John Neihardt
John Neihardt (1881-1973)

Inducted - Thursday, August 20, 2009
Sculptor: William J. Williams

Where is John Neihardt in the Hall of Famous Missourians?

John Neihardt, a poet and philosopher, lived in Branson, Missouri for nearly 30 years. During his career, he was a professor of poetry at the University of Nebraska; a literary editor for the St. Louis Post- Dispatch; and a poet-in-residence and lecturer at the University of Missouri–Columbia. At the University of Missouri, he taught Epic America, which was popular during his tenure and for many years after his retirement when it was shown on television. He also gave his entire private library to the University of Missouri Libraries in 1961.

At the age of 11, Neihardt began writing poetry. After graduating from Nebraska Normal College in Wayne at the age of 16, he taught in rural schools near Hoskins. He published his first book, The Divine Enchantment, when he was 16 years old. Beginning in 1908, Neihardt chronicled his trip by canoe down the Missouri River in The River and I.

Neihardt is also remembered for writing accomplished works including A Cycle of the West, five epic poems chronicling settlement of the Great Plains and the displacement of Native Americans; and Black Elk Speak, which has been called the most influential book ever written on Native American culture and religion.

After Neihardt died in 1973, his ashes were scattered from an airplane into the Missouri River.