From famous actors and record-setting athletes to presidents, many influential people are from the Bluegrass State. You may be surprised how many famous people from Kentucky there are. How many of these celebrities in Kentucky were you aware of?
1. Muhammad Ali (Louisville)
This World Heavyweight Champ was born in Louisville and is arguably the greatest boxer of all time. Louisville police officer Joe E. Martin was his first boxing coach and encouraged him to get involved in the sport.
2. Tyson Gay (Lexington)
Tyson Gay has won numerous world-tier track and field sprinter events. He competes in the 100 and 200 meter divisions, and is one of the fastest athletes of all time. He got his start as a child while attending public high schools in Kentucky.
3. Abraham Lincoln (LaRue County)
Does Abraham Lincoln really need an introduction? The 16th President, famous for preserving the Union and helping to end slavery, was born in LaRue County. The farm where he was born has been preserved as the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Park.
4. Wynonna Judd (Ashland)
Wynonna Judd comes from a star-studded family. One sister, Ashley Judd, is a famous actress. Wynonna rose to fame in the 1980s when performing as half of The Judds, a country music duo made up of her and her mother Naomi. Wynonna learned to play guitar and sing as a child in Kentucky, inspired by the music that her mother listened to.
5. Rajon Rondo (Louisville)
Rajon Rondo may be most closely associated with Boston: he lead the Boston Celtics to an NBA Championship in 2008. But he got his start in Kentucky and first became known as a star player for the Kentucky Wildcats.
6. George Clooney (Lexington)
This handsome actor, director, and producer was born in Lexington and spent much of his early life in the Bluegrass State. He comes by his good looks honestly: his mother was a beauty queen pageant and his father a TV anchorman. He attended Northern Kentucky University for several years.
7. Diane Sawyer (Glasgow)
Kentucky native Diane Sawyer is one of the hometown heroes featured in the Greater Louisville Proud Foundation campaign. Her father was a famous local politician who passed away in a car accident. A section of highway in Louisville is now named for him. Diane Sawyer grew up to be a member of President Nixon's White House staff and later, a famous news anchor.
8. Steven Curtis Chapman (Paducah)
Steven Curtis Chapman is a contemporary Christian musician who also advocates for adoption. He and his wife have written several children's books on the subject of adoption and have three adopted daughters from China.
9. Billy Ray Cyrus (Flatwoods)
The singer of "Achy Breaky Heart" was born in the town of Flatwoods. He attended Georgetown College on a baseball scholarship. Cyrus has several famous kids, most notably Miley Cyrus and Trace Cyrus (lead singer of the band Metro Station: he's a Kentucky native as well).
10. Johnny Depp (Owensboro)
That's right, Captain Jack Sparrow himself is from right here in Kentucky! Depp has won a Golden Globe Award and been nominated for multiple Academy Awards for his many praiseworthy roles. His family moved frequently during his childhood, but he was born in Owensboro.
11. Brian Littrel (Lexington)
You may not know Brian Littrell by name (unless you are a boy band fangirl), but he's one of the Backstreet Boys. He and his band mate Kevin Richardson (a fellow Kentucky native) are both inductees into the Kentucky Music Hall of of Fame. Littrell is now a contemporary Christian artist.
12. Patrick James "Pat" Riley (attended college in Kentucky)
Though he was actually born in New York, we consider him a Bluegrass native. Pat Riley first gained fame on the Kentucky Wildcats and later was to become one of the greatest NBA coaches of all time.
13. Michael Waltrip (Owensboro)
NASCAR champ Michael Waltrip is a two-time Daytona 500 winner. He got his professional start in 1981 at the Kentucky Motor Speedway.
14. Jennifer Lawrence (Indian Hills)
This "Hunger Games" star and Oscar winner got her start in school and church plays as a child. She never received a high school diploma and dropped out to focus on her acting career.
15. Josh Hutcherson (Union)
Another "Hunger Games" actor, this young star is an avid University of Kentucky basketball enthusiast. He has been an advocate for LGBT rights.
We know there are plenty more famous people from Kentucky. We love Kentucky trivia, so if you know of any offhand that we missed, share them in the comments!
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The OIYS Visitor Center
August 17, 2021
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