Johnny Kilbane - Cleveland's Fighting Irish Hero
If you venture into an old school Irish bar in Cleveland, you'll likely find framed portraits of President John F. Kennedy, the Pope and ...boxer Johnny Kilbane.
MARGARET LYNCH: Johnny Kilbane was arguably the most well-known Irish-American Clevelander of all time.
Margaret Lynch is executive director of the Irish American Archives Society, the organization behind the statue being dedicated to the 1912 World Featherweight champion. Local newspapers estimated that a crowd of 200,000 people met him at the train station when he returned from winning the title in Los Angeles. Irish sculptor Rowan Gillespie was contracted to create the Kilbane memorial. Margaret Lynch says Gillespie's past work was steeped in stories of the thousands of people who fled Ireland in the wake of the potato famine of the mid-1800s.
MARGARET LYNCH: He had been doing a lot of work on the Famine, the immigration and the sorrow of leaving Ireland, but he was looking for a project that would celebrate the achievements of Irish Americans once they had established themselves in the States.
Parts of the Johnny Kilbane documentary were shot in the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood where Johnny Kilbane lived most of his life.