2014 Inductee Profiles
Stephen Decatur, Jr. & Sr.
Pat Worthington Stopper
Captain Stephen Decatur (1752-1808) and Commodore Stephen Decatur (1779-1820)
Stephen Decatur Senior, generally referred to as Captain, and his son Stephen Decatur Junior, referred to as Commodore, both had distinguished careers in the earliest years of the US Navy.
Stephen Decatur Senior was born in Newport, Rhode Island, in 1752. Shortly thereafter, his family moved to Philadelphia, where he grew up. Stephens father had been an officer in the French Navy and young Stephen followed him to a life at sea. By 1774 Stephen was master of a Philadelphia merchant ship and that same year he married Ann Pine of the city.
The Decaturs were patriots in the Revolutionary War and when the British invaded Philadelphia in 1777 Ann moved temporarily to Maryland, where Stephen Junior was born. Captain Decatur commanded a number of privateer ships during the War and captured several British vessels. Following the War, he was a sea captain for the Philadelphia merchant firm Gurney and Smith. He eventually became part owner with them of two ships, in which he captained many voyages to Europe. On one such trip in 1787 he took along Stephen Junior, which led to the latters lifelong love of the sea.
Stephen Decatur Senior was commissioned a captain in the US Navy during the 1798-1800 Quasi-War, Americas undeclared war with France. He commanded the ship that captured the first French vessel of that War and in 1799 he was given command of the newly built frigate Philadelphia, in which he captured several other enemy ships. The Philadelphia would play an important role a few years later in his sons most renowned military exploit.
Captain Decatur retired from the Navy in 1801 and lived for a time on an estate in Byberry Township he had purchased in 1796, situated on what is now Decatur Road. In 1803 he purchased a large powder mill property in Frankford known as Millsdale and lived there until his death in 1808.
Stephen Decatur Junior was born January 5, 1779 on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, where his family had moved to escape the British occupation of Philadelphia during the Revolutionary War. The family returned to Philadelphia a few years after his birth and he was raised in the city. Young Stephen was described by all who knew him as a strong-willed and adventurous boy. He studied at Episcopal Academy and briefly at the University of Pennsylvania in the 1790s. There are also historical accounts that he studied at Byberry Friends School in Byberry in the 1780s and briefly at Lower Dublin Academy in Upper Holmesburg in 1798, but these cannot be verified.
He entered the US Navy in 1798 and quickly rose through the ranks, serving in the Quasi-War with France at the same time as his father. The military campaign that made him famous, however, was the Barbary Wars, Americas early nineteenth-century battles with the North Africa states that had been seizing US ships in the Mediterranean Sea. On February 16, 1804, then Lieutenant Stephen Decatur secretly guided the US ship Intrepid into the enemy harbor in Tripoli and destroyed the US ship Philadelphia, which had been captured by Tripoli. This was the same ship his father had commanded five years earlier. The successful attack was called the most bold and daring act of the age and made Stephen Decatur Junior a national hero. He was soon promoted to captain, the youngest man to achieve that rank in US history. Later that year he led divisions of gunboats that captured additional enemy vessels, further enhancing his reputation.
Promoted to commodore, Stephen Decatur again distinguished himself during the War of 1812, with acts of heroism and his high-profile capture of the British ship Macedonian, the first British frigate captured in the War. He returned to the Mediterranean after the War as commander of a US squadron that dictated peace terms with the Barbary States in 1815, finally ending that long running conflict.
Following these successful campaigns, Commodore Decatur was appointed to the Board of Naval Commissioners in Washington, DC. He settled there in 1816 with his wife Susan, whom he had married in 1806. In 1818 they built and occupied a fine home across from the White House on Lafayette Square. It is still known as the Decatur House.
Commodore Stephen Decatur was mortally wounded in 1820 in a duel that was the result of a long simmering dispute with another naval officer. He died March 22, 1820 at his home in Washington at the age of forty-one. He was originally buried in Washington, but his remains were removed years later and re-interred in the graveyard at St. Peters Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, alongside those of the rest of his family. Dozens of American cities and many schools and roads are named in his honor, including several in Northeast Philadelphia.
Return to Top
Virginia Knauer, 1915-2011
Virginia Knauer was a pioneering figure in consumer protection in America and in advancing the role of women in government. Born Virginia Wright in Philadelphia in 1915, she attended Philadelphia High School for Girls and earned degrees from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and University of Pennsylvania in 1937. She then did graduate study in painting in Italy, returning home in 1939 at the outbreak of World War II.
In 1940, Virginia married Wilhelm F. Knauer, a corporate lawyer and former deputy attorney general of Pennsylvania. They moved to a property in Upper Holmesburg, where they had land to indulge their passion for raising Doberman pinschers. In 1948 the Knauers bought the historic Morelton Inn along the Delaware River in Torresdale. The Morelton had been a well-known resort for wealthy Philadelphians at the turn of the twentieth century. The Knauers restored the home, including having paneling from China Hall, a historic house in nearby Bucks County that was about to be demolished, removed and installed at Morelton. They later founded the Knauer Foundation for Historic Preservation, through which they purchased the eighteenth-century Man Full of Trouble tavern in the Society Hill section of Philadelphia, which had also been threatened with demolition. They ran the Man Full of Trouble as a museum.
