April 21, 2008 Eight "Living Legends" Receive Library's Highest Honor

Librarian of Congress James Billington Joins List of Inductees

Contact: Audrey Fischer (202) 707-0022

For achievements that Librarian of Congress James H. Billington described as "distinguished, sustained and remarkable," a group of exceptional Americans have been designated “Living Legends” by the Library of Congress. Legendary race car driver Mario Andretti, civil rights activist Julian Bond, jazz great Herbie Hancock, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David McCullough, senior political news analyst Cokie Roberts, baseball great Frank Robinson and chief Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer were presented with the Living Legend medal on Saturday, April 12, as part of the public opening of the "Library of Congress Experience," which offers visitors the opportunity to explore rare historical and cultural treasures through interactive technology and a companion Web site at myLOC.gov. 'Living Legend" medals were presented by the Librarian of Congress, James H. Billington, and Master of Ceremonies and earlier-honored Living Legend Mickey Hart, Grateful Dead percussionist and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee. Library staff surprised the Librarian of Congress by having Hart present him with a Living Legend award. “Dr. Billington has taken this library into the digital age,” said Hart, who praised the Librarian for “his vision of a digital Alexandria.” Hart added, “All of this technology has taken shape during his watch.” “The power of this great institution isn’t just in the collections but in its able, knowledgeable, dedicated staff,” said award recipient David McCullough, praising curator Gerry Gawalt for his work on the Library’s new exhibition “Creating the United States.” “If visitors to this, our capital city, whether they're from our own country or from abroad, were to see only one exhibition, one building, one place during their visit, “Creating the U.S.” would be the one to see.” Part of the “Library of Congress Experience,” the exhibition tells the story of how the Founding Fathers used creativity, collaboration and compromise to form the nation, with a focus on the words and phrases that created the republic. Visitors can examine and interact with historic drafts of the Declaration of Independence, George Washington’s copy of the Constitution and John Beckley’s Bill of Rights. The exhibition is on view along with Thomas Jefferson’s Library, free of charge, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, in the Southwest Gallery of the Thomas Jefferson Building at 10 First Street S.E., Washington, D.C. Or explore the exhibition and other Library resources online at myLOC.gov. The Library of Congress, the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution, is the world’s preeminent reservoir of knowledge, providing unparalleled integrated resources to Congress and the American people. Founded in 1800, the Library seeks to further human understanding and wisdom by providing access to knowledge through its magnificent collections, which bring to bear the world’s knowledge in almost all of the world’s languages and America’s private sector intellectual and cultural creativity in almost all formats. Established during its Bicentennial celebration in 2000, the Library of Congress’ “Living Legend” award is selected by the Library’s curators and subject specialists to honor artists, writers, activists, filmmakers, physicians, entertainers, sports figures and public servants who have made significant contributions to America’s diverse cultural, scientific and social heritage. For more information and to view the list of inductees, go to www.loc.gov/about/awardshonors/livinglegends/. The media may register in the online press room to access images and multimedia features (www.loc.gov/experience/pressroom.html).


  • Mario Andretti. Referred to by many as the “greatest race car driver of all time,” the skilled and versatile driver produced some of racing history’s most notable wins including the Indianapolis 500, the Daytona 500, the Formula One World Championship and the Pikes Peak Hill climb.
  • James H. Billington. The 13th person to hold the position since the Library’s founding in 2000, the Librarian of Congress celebrated his 20-year-tenure in 2007. He has worked to harness digital technology and the Internet to make the content of the Library available to users around the world. As former director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, he founded The Wilson Quarterly. A Russian scholar and historian, Billington is the author of six books, including "Russia in Search of Itself" (2004).
  • Julian Bond. This Civil Rights activist and NAACP chairman has been a social change agent since 1960. He served more than 20 years in the Georgia General Assembly and is a university professor and writer.
  • Herbie Hancock. An Academy Award- and Grammy Award-winning jazz pianist and composer, this icon of modern music has seen commercial and artistic success in acoustic and electronic jazz and R&B since 1960.
  • David McCullough. An acclaimed historian, his books have been praised for their scholarship and understanding of American life. He has received two National Book Awards, two Pulitzer Prizes and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
  • Cokie Roberts. This columnist and national-bestselling author also serves as senior news analyst for NPR and political commentator for ABC News. She received the Edward R. Murrow Award for radio and was the first broadcast journalist to win the Everett McKinley Dirksen Award for coverage of Congress.
  • Frank Robinson. Rookie of the Year in 1956 and MVP in both leagues (with the Reds in 1961 and the Orioles in 1966), this Major League Baseball Hall of Fame member was the first African-American manager (for the Cleveland Indians) in Major League history.
  • Bob Schieffer. Veteran newsman and host of CBS’s Face the Nation, he is broadcast journalism’s most experienced Washington reporter. He is a member of the Broadcasting/Cable Hall of Fame and recipient of the 2003 Paul White Award recognizing his lifetime contribution to electronic journalism.


PR 08-077
ISSN 0731-3527