Iowa was the birthplace of Herbert Clark Hoover (1874–1964), the first US president born west of the Mississippi. Although he was orphaned and left the state for Oregon at the age of 10, he always claimed Iowa as his home. His long and distinguished career included various relief missions in Europe, service as US secretary of commerce (1921–29), and one term in the White House (1929–33). Hoover was buried in West Branch, the town of his birth. Iowa has also produced one US vice president, Henry A. Wallace (1888–1965), who served in that office during Franklin D. Roosevelt's third term (1941–45). Wallace also was secretary of agriculture (1933–41) and of commerce (1945–47); he ran unsuccessfully as the Progressive Party's presidential candidate in 1948.
Two Kentucky-born members of the US Supreme Court were residents of Iowa prior to their appointments: Samuel F. Miller (1816–90) and Wiley B. Rutledge (1894–1949). Iowans who served in presidential cabinets as secretary of the interior were James Harlan (b.Illinois, 1820–99), Samuel J. Kirkwood (b.Maryland, 1813–94), Richard Ballinger (1858–1922), and Ray Lyman Wilbur (1875–1949). Ray Wilbur's brother Curtis (1867–1954) was secretary of the Navy, and James W. Good (1866–1929) was secretary of war. Appropriately enough, Iowans have dominated the post of secretary of agriculture in this century. They included, in addition to Wallace, James "Tama Jim" Wilson (b.Scotland, 1835–1920), who served in that post for 16 years and set a record for longevity in a single cabinet office; Henry C. Wallace (b.Illinois, 1866–1924), the father of the vice president; and Edwin T. Meredith (1876–1928). Harry L. Hopkins (1890–1946) was Franklin D. Roosevelt's closest adviser in all policy matters, foreign and domestic, and served in a variety of key New Deal posts. Prominent US senators from Iowa have included James W. Grimes (b.New Hampshire, 1816–72), whose vote, given from a hospital stretcher, saved President Andrew Johnson from being convicted of impeachment charges in 1868; earlier, Grimes had been governor of the state when its 1857 constitution was adopted. William Boyd Allison (b.Ohio, 1829–1908) was the powerful chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee for nearly 30 years.
Among Iowa's most influential governors were the first territorial governor, Robert Lucas (b.Virginia, 1781–1853); Cyrus C. Carpenter (b.Pennsylvania, 1829–98); William Larrabee (b.Connecticut, 1832–1912); Horace Boies (b.New York, 1827–1923); and, in recent times, Harold Hughes (1922–96) and Robert D. Ray (b.1928).
Iowa has produced a large number of radical dissenters and social reformers. Abolitionists, strong in Iowa before the Civil War, included James W. Grimes, Josiah B. Grinnell (b.Vermont, 1821–91), and Asa Turner (b.Massachusetts, 1799–1885). George D. Herron (b.Indiana, 1862–1925) made Iowa a center of the Social Gospel movement before helping to found the Socialist Party. William "Billy" Sunday (1862–1935) was an evangelist with a large following among rural Americans. James B. Weaver (b.Ohio, 1833–1912) ran for the presidency on the Greenback-Labor ticket in 1880 and as a Populist in 1892. John L. Lewis (1880–1969), head of the United Mine Workers, founded the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO).
Iowa can claim two winners of the Nobel Peace Prize: religious leader John R. Mott (b.New York, 1865–1955) and agronomist and plant geneticist Norman E. Borlaug (b.1914). Three other distinguished scientists who lived in Iowa were George Washington Carver (b.Missouri 1864–1943), Lee De Forest (1873–1961), and James Van Allen (b.1914). George H. Gallup (1904–84), a public-opinion analyst, originated the Gallup Polls.
Iowa writers of note include Hamlin Garland (b.Wisconsin, 1860–1940), Octave Thanet (Alice French, b.Massachusetts, 1850–1934), Bess Streeter Aldrich (1881–1954), Carl Van Vechten (1880–1964), James Norman Hall (1887–1951), Thomas Beer (1889–1940), Ruth Suckow (1892–1960), Phillip D. Strong (1899–1957), MacKinlay Kantor (1904–77), Wallace Stegner (1909–93), and Richard P. Bissell (1913–77). Iowa's poets include Paul H. Engle (1908–91), who directed the University of Iowa's famed Writers' Workshop, and James S. Hearst (1900–83). Two Iowa playwrights, Susan Glaspell (1882–1948) and her husband, George Cram Cook (1873–1924), were instrumental in founding influential theater groups.
Iowans who have contributed to America's musical heritage include popular composer Meredith Willson (1902–84), jazz musician Leon "Bix" Beiderbecke (1903–31), and bandleader Glenn Miller (1904–44). Iowa's artists of note include Grant Wood (1892–1942), whose American Gothic is one of America's best-known paintings, and printmaker Mauricio Lasansky (b.Argentina, 1914).
Iowa's contributions to the field of popular entertainment include William F. "Buffalo Bill" Cody (1846–1917); circus impresario Charles Ringling (1863–1926) and his four brothers; the reigning American beauty of the late 19th century, Lillian Russell (Helen Louise Leonard, 1860–1922); and one of America's best-loved movie actors John Wayne (Marion Michael Morrison, 1907–79). Johnny Carson (b.1925), host of the Tonight Show for many years, was born in Corning. Iowa sports figures of note are baseball Hall of Famers Adrian C. "Cap" Anson (1851–1922) and Robert "Bob" Feller (b.1918) and football All-American Nile Kinnick (1918–44).