The world's most famous circus clown, Emmett Kelly (1898-1979) was born in Sedan, Missouri and raised on a farm. His stubble-chinned "Weary Willie" was loved by all and revolutionized professional clowning forever.
"A clown," observed writer Henry Miller, "is a poet in action."
Kelly brought laughter to audiences during the Great Depression with his character "Weary Willie." Created in 1933, the sad-faced hobo had a big red nose and dressed in tattered clothes.
He was a master of pantomime who tried to sweep the spotlight away with his dustpan and broom. Willie's pathos offered a contrast to the typical madcap and color clown.
"A clown is like aspirin; only he works twice as fast," said comic Groucho Marx.
Kelly found his true home with the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus in 1941 where he became a major attraction. He stayed there as a performer for 15 years and brought his woeful clown to the movie The Greatest Show on Earth (1952, w/Charlton Heston and Jimmy Stewart).
The popular character appeared on stage and strolled the diamond as mascot for baseball's Brooklyn Dodgers. He later had a nightclub act and starred in memorable commercials.
"The laughter of children is a sound no circus clown can ever forget," said Kelly, who was inducted into the Clown Hall of Fame in 1989 and the Hall of Famous Missourians in 1996.
Send in the clowns!