The Knauers were very active in politics. In 1958 Virginia Knauer was appointed Vice Chairman of the Philadelphia Republican City Committee and in 1959 she became the first Republican woman to serve on Philadelphia City Council. Eight years later she was appointed director of Pennsylvanias Bureau of Consumer Protection, the first woman in America to administer such a bureau. She held that office until 1969, when President Richard Nixon appointed her Special Assistant to the President for Consumer Affairs and later Director of the federal Office of Consumer Affairs. She also held this position under Presidents Ford and Reagan. For a time Virginia Knauer was the highest ranking female in the Executive Branch of the US government.
She was a tireless advocate for consumers, once describing herself as a pipeline to the president for consumers. She championed many consumer protection initiatives and was responsible for the establishment of many consumer safeguards.
Virginia Knauer received many honors and awards in her lifetime, including being named a Distinguished Daughter of Pennsylvania in 1969 and receiving the Gimbels Award in 1977. She died in 2011 at the age of 96 in her home in Washington, DC, and is buried at All Saints Episcopal Church in Torresdale.
Return to Top
Pat Worthington Stopper
Born Patricia Worthington in 1928 into a family whose roots in Northeast Philadelphia go back over 300 years, Pat Worthington Stopper has spent many years collecting, preserving, and sharing local history. A long time resident of Bustleton, she has researched and written extensively about the neighborhoods of Bustleton, Somerton, and Byberry and has given presentations to schools, libraries, and historical groups.
In the early 1990s Pat Stopper was a founding member of the Northeast Philadelphia History Project, working with noted Historian and Educator (and 2009 Hall of Fame inductee) Harry Silcox and others on the books Historical Northeast Philadelphia: Stories and Memories
(1993) and Take a Trip Through Time: Northeast Philadelphia Revisited
(1996). She was a major contributor to both publications. Her own books A Pictorial Glimpse into the Past: Bustleton-Somerton-Byberry
(1995) and A Pictorial Glimpse into the Past: Bustleton-Somerton-Byberry II
(1999) contain a wealth of information and images on the history of these neighborhoods.
Pat Stopper has also been very active in researching and preserving the history of her church, Pennepack Baptist, one of the oldest and most historic religious congregations in Northeast Philadelphia. In 2013 she donated her historical collections to the Friends of Northeast Philadelphia so that these important materials can be available to researchers.
Return to Top
Chris Matthews is a nationally-known political commentator and television news host who has been following politics since the 1950s. Born in the Nicetown section of Philadelphia, at the age of five his family moved to Somerton, where he grew up. Chris attended St. Christopher’s Elementary School, LaSalle College High School, and the College of the Holy Cross, graduating from the latter in 1967. He did graduate work in economics at the University of North Carolina before serving in the Peace Corps in Africa from 1968–1970.
Following the Peace Corps, Chris Matthews went to Washington, DC, where he worked as an investigator for Ralph Nader’s Capitol Hill News Service and on the staffs of various members of Congress. In 1974 he ran in the Democratic primary for the 4th Congressional District seat, representing Northeast Philadelphia. He was a speechwriter in the Carter administration and served for six years as a top aide to Speaker of the House of Representatives Tip O’Neill. Later, he was a print journalist for fifteen years, serving first for the San Francisco Examiner and then the San Francisco Chronicle. In 2001 he was a Visiting Fellow at Harvard University.
Chris Matthews is best known as a political commentator and TV news host for NBC and MSNBC. He served as moderator of The Chris Matthews Show from 2002 to 2012 and has been the host of Hardball with Chris Matthews since 1997.
Chris Matthews has written several bestselling books, including the Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero and Kennedy & Nixon: The Rivalry That Shaped Postwar America. His most recent book, Tip and The Gipper: When Politics Worked, is his personal, first-hand account of the working relationship between Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neil.
Matthews holds several honorary degrees and has received such prestigious awards as The Pennsylvania Society’s Gold Medal, The Abraham Lincoln Award from the Union League of Philadelphia, and the John F. Kennedy Memorial Award.
Return to Top
Klein Jewish Community Center
Klein Jewish Community Center has been serving the people of greater Northeast Philadelphia for almost 40 years. Klein JCC builds community among people of all ages and backgrounds, enhancing their quality of life through social, educational, cultural, human service, and wellness programs. Rooted in the Jewish value of tikkun olam - “repairing the world” — Klein JCC welcomes everyone irrespective of religion, ethnicity, race, nationality, or cultural background, while placing a special emphasis on serving Jewish communities.
Founded in 1975 and endowed by Philadelphia businessman and philanthropist Raymond Klein and his wife Miriam, Klein JCC offers a variety of services and programs at its headquarters in Bustleton. Health and wellness facilities, after school programs, summer day camp, sports classes and leagues, cultural programs, and adult education classes are some of the Center’s many activities.
Klein JCC is the heart of the Jewish community in Northeast Philadelphia, serving the very young to senior citizens, from lifelong Northeast Philadelphia residents to the expanding Russian-Jewish community. The Center’s reach extends beyond the Jewish community, however; JCC Klein serves some 35,000 people annually from a wide range of ethnic and religious backgrounds. Among the vital social services the Center provides are programs for immigrants at risk, low income families, seniors aging with dignity, and fighting food insecurity. For example, JCC Klein runs the largest senior center in Philadelphia and provides 120,000 meals to 3,500 clients annually.
Klein JCC is a home away from home and important service provider for thousands of Northeast Philadelphia residents.
Return to Top
For more information contact Project Director Jack McCarthy at 215-824-1636 / firstname.lastname@example.org