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Home > Media > Famous Louisvillians

Famous Louisvillians

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From actors, to authors, to sports legends, Kentucky has produced some pretty famous people. When you visit Louisville, you'll recognize many famous faces gazing at you from Louisville Pride banners hanging from our buildings. Each serves as a constant reminder that in Louisville, anything is possible.

Arts & Entertainment

Diane Sawyer
ABC News World Anchor who began her career in Louisville at WLKY. Her father, Erbon Powers “Tom” Sawyer, was a county judge whom Jefferson County’s first state park, E.P. Tom Sawyer State Park, was named after.

My Morning Jacket
Louisville rooted rock band that formed in 1998 and is still going strong after six studio releases and three live albums. They have performed on SNL, The Late Show with David Letterman, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Late Night with Jimmy Falon. MMJ has also performed several times at Bonnaroo and Austin City Limits. Their songs have appeared in TV episodes of American Dad, How I Met Your Mother, House and in the films Elizabethtown, He’s Just Not That Into You, The Lookout and Winter Passing.

Tom Cruise
Known best for his roles in Risky Business, Top Gun, and Jerry Maguire, among others, Tom Cruise is a Golden Globe Award®-winning actor who lived in Louisville before he made it big. Tom Cruise attended Saint Xavier High School during his time in Louisville.

Jennifer Lawrence
The second youngest woman to be nominated for the Academy Award® for Best Actress, for her role in Winter’s Bone, Louisville native Jennifer Lawrence has quickly become one of Hollywood’s leading ladies, starring in X-Men, and The Hunger Games. With no prior training, she convinced her parents at the age of 14 to take her to New York City where she met her talent agent and began her career.

Ben Sollee
A Kentucky native, Ben Sollee began playing cello in elementary school. His love for folk and jazz music comes through in his own music, both in his solo career and with the group he performs in, Sparrow Quartet. Often arriving to his Kentucky performances by bike, Sollee is an activist for many causes, especially those affecting the state of Kentucky.

Bob Edwards
The former host of NPR’s Morning edition and the current host of The Bob Edwards Show on Sirius XM Radio, Bob Edwards is a well-known broadcaster from Louisville. Edwards graduated from St. Xavier High School and the University of Louisville, and was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 2004.

Foster Brooks
Born in Louisville, Foster Brooks started his career at WHAS-AM. He gained recognition after reporting about the Ohio River Flood of 1937 and then moved out west where he started working as a stand-up comedian.

Nicole Scherzinger
Attended grade school and high school in Louisville, and is best known as the lead singer for The Pussycat Dolls. While her music career continues as a solo artist, she was the winner of Dancing with the Stars season 10 mirror ball trophy, and has served as a judge on The X Factor.

Ed Hamilton
Sculptor who was raised in Louisville who is best known for his monuments. He gained national attention in 1992 when his Amistad Memorial was unveiled in New Haven, CT, and in 1998 for the unveiling of his African-American Civil War Memorial, “The Spirit of Freedom” in Washington, D.C. His work can be seen around town, including on the Belvedere, the Frazier History Museum, and his Abraham Lincoln Memorial in Waterfront Park.

Helen Humes
American Jazz and R&B singer born in Louisville who started her career in 1927. In 1938, Humes became a singer with the Count Basie Orchestra, replacing Billie Holiday. She was given the key to the city of Louisville in 1975.

Lionel Hampton
One of the first jazz vibraphonists, Lionel Hampton had a long and successful career as a percussionist, pianist, bandleader, and actor. Born in Louisville, he lived all over the country as a child, picking up musical knowledge along the way. Throughout his career, he performed with some of the most notable jazz musicians of the time, including Louis Armstrong and Charlie Parker among others.

Victor Mature
Born and raised in Louisville, Victor Mature left for California and was discovered performing on stage at the Pasadena Community Playhouse. He starred in many Hollywood productions, including Cecil B. DeMill’s Samson and Delilah.

Irene Dunne
Nominated five times for the Academy Award for best actress, Irene Dunne was famous from the 1930 to the 1950s. Growing up in Louisville, her father worked as a steamboat inspector. Dunne starred in many films including The Awful Truth and My Favorite Wife, both with Cary Grant. Dunne has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Lance Burton
A magician from Louisville, Lance Burton found a love for magic at a young age. He moved to California after he turned twenty and quickly found success. He appeared on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson ten times and appeared another ten times during Jay Leno’s time there. Burton has also performed for both Queen Elizabeth and President Reagan.

