Lists can be informative and entertaining but also annoying and arbitrary. Selecting the East Bay’s most important people for The 100 Most Influential East Bay Residents of All Time was all that and more.
It began cordially with civilized roundtable discussion over afternoon coffee and cookies with an esteemed panel of historians—Annalee Allen, Gene Anderson, Dennis Evanosky, and Paul Brekke-Miesner. Senior Editor Robert Gammon had invited them to lend their encyclopedic expertise of local history to our mission after he poured over copious sources to create a master who’s who of the East Bay’s most famous and infamous sons and daughters.
That’s when the trouble started, or rather we agreed on a few general ground rules. Influence was paramount, and the final subjects needed to represent the geographic expanse of the East Bay as well as its ethnicities and varying areas of interest. The initial list was heavy on historic figures, founding fathers, sports figures, and “firsts,” so the process continued with an eye toward uncovering other cultural heroes.
Then things got a little sticky: How long did a person need to have lived in the East Bay? What criterion should be employed to weight their accomplishments? How many needed to be from specific cities? Did one have to be born in the East Bay to qualify? When did being first really matter?
Nothing was firm, because settling on the final list included a delicate, gentlewomanly juggle that spanned early to current history and spread across many disciplines. We decided to expand the list from a puny 75 to a more mighty 100. To see our complete list, print copies are on sale right now. We'll post the list online here later this month.
In the end, our list left out some big personalities. For instance, you won’t see Bruce Lee, Clint Eastwood, Tom Hanks, or Mahershala Ali, although Oakland proudly claims them. Edwin Meese III, Maxine Hong Kingston, even Joaquin Miller didn’t make it either. And while Shirley Temple Black, Katharine Graham, and Jim Morrison have an Alameda connection, they aren’t listed. Ditto for Kent Rosenblum, Elsie Roemer, Weezie Mott, and more.
The exercise was instructional and fun but no doubt incomplete, so now it’s your turn: What movers and shakers or important people did we overlook but shouldn’t have? The beauty is that their stories are ones we can share later.
Published online on July 3, 2017 at 8:00 AM