well as leaders of the Rhode Island Labor History Society, the German-American Heritage Society, the Providence Marine Corps of Artillery, the Pawtuxet Rangers, the Rhode Island Aviation Hall of Fame, the Independence Trail, and the Woonsocket Pothier Foundation. Its actively involved Advisory Council has included the former president and publisher of the Providence Journal, the former Secretary of the Navy and U.S. Ambassador to the Netherlands, the former Adjutant General of Rhode Island, a former state attorney general, a retired justice of the Superior Court, the state’s leading cardiac surgeon, the chairman of the Providence Performing Arts Center, the president of the Newport Black-Ships Festival and the Japan-America Society, the president of the America’s Cup Hall of Fame, the founder of the Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame, and the director of the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council.
The Hall of Fame holds annual induction banquets and historical convocations. It maintains an extensive website containing detailed biographies of its members. http://www.riheritagehalloffame.org. It also publishes books on its inductees, and it provides detailed information about Hall of Fame members in response to queries from historians, genealogists, journalists, descendants of deceased inductees, and the general public.
The Hall of Fame fosters pride in Rhode Island by recognizing and honoring its achievers from all walks of life and by making those achievers and their contributions much more widely-known and appreciated. The Hall of Fame tells the entire story of Rhode Island through the medium of biography in the belief that our people make our History.
(Dr.) Patrick T. Conley
Greetings from the President:
Election to the Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame is the highest civic honor that can be conferred upon a Rhode Islander. Of the several million persons who were born in our Ocean State, or lived, or worked, or made their reputations here, only a small, select number have been accorded Hall of Fame status.
Our newly-created Hall of Fame website (www.riheritagehalloffame.org) contains profiles and images of all our inductees, as well as information on our activities. Our Board of Directors is publishing a comprehensive biographical directory on our website where the accomplishments of our inductees will be noted in detail for posterity. The initial steps in this biographical project–funded jointly by our affiliates, the Rhode Island Publications Society and the Heritage Harbor Foundation–are our books: Rhode Island Founders: From Settlement to Statehood, which contains lengthy biographical accounts of the fifty-six earliest members of the Hall of Fame; its sequel, Makers of Modern Rhode Island, 1790-1860, a volume that profiles another seventy-two inductees who shaped Rhode Island’s modern transformation in the early nineteenth century; and a third volume, Leaders of Rhode Island’s Golden Age that carries the project through 1900 with 123 inductee profiles. These volumes are available for sale.
It is my hope that the living members of the Hall of Fame and the families and descendants of deceased inductees will join in a spirit of collegiality to assist the Hall of Fame in its future endeavors.
My goal is to have a Hall of Fame supported in its activities and projects by our inductees and those linked to them as successors-in-interest or by ties of kinship or scholarship, especially through our newly-established Endowment.
(Dr.) Patrick T. Conley
The Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame was founded by Frank Lanning in March 1965 to honor the contributions of those whose efforts, in any line of endeavor, have added significantly to the heritage of the State of Rhode Island. Eligible membership may include those who are native born, those whose reputations have been made while residents of the state, those who have worked or studied in Rhode Island for a protracted period of time, and those have adopted Rhode Island as their permanent home.
If you wish to nominate a person for induction into the Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame, please send your correspondence to any of the Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame directors, or write to:
The Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame
1445 Wampanoag Trail, Suite 203
East Providence, RI 02915
To be eligible for nomination, an individual must have brought credit to Rhode Island, brought Rhode Island into prominence, or contributed to the history and heritage of the State of Rhode Island. This individual must have been born in Rhode Island, lived in Rhode Island, worked or studied in Rhode Island, or made his or her reputation in Rhode Island. Nomination is not tantamount to election to the Heritage Hall of Fame.
PER ANGUSTA AD AUGUSTA
Through difficulties to honor
Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time.
-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow A Psalm of Life (1839)