"I am a Modestan," he said. "It's where I grew up, and it's been a great influence in my life. (It's where) I spent the first 20 years of my life, and everything I knew (then) was from that town."
. . .quoted in a May 12, 2002 article
by Roger W. Hoskins in The Modesto Bee
Modesto still celebrates cruising and cars, the subject matter that inspired George Lucas to write and film 1973's "American Graffiti." Each June, at the end of the school year, citizens of Modesto line the streets to watch a parade of jalopies and "cool" vehicles stream down the streets and then cruise out on McHenry Avenue. While 10th and 11th Streets, which were the real lanes for cruising in the 1950s and 60s during Lucas's cruise days, it doesn't matter where the cruisers go, they are repeating the rite of passage that Lucas so brilliantly brought to life on the screen.
On June 7, 2013, Lucas was the Grand Marshall of the Modesto Kiwanis Graffiti Parade. He and his wife, Melody Hobson, rode through the streets of Modesto, basking in the adoration of the people who have come to think of Lucas as Modesto's greatest living legend. Lucas was the first inductee into the Modesto Legends of the Cruise hall of fame.
From Modesto To A Galaxy Far, Far Away
George Walton Lucas, Jr
When George Lucas sold his company, Lucasfilms, to the Walt Disney Company in 2012 for four billion dollars, he cemented his place in Modesto history as one of the most successful native sons to ever come out of the Central Valley. Needless to say, he was already world famous. He had created perhaps the most enduring film franchise in the world, along with several other contributions that changed filmmaking forever. He is a philanthropist and an educattor, with a one billion dollar commitment to build "The George Lucas Museum of Narrative Arts" at Exposition Park in Los Angeles. But, perhaps more than anything else, he is the epitome of what can happen to a small town person who never lets adversity stand in the way of achieving the dream.
Perhaps Modesto's most famous native son and 2005 AFI Lifetime Achievement recipient, George Lucas, was born in Modesto on May 14, 1944 and attended John Muir Elementary School, Roosevelt Junior High School and Thomas Downey High School. His father was a Modesto businessman who ran a stationary and business supply store, L. M. Morris.Co., located at the corner of I and 11th Streets. George read comic books as a kid, and was influenced by early television fare (much of it the serials of the 1930s and 40s, including the Flash Gordon films). He was a mediocre student in high school. After a near-fatal car crash kept him from attending his 1962 graduation, his focus seemed to change. He attended Modesto Junior College and went on to film school in Southern California. He is, of course, best known for the "Star Wars" films and his special effects house, Industrial Light and Magic.
He has a home in Marin County, where Skywalker Ranch plays host to filmmakers with its state-of-the-art post-production facilities. The Disney-owned Lucasfilm still resides in San Francisco as part of the Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) complex located in the Presidio, where Letterman Hospital once stood. Since his marriage to Melody Hobson and the birth of their daughter, he has spent time in Chicago, as well.
Modesto has recognized Lucas with a special statue erected at the five points intersection - McHenry, J Street, Needham, 17th and Downey - which celebrates Lucas's early success, "American Graffiti," a film that reenacts the days of cruising the streets of Modesto. "Nobody has so drastically changed the direction of American film" as George Lucas, according to his biographer, Dale Pollack.