The California Museum’s California Hall of Fame

By Ashley Robinson

As you can read in my bio, I am the communications person for The California Museum.  I get the fun task of managing (and begging) for press and publicity for our various events and programs.  And our biggest event of the year, by far, is the California Hall of Fame induction ceremony, which is accompanied by a red carpet event and after party.  This year, the event is TOMORROW, Tuesday, December 1st.

If you are not familiar with the Museum or the hall of fame, SHAME ON YOU!  I am not just saying this because I work there as I was a big fan of the Museum before I started getting paychecks from them.  I love this Golden State of mine, and so any organization that celebrates California as a whole – not just one field or one focus – is good in my book.

The Museum, located at 10th and O Streets, is wrapped around by the Secretary of State complex, which confuses people.  Are we a state entity or not?  Well, it’s one of those tricky public-private partnerships (a P3).  We rent our space from the state, but all our funding comes from private entities.  So, we have a nice relationship with Archives, State Parks and the Governor’s office, but we are still autonomous from the state’s fiscal issues.  (One of my biggest pet peeves is when people make snippy comments like “tax payer dollars blah blah blah” – not true! We aren’t using your dollars, promise.)

Plus, if you are looking to take some out-of-town guests to someplace new (other than the old standbys); the Museum is a fun place.  It’s about women, art, politics, history, the Constitution, and so on.

The California Hall of Fame, one of Maria Shriver’s various amazing projects, started in 2006. The first class of inductees included Sally Ride (first American woman astronaut), Billie Jean King (the ultimate femme tennis pro), Clint Eastwood, Ronald Reagan and the Hearst Family … so, as you can see, it’s pretty diverse.  Usually, a hall of fame is pretty specific – baseball, rock n’ roll, poker – but ours, typical of California, is not.  We just induct people who are inspiring, legendary and all around remarkable.

This year’s inductees, all 13 of them, include Carol Burnett (Miss Hannigan!), Danielle Steel (don’t lie, you know you love her), George Lucas (my teen years thank him for giving us Indiana Jones), Harvey Milk, and John Madden.  Now, these are the people most are familiar with, but some of the lesser known inductees get me really excited.

I will be honest, I don’t always know who the inductees are or where they came from, but that’s ok!  I didn’t know who Andy Grove is.  As the CEO and chairman, he basically made Intel one of the world’s most profitable companies in the world for developing the micro-chip, which basically (as far as I can tell) makes computer memory possible.  The guy escaped Communist Eastern Europe, came to the US with basically no money, and within six years of landing here, was one of the founding employees of Intel.  Pretty impressive, huh?  And now he dedicates his time to medical causes, writing and enjoying life.

Another favorite of mine is Fritz Scholder.  He actually hails from Sacramento.  Well, indirectly, but this is where he studied under Wayne Thiebaud, sold his first paintings and really got going on his amazing career as an artist.  One-quarter California Native American, Scholder basically changed the perception of Native Americans in art.  You won’t see any flying tomahawks or pastel ponies in his vibrant, colossal pieces.  They are loud, screaming of color, lines, gashes and message.  These are Native Americans eating ice cream cones, drinking beer and dripping of masculine gobs of paint.  They are awe-inspiring, and even more impressionable in person.  They rip at your heart a little, and the size engulfs your sensibilities.  It really is art, art as an experience, an emotion and a history.  I love it.

He is the first painter to be inducted into the California Hall of Fame, and we are excited that we can dedicate a concentrated space for his original pieces of artwork in the gallery.  If you are looking for some really good art in Sacramento, this is a must-see (especially since his pieces haven’t shown in Northern California in about four decades – and they just came from a Smithsonian traveling exhibit!  A really rare treat!).

The third inductee I have fallen in love with is General Chuck Yeager.  I really didn’t know that much about him.  Honestly, I thought he was an astronaut.  Well, after reading Tom Wolf’s literary classic The Right Stuff, I realized what the real deal was on this guy.  With no college education, this young man from West Virginia climbed the “ziggurat” to become one of the greatest and bravest pilots of all time. He broke the sound barrier, which at the time was thought to be impenetrable.  Scientists thought that if you got too close to the elusive barrier, that your plane would blow up and you would go crashing to the ground.

Not only did the subdued test pilot break the sound barrier, he got the jet up to mach 2 a second time around.  And it was this feat that pushed the Americans into space and looking at aeronautical engineering in a whole new light.

Seriously, read the book. Or watch the movie (Ed Harris and Dennis Quaid!).  Either way, you will get a real respect for the aeronautical pioneers and their hard-living but surviving wives during the 40s, 50s and 60s in the crappy Central Valley (I can say that, because I’m from there).

But look up the other inductees too.  That’s what the California Hall of Fame is all about – being introduced to new characters, just like you and me, who did the amazing, the unimaginable, and inspired us all.

Come visit me at the red carpet event on Tuesday, December 1st, starts around 5:30ish.  I will be running the thing, so say hi to me, and get an autograph (not by me, but I can sign your Annie poster if you want).  All eight living inductees will walk the carpet, (the Madden Cruiser might make an appearance in the general vicinity) and a certain recent Academy Award –winning movie star might show up to honor a certain inductee he portrayed in a certain movie.  Ya never know. 😉

For more information on The California Museum’s California Hall of Fame, visit:

PS – If you are not familiar with the legendary Madden Cruiser, ask your man about it.  He should know. Or, if he is like my man, he won’t.  But I knew what it was!  Come on!  It’s where Madden made his famous turducken on Thanksgiving for the football players!  Hmmm, maybe he’ll have some leftovers.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Do you have an upcoming event we should know about?  Send us your press release at girlsonthegrid AT gmail DOT com

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  1. Marilyn Wright says

    Love the article, Ashley! Good luck tomorrow night!

  2. Ashley Robinson says

    I just want to follow up … two best moments of the night …

    1. Carol Burnett to a crowd of 8 year “Annie” fans, “Do I smell HAPPINESS in here?!” and of course her Tarzan yell. Priceless.

    2. John Madden got up to read General Yeager’s citation, and said, “Only in California would a guy who doesn’t fly introduce the world’s greatest pilot.”


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