Four individuals and a volunteer group were inducted into the Northeast Philadelphia Hall of Fame during a Sunday afternoon ceremony at Holy Family University.
The inductees were Edward Duffield, Al Schmid, Robert N.C. Nix Sr., Bill Boggs and Friends of Pennypack Park.
Among those addressing the crowd were former Holy Family President Sister Francesca Onley, City Councilman Bobby Henon and state Rep. Mike Driscoll.
Jack McCarthy, project director for the Hall of Fame, showed videos of the inductees from the four previous ceremonies and a presentation on local history.
Father Judge High School senior Adam Nork was recognized as the winner of a student creative writing contest. He won a $2,000 scholarship to Holy Family, a Dining Car gift card and an iPad, donated by Joe Ashdale, business manager of District Council 21, the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades. Sean Kelly, Nork’s teacher, also received a Dining Car gift card.
The Hall of Fame is sponsored by Glen Foerd on the Delaware in partnership with Holy Family, the Historical Society of Frankford, the Greater Northeast Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, Allegra Marketing/Print/Mail and the Northeast Times.
Here is some background on the inductees:
• Edward Duffield (1730-1803) was a well-known engraver and clock and compass maker in colonial Philadelphia, as well as an active patriot during the Revolutionary War and an important civic leader in the Northeast. He was raised at “Benfield,” his family’s estate in the area that is now Morrell Park. The Duffield family home stood about where Christ the King Catholic Church is now located. By age 21, he had a shop at 2nd and Arch streets, where he did engraving and made and sold watches, clocks and compasses. The large double-faced clock that hung outside his shop may have been the first public clock in America. In the 1760s and 1770s, he was responsible for maintaining the clock in the tower of the Pennsylvania State House, now Independence Hall. The Historical Society of Frankford has one of his rare complete surviving compasses. In late June 1776, Benjamin Franklin was staying at Benfield, recovering from an illness. Franklin had been appointed to the “Committee of Five,” a group including Thomas Jefferson and John Adams that was charged with drafting the Declaration of Independence. It is probable that when the Committee met in late June 1776 to discuss the final form of the Declaration, the meeting was at Benfield. In the late 18th century, he helped to establish two local schools, the Lower Dublin Academy and the Byberry and Moreland School, and was instrumental in the formation of All Saints Episcopal Church in Torresdale. He is buried in the cemetery of All Saints Church.
Fred Moore, president of the Trustees of Lower Dublin Academy, accepted for Duffield, whose ancestors were not interested in the honor.
• Robert Nelson Cornelius Nix Sr. (1898-1987) attended Lincoln University and the University of Pennsylvania School of Law, receiving his law degree in 1924. In the mid-1950s, Nix was among the first residents of Greenbelt Knoll near Holme Circle. In 1958, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives for the 2nd District, the first black person to represent Pennsylvania in the U.S. House. He was re-elected 10 times, serving 20 years before losing in the primary in 1978. He lived at Greenbelt Knoll until his death. The Robert N.C. Nix Sr. Federal Building in Philadelphia is named in his honor. His son, Robert N. C. Nix Jr., was elected to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in 1971, and served as chief justice from 1984-1996.
The award was accepted by his grandson, Robert N.C. Nix III. He was joined by two of his brothers and his son, Rob.
• Albert Andrew Schmid (1920-1982) was a World War II hero whose valor in the South Pacific in 1942 earned him great honor and fame. He was raised in Burholme. He worked on farms and at odd jobs before taking a job in 1940 at the Dodge Steel Company in Tacony. On Dec. 7, 1941, he heard on the radio about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Two days later, he enlisted in the Marines. After training in Carolina, he had a short leave back home, during which he collected a bonus from Dodge Steel and used the money to purchase an engagement ring for his girlfriend, Ruth. In the early-morning hours of Aug. 21, 1942, he was manning a machine gun nest with fellow Marines Lee Diamond and Johnny Rivers, when hundreds of Japanese began attacking their position. Rivers was killed early in the battle and later a grenade landed in the nest, severely wounding both Diamond and Schmid. Diamond, who was physically incapacitated, directed Schmid, who had been blinded, where to fire, as wave after wave of Japanese attacked. When they were finally rescued hours later, Schmid and Diamond had held their position and hundreds of Japanese lay dead before them. He was awarded the Navy Cross and was given a hero’s parade by the Philadelphia Inquirer. The book Al Schmid Marine was published in 1944, and in 1945 Warner Brothers released the movie Pride of the Marines, with Hollywood star John Garfield portraying Schmid. Schmid, Ruth and their son lived on Fillmore Street in Frankford before moving to Florida. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
Al Schmid Jr., who lives in Tennessee, expressed his gratitude in a video.
