Over the years, State Street's illustrious characters have indeed established a legend of their own. One such person was John Riley. Riley, an older African-American man, was known to the University of Wisconsin-Madison community during the '60s and '70s as "Snowball," mainly for his white hair and beard.
According to a Capital Times article by Doug Moe, Snowball came to Madison by train from a small town in Mississippi in 1923 or 1924. He spent most of his time on State Street cleaning the windows of local businesses. Although he became a fixture on State Street, Snowball apparently lived above the Greenbush neighborhood tavern for some time.
Snowball is remembered by the UW community for walking the campus with the pockets of his overalls stuffed with ballpoint pens. It seems that Snowball was a perfectly harmless man who loved trains, clothes and betting on horses. He made many friends while in Madison and, in fact, was somewhat of a special interest to Grammy-nominated folk singer Utah Phillips.
Sadly, Snowball died in October 1975, but his likeness lived on in postcards featuring a pen-and-ink drawing by Muhamed Mousouf Aziz. Snowball is also immortalized at the Monona Terrace, where a tile was purchased in his honor in 1997.