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John Wayne Richards and Richards Memorial Field

Lead Summary
Steve Roush-
Ladies and gentlemen, in last week’s offering, we talked about the life and times of Highland County native John Wayne Richards, who left Hillsboro City Schools more than $40,000 to build what is known as Richards Memorial Field – home of the Hillsboro Indians since the 1960s.

As we discussed last time, Richards was born in 1878 near Hillsboro in Hamer Township, and gained fame as an educator at Lake Forest Academy in Lake Forrest, Ill. While at Lake Forest from 1913 to 1941, Mr. Richards developed his “Richards Plan in Education,” which revolutionized education in the United States. This plan, primarily for secondary institutions, called for staggered or rotating classes, a high teacher-pupil ratio, special help for students in difficulty, direct class study periods, and a system by which every student would have a faculty advisor.

Mr. Richards also played a big part in the development of the Lake Forest athletic program. While at the academy, Mr. Richards used a large ponderous swivel chair in the headmaster’s office. In 1941, when he retired to Hillsboro where he was a partner in the Richards and Morris auto agency (his partner was Raymond C. Morris), the chair was sent to him. When the building was sold to the city in 1949, Richards left the chair there, and each morning, until his last serious illness, he would visit the water department office in the city building and sit in the large, leather-covered chair while he read his mail, scanned the morning paper and would chat a while.

Mr. Richards was a member of the National Committee on Research in Secondary Schools, past president of the Private Schools Association, member of the Commission of Higher Institutions of the North Central Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools, and was president of the North Central Academic Association from 1918 to 1919.

Folks, if you’d like to know a little more about Lake Forest Academy today, there are 435 students who currently attend the Academy, yearly tuition of students who are boarded is $61,500, and $45,950 for day students. The acceptance rate to the school (grades 9-12) is 31 percent. James R. Cargill (1923-2006), billionaire scion of Minnesota’s Cargill family who pioneered in the computerization of animal feed formulations, and actor John Agar (1921-2002), who starred alongside John Wayne in several films and was formerly married to Shirley Temple, are just two notable alumni of the Academy.

The last of his immediate family, when John Wayne Richards died in 1957, he was survived by two stepdaughters, who both lived in Chicago, and a nephew, John E. Richards, of Shamrock, Florida.

When his will was filed, he left $7,500 to each of his two stepdaughters; $3,500 to a sister-in-law, Amanda E. Rundquist; $5,000 to Mr. and Mrs. Ray Morris, of Hillsboro; $1,500, shotgun, rifle and auto to Mr. and Mrs. Donald Ward, of Hillsboro; $10,000 each to a nephew, John E. Richards and his wife, Martha; $20,000 to the nephew in trust for his daughter; $5,000 to Perry McCoppin, of Hillsboro; $20,000 to the Lake Forest Academy; and $5,000 to the Highlands Community Hospital. He directed that the remainder be divided into four equal parts with one part going to the nephew, his wife and daughter; one part to Lake Forest Academy; one part to Highlands Community Hospital; and one part to the Hillsboro City School District. Robert B. McMullen was named executor of the estate of the will dated Feb. 16, 1955.

He ended up leaving $42,995.02 to Hillsboro City Schools as one of those four parts, which would be worth around $406,000 today.

After Mr. Richards died, funeral services were held at the Evans Funeral Home, with burial following in the Hillsboro Cemetery.

Let’s pause for now, and we’ll continue with more on John Wayne Richards and Richards Memorial Field next time.

Steve Roush is vice chairman of the Highland County Historical Society Board of Trustees, a vice president of an international media company and a columnist and contributing writer for The Highland County Press. He can be reached by email at

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