Distinguished Nebraskans

The NEBRASKAland Foundation was created in 1962 under the leadership of Governor Frank Morrison to contribute to the social, historic, cultural, and economic wellbeing of Nebraska. The Foundation sponsors activities around the state that engage youth, working to enhance their historical knowledge of Nebraska’s proud artistic and social heritage. The Foundation also works to promote Nebraska’s many wonderful and unique assets to visitors, ranging from business opportunities to tourism.

From the organization’s Web site:
The NEBRASKAland Foundation, Inc., was established to express as well as enrich the value of Nebraska’s Good Life for our citizens from all walks of life and to portray and promote the quality of its life to our visitors.

The NEBRASKAland Foundation’s signature event is its annual Statehood Day Dinner that is held at the Nebraska State Capitol. The black tie evening and celebration of distinguished Nebraskans is presided by Nebraska’s sitting Governor, who serves as the Foundation’s Chairperson. Through the years the roll call of award-winning honorees has been impressive. Dr. Tom Osborne was named the original Distinguished NEBRASKAlander in 1982. Since then, artists, clergy, educators, military personnel, politicians, and others have joined him, hailing from all areas of the state.

In 2009, the Foundation chose to honor the family of Colonel F.M. Woods with the Distinguished NEBRASKAlander award. The program notes from the ceremony (reprinted below with permission and a few italicized updates) is a terrific summary review of several of the Woods families’ accomplishments, aspirations, and initiatives.

In 1873, Frederick M. Woods, a livestock auctioneer, relocated his family from Illinois to Lincoln, Nebraska. From the beginning, Frederick, better known as “Colonel,” along with three of his sons, Frank, George, and Mark, were at the forefront of business, community, and cultural development in Nebraska.

They were leaders in everything that helped Lincoln grow into one of America’s finest cities. These enterprises included horse importing (Watson, Woods Brothers & Kelly); residential and commercial development (Woods Bros Realty); telephone service (Lincoln Telephone & Telegraph); aviation manufacturing (Arrow Aircraft Corporation); and charity (Woods Charitable Fund).

The Colonel’s broad knowledge of thoroughbred cattle built his reputation as an auctioneer. The editor of the Breeder’s Gazette wrote, “For more than forty years he was engaged in an ever-widening field as an auction salesman of purebred stock. Wherever livestock improvement was a factor in the United States or Canada, the effect of his potential influence was felt.” The Colonel was in such demand, that sale dates had to be made at least a year in advance.

In 1880, the Watson, Woods Brothers & Kelly Company started importing draft horses from Europe. Mark and George Woods served as the stateside salesmen. In 1914, the La Percheron Society of France asked the Company to take six award winning Percheron horses to the United States because the Society felt certain that the fine breed stock would be slaughtered to feed the German army. The Company grew to become the largest importers of registered draft horses in the mid-west and the second largest importers in America.

In 1889, Mark and George Woods founded Woods Brothers Realty.

In 1903, Frank Woods was hired by Charles and Frank Bills to establish Western Union Independent Telephone Company, a new, independent telephone company. One year later, the company changed names to Lincoln Telephone & Telegraph and began processing calls for its customers. By 1925, LT&T reported that it had the highest telephone saturation rate in the entire United States.

In 1925, the Arrow Aircraft Corporation entered the aviation industry as a pioneer in the manufacture of biplanes. The Corporation sought to meet the boom in demand for small and inexpensive aircraft following Charles Lindberg’s successful solo trans-Atlantic flight.

Frank Woods established the Woods Charitable Fund in 1941 as the philanthropic expression of the Woods family. The Fund provided capital and leadership to create the Lincoln Community Foundation. To date, the Fund has awarded more than individual 1,850 grants, totaling more than $47,700,000, in the fields of arts & culture, human services, civic issues and education.

Today, portions of the fifth, sixth, and seventh generations of the Colonel Woods family reside in Nebraska. For their significant impact on the city of Lincoln and the state of Nebraska, the NEBRASKAland Foundation is pleased to honor the Woods family with the 2009 Distinguished
NEBRASKAlander Award.

The NEBRASKAland Foundation promotes Nebraska through programs and awards that celebrate the State’s social, historical, cultural, educational and economic heritage.

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