Inducted - Wednesday, May 1, 1996
Sculptor: William J. Williams
Where is Emmett Kelly in the Hall of Famous Missourians?
Emmett Kelly was a gifted entertainer who gained world fame as the hobo clown, "Weary Willie." He and his family moved to a farm near Houston, Missouri when he was six. At the age of 19, Kelly went to Kansas City with the dream of becoming a professional cartoonist. It was while working for an advertising agency that he created the hobo clown character for which he would later become famous. Kelly did his first circus work as a trapeze artist and clown for Howe's Great London Circus. In 1933, while working with the Hagenback-Wallace Circus, his "Weary Willie" character was born and instantly became a symbol of hope for those hard hit by the depression. Kelly found his true home in 1941 when he joined the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus. He became a major star of the circus and even made appearances in films, night clubs, television, and on the Broadway stage. He was inducted into the Clown Hall of Fame in 1989.