James Maitland Stewart was born in Indiana, Pennsylvania, on May 20, 1908. The son of Elizabeth
and Alexander Stewart, he achieved much in his lifetime and credited his upbringing in Indiana
for his values and work ethic.
Jimmy attended Indiana Normal School, Mercersburg Academy, and Princeton University. His plans
for the future entailed being an architect or running at the J. M. Stewart & Co. Hardware Store
that was started by his grandfather and passed down to his father. This never came to fruition,
as Hollywood came calling.
Jimmy Stewart wound up making more than 80 films, and was nominated for 5 Academy Awards,
winning two, one for The Philadelphia Story and a Lifetime Achievement Oscar. He is best known
for his roles in the classic films Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Harvey, Rear Window and It’s a
What Stewart was most proud of was his service in the Army Air Corps during World War II. Jimmy
Stewart entered the Army as a private and at the end of WWII was a colonel in the Army Air
Corps, highly decorated as the result of the 20 combat missions he flew over Germany as leader
of a squadron of B-24s. Stewart continued his military career after WWII by serving in the Air
Force Reserves, rising to the rank of Brigadier General and was awarded the Medal of Freedom.
In 1949 Stewart married Gloria Hatrick McLean. Together, they had twin daughters, Kelly and
Judy, and he adopted Gloria’s two sons, Michael and Ronald.
Jimmy also did radio work, starred in television shows and did a variety of charitable works.
His charities were many, including the American Cancer Society, March of Dimes, American Red
Cross, children’s hospitals, wildlife preservation and many more. He never sought public credit
for any of his work.
Jimmy never forgot where he came from, either. He and Gloria provided a large donation to start
the Indiana County Endowment Fund that provides grants to qualified non-profit organizations.
This continues to help fund cultural, ecological, social, educational, recreational, and
economic needs in Indiana County.
Stewart also donated the gazebo in Memorial Park and set up The Jimmy Stewart Memorial Park
Foundation which has helped fund park maintenance and renovations over the years.
He lent his name to our local airport and came to town with his wife Gloria for the dedication
along with his father, Alex. Jimmy was the keynote speaker at the event.
Over the years, Stewart also supported the Indiana Fire Association in honor of his father Alex,
who served as a volunteer fire fighter.
After his parents passed, Stewart returned to Indiana to receive an honorary degree from IUP,
speaking in the pouring rain to graduates at the football stadium.
His last visit home was for his 75th birthday celebration and bronze statue dedication. That
event and parade drew thousands to visit Indiana. President Ronald Reagan called him while he
was at the podium on the courthouse steps and ordered a military fly over above Philadelphia St.
in his honor. Stewart said in his speech “You’ve made me feel that I still belong here and I’m
proud of that.”
During this visit Stewart was named as an Honorary Fire Chief by the Indiana Fire Association
and also given the key to city by then Mayor George Thompson.
Perhaps the biggest thing he did to benefit Indiana was to greenlight a museum in his honor. He
agreed to the museum on two conditions: 1) that it be humble in size and 2) that it be located
in downtown Indiana to economically benefit his beloved hometown.
Today, after 27 years, The Jimmy Stewart Museum still attracts 6,000-7,000 visitors annually.
These visitors come from virtually all 50 states and many different countries. People who might
not necessarily come to Indiana if not for the attraction of the museum. These are people who
also eat, shop and stay here, giving our local economy a big boost every year. What a gift that
keeps on giving!
James Maitland Stewart (Jimmy) died on July 2, 1997. He will be remembered as a talented actor,
brave military hero, loving husband, good father, and a giant among men. He leaves a legacy of
honesty, generosity, hard work, and strong values. He was a loyal hometown hero, and we are
grateful that he shared his wonderful life with all of us.