Topeka Country singer Martina McBride has been named Kansan of the Year by a group that promotes the state's heritage.
The Native Sons and Daughters of Kansas plans to honor McBride during its annual banquet on Jan. 27 in Topeka. The group holds its banquet on the Friday night closest to the Jan. 29 anniversary of Kansas' admission to the Union in 1861.
McBride was born in Medicine Lodge and grew up in Sharon, and she began singing in her father's band while still a young child. She released her first commercial album, "The Time Has Come," in 1992.
She's best known for her hit single, "Independence Day," released in 1993, from her second album, "The Way That I Am." Her albums have sold an estimated 15 million copies.
In announcing the honor for McBride, the Native Sons and Daughters also cited her work with various charities, most notably groups that combat domestic violence - the theme of "Independence Day."
The Native Sons and Daughters also announced that it named Marci Penner, of Inman, as its Distinguished Kansan of the Year. She and her father founded the Kansas Sampler Foundation in 1993. The nonprofit organization educates people about Kansas and provides support for rural communities.
The Kansan of the Year award goes only to natives of the state. The second can go to people born outside Kansas who make significant contributions to the state, though it also sometimes goes to natives.
The Native Sons formed in 1901 and the Native Daughters in 1915. The two merged in 1918. The group has named a Kansan of the Year since 1955.
Past Kansans of the Year include Sen. Pat Roberts; former Sen. Bob Dole, the 1996 Republican presidential nominee; Jack St. Clair Kilby, a Great Bend native who won the Nobel Prize for inventing the computer microchip; retired North Carolina basketball coach Dean Smith, an Emporia native; crop artist Stan Herd, of Lawrence; and Samuel Ramey, a Colby native and internationally acclaimed opera singer.