Accepting for Schmid was James McNesby, a former Marine and director of public safety and security at Gwynedd Mercy University.
“He was deserving of a Medal of Honor,” McNesby said.
• Bill Boggs is a television host, producer, journalist and author. Raised in the Tacony/Mayfair area, he graduated from Abraham Lincoln High School in January 1959 and went on to study at the University of Pennsylvania, receiving a master’s degree from Penn’s Annenberg School for Communication. He worked as assistant dean at Penn before beginning a long career in television. His first TV job was in 1968, working the TelePrompTer for legendary Philadelphia newscaster John Facenda at Channel 10. Later, he was associate producer and occasional on-air personality at Channel 3. After hosting a regional TV show in North Carolina in the early 1970s, he moved to New York City, where he hosted Midday Live on WNEW from 1976 to 1986 and served as news anchor for Weekend Today on WNBC. He went on to host and produce talk shows, game shows, comedy, food, travel and sports programs. A four-time Emmy winner, he was executive producer of the Morton Downey Jr. Show, as well as founding executive producer of Court TV and Comedy Tonight. He appeared for a decade on Bill Boggs Corner Table on the Food Network. In 2003, he debuted a solo off-Broadway stage show called Talk Show Confidential, which included stories and video clips from his years as a television talk show host. That show, and his novel At First Sight, were optioned for a movie inspired by his life. He was celebrity correspondent for the syndicated PBS television show My Generation, which featured interviews inspired by his 2007 book, Got What it Takes? Successful People Reveal How They Made It to the Top. He is sought after as a motivational speaker and has another book coming out in 2017. He has appeared in over a dozen movies, is an officer of the Friars Club of New York and a member of the board of directors of the Philadelphia Music Hall of Fame. In 2000, he was honored as a “Father of the Year” by the National Father’s Day Committee.
Boggs was joined by his son, Trevor, who lives in his boyhood home on Walker Street. He said he was grateful for and humbled by the award. He described the Northeast as a place where blue-collar, middle-class people work hard. He’s always maintained a good work ethic.
“That comes from Northeast Philadelphia,” he said.
Boggs said he remembers he and his fifth-grade classmates giving three- to five-minute public speaking remarks, something that he said helped him in his career.
“I learned that at Disston Elementary School,” he said.
At Lincoln, he was on the football and track and field teams and was president of the student association. He wore his class ring and accepted his award on behalf of the school and his classmates.
“Lincoln High School offered me the opportunity to be successful,” he said.
• Friends of Pennypack Park has worked to maintain and preserve Pennypack Park for almost 30 years. The Park was established in 1905 by the City of Philadelphia to ensure the protection of Pennypack Creek and the preservation of the surrounding land. The Park consists of 1,688 acres of woodlands, meadows, wetlands and fields, and serves as a recreation area. Popular activities include hiking on miles of backwoods trails, horseback riding, bicycling on the park’s nine-mile paved bike path, picnicking and fishing in the Pennypack Creek. Friends of Pennypack Park was formed in 1987 by a group of individuals who were concerned about the state of the Park and had a vision for an organization that would be an advocate for the landscape and actively work to improve its condition. An all-volunteer organization, Friends of Pennypack Park activities include conducting monthly nature and history walks, sponsoring park cleanups and trail restorations, monitoring water quality in Pennypack Creek, and holding meetings on matters concerning the Park. The Friends have also repaired and replaced picnic tables and benches, placed additional trash cans throughout the Park, erected gates at trail entrances to keep out unauthorized motor vehicles, and installed informational signs at park entrances.
Linde Lauff, president of Friends of Pennypack Park, described the park as an “oasis.”
“It is the gem of the Northeast,” she said. ••
What Makes Northeast Philadelphia Special?
By Adam Nork
Father Judge High School Senior
Distinguished on the map by a great landmark,
Northeast Philadelphia is home to Pennypack Park.
A place where children learn and grow,
On them, our hope, we do bestow.
Flowing in a stream of potential,
Our young men and women are wise and prudential.
With an open mind, flows their inspiration
To become successful and improve the nation.
Located in a city where brotherly love is known,
To everyone that nickname is shown.
Our families stay together,
For it’s the idea of unity we treasure.
The bond between our neighbors is strong,
For relationships are prosperous and long.
Developed from our incredible work ethic,
Northeast Philadelphia is truly epic.