Happy Birthday, John Legend! Celebrating the Springfield native as he turns 44 today

John Legend, an award winning musician and Springfield native, is celebrating his 44th birthday today.

In 1978, the News-Sun captured a photo of Legend’s parents and brother peering in at Legend through a window after he was born at the former Community Hospital. His brother was one of the first siblings that were allowed to come inside the hospital.

Since then, Legend has appeared in the News-Sun several times.

In 1989, Legend won the Springfield District Spelling Bee.

Here is part of the news story from 1989:

“The suit and tie, the steady gaze, the crisp enunciation – John Stephens came to win the Springfield District Spelling Bee Thursday, and win he did.

The only contestant who wore a suit and tie, John, 10, strode to the microphone, looked pronouncer Dwayne Frank in the eye and correctly spelled “prejudice" to take home the title of Springfield spelling champ.

His mother uses curriculum from Springfield Christian Schools to teach John and his siblings, Ronald II, Vaughn, and Missy, in their Lexington Ave. home."

Legend was homeschooled through kindergarten and when it was time for him to go to first grade at Springfield Christian School, his mother said he was “too smart for first grade.” After taking a few tests and testing at a third and fourth grade level, the school placed him in second grade.

“After two years at the Christian school, we couldn’t afford it, so they brought me back home,” Legend previously said.

He was homeschooled for fourth, fifth and sixth grades.

Once his parents divorced, Legend said he went to public school. Instead of going into seventh grade, he was tested again and placed into eighth grade.

In 1994, Legend wrote an essay of his plans to make an impact on black history. He was named the local winner of the “McDonald’s Black History Makers of Tomorrow’' essay competition. His winning essay was published in the Dayton Daily News and republished in the News-Sun.

Here is part of his essay:

“In an ever-changing society, Black America is in dire need of effective leadership that will be an enabling force in the struggle for advancement. Our predecessors used successful tactics in gaining equality through written law, however, the problems of the African-American extend much deeper than those which can be solved through legislation. A new generation requires a modified approach to success. I feel that I possess a concern for my people, an exemplary character, and God-given talents which will enable me to be a strong leader and an advocate for the African-American people."

He graduated high school in Springfield at age 16. Legend then went to the University of Pennsylvania, where he began writing, producing and recording his own music until he was introduced to hip-hop artist Kanye West, by his college roommate. He graduated college in in 1999.

From there, his career took off. Legend is now the first African-American man to be an EGOT winner. He has won all four major awards in the entertainment industry - Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony.

In 2016, Legend helped raise $500,000 to donate to the Springfield school district to renovate the auditorium that now bears his name.

In 2020, Legend announced a free shuttle service that began after the Kroger on South Limestone Street in Springfield closed its doors.

The shuttle service was run by The Abilities Connection, a Springfield based non-profit organization, and the City of Springfield.

In addition to the shuttle service, Legend also announced that he partnered with city officials to come up with a more permanent solution to the grocery chain closure.

To this day, Legend’s accomplishments continue to be published in his hometown’s newspaper.

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