The National Achievement Award is the highest honor presented by the National Rivers Hall of Fame to those people who are making significant contributions to America’s waterways. The National Rivers Hall of Fame with members in 36 states is the only national museum telling the stories of the people of America’s rivers.
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Honored in 1995
John E. Connelly was the chairman and chief executive officer of J. Edward Connelly Associates in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His firm has controlling interests in hotel development, supermarket marketing services, a television studio, a marketing concepts firm for manufacturers and a bank marketing business. For pleasure, Mr. Connelly established a booming gaming riverboat enterprise.
His parents died when he as 16, and he began to support his sisters and brother by working various jobs and going to night school. He mined coal, dressed as Santa Claus at Christmas time, edited a newspaper in Sharpsbury, Pennsylvania, and eventually served as a congressional assistant in the nation’s capital. In the 1940s John Connelly learned marketing and advertising from Congressman Harry J. Davenport. He spent 25 years as treasure of the Allegheny County Sanitary Authority and helped clean up Pittsburgh’s rivers.
John Connelly began his excursion business with Captain Jack Goessling, turning a 65-foot Great Lakes fishing boat into their first excursion vessel. Then came a second, then a third christened the Good Ship Lollipop. This grew into the Gateway Clipper Fleet.
In 1991, John Connelly began his riverboat gambling operation with the President Riverboat Casino in Davenport, Iowa. His company has operated the President, Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn, Beck Thatcher, and the Lt. Robert E. Lee riverboats serving various states throughout the country.