Sports

Muhammad Ali
Born Cassius Marcellus Clay in Louisville on January 17, 1942, he began his boxing career as an amateur at the age of 12 and turned professional in 1960. While Ali is best known for his three-time heavyweight boxing championships and as an Olympic gold medal winner, his life in recent years has turned from the ring to the world stage, spending the last four decades doing humanitarian work. The Muhammad Ali Center is an international cultural and educational center guided and inspired by the ideals of Ali.

Pat Day
The all-time leading rider at Churchill Downs, Pat Day is a local legend. He has been inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame and has won the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Jockey four times.

Bud Hillerich
The 120-year history of the Louisville Slugger baseball bat began in the talented hands of 17-year-old John A. "Bud" Hillerich. He crafted the very first bat for local baseball star Pete Browning in his father’s woodshop. The first use of the term “Louisville Slugger” was in 1893, when the bat became a baseball staple.

Pee Wee Reese
Pee Wee Reese played baseball for the Dodgers, but got his start in the minor leagues playing for the Louisville Colonels. An inductee to the Pro Baseball Hall of Fame, he contributed to seven National League championships for the Dodgers and was himself a ten-time All Star.

Denny Crum
Former men's college basketball coach at the University of Louisville who guided the Cardinals to two NCAA championships and six Final Fours. He is honored in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and is one of the major figures in the history of sports in Kentucky.

Rick Pitino
Currently head coach for the University of Louisville men’s basketball, Pitino holds the distinction of being the first coach in NCAA history to lead three different schools (Providence College, the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville) to a Final Four.

Paul Hornung
Heisman Trophy winner and an inductee of the College Football Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Paul Hornung was a player for the Green Bay Packers. Each year the Paul Hornung Award is given to the most versatile player in college football.

Darrel Griffith
Darrell Steven Griffith, also known by his nickname “Dr. Dunkenstein,” was born in Louisville and got his basketball career start at Male High school. Though heavily recruited by colleges across the country, Griffith stayed at the University of Louisville and delivered the school’s first-ever NCAA men’s basketball championship in 1980. Griffith spent his entire professional career with the Utah Jazz of the National Basketball Association and is now retired.

Authors

Hunter S. Thompson
American author and journalist, and one of the principle symbols of American counterculture, Hunter Stockton Thompson was born in Louisville and spent his early youth in the city. Thompson created and popularized Gonzo journalism, a style in which the author becomes an active, central character in the story they are reporting or portraying. His books on politics and society, including “The Hell’s Angels,” a detailed expose on the infamous motorcycle club, and the cultclassic “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” were regarded as groundbreaking among journalists.Thompson is well known for his use of illegal substances and love for firearms.

Wendell Berry
Farmer and author, Wendell Berry is originally from Henry County, Kentucky. Berry is known for his poems, short stories, and essays, as well as being an academic, cultural and economic critic. Berry is also a recipient of the National Humanities Medal.

Dianne Aprile
Graduating from both the University of Louisville and Spalding University, Dianne Aprile has lived and worked in Louisville for most of her life. She is the author of four non-fiction works. She also wrote for Louisville’s newspaper, the Courier-Journal, for 29 years.

Sue Grafton
Sue Grafton, an American author, is most famous for her ‘alphabet series’ starting with the book A is for Alibi. Grafton was born and raised in Louisville, graduated from the University of Louisville, and still lives here part-time today with her husband.

Alice Hagan
Known best for her 1901 novel Mrs. Wiggs in the Cabbage Patch, Alice Hagan was a writer from Louisville. Her Cabbage Patch sequels, stories about an Irish ghetto in Louisville, are her most popular works.

Sallie Bingham
Since her first novel was published in 1961, Sallie Bingham has been writing a variety of things, including plays, short stories, poems, and memoirs. Her works have been included in many anthologies and publications. She is also the founder of the Kentucky Foundation for Women, which encourages the use of feminist ideas in artistic expressions.

Historical

Abraham Lincoln
The 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln was born in LaRue County, Kentucky, right down the road from Louisville. Often referred to as the best president in the history of the United States, Lincoln led the country through the Civil War and helped bring an end to slavery in America.

George Rogers Clark
War general and Louisville founder, Clark was the highest ranking American military officer on the northwestern frontier during the Revolutionary War. In 1778, he helped settle Corn Island, an outpost at the Falls of Ohio, which later became Louisville. Clark is buried at Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville.

William Clark
Younger brother of George Rogers Clark who grew up in Kentucky, he was also an American explorer and soldier. Clark, along with Meriwether Lewis, led the Lewis & Clark expedition and eventually claimed the Pacific Northwest for the United States.

Thomas A. Edison
The inventor spent nearly two years in Louisville as a young telegrapher. Some of his inventions can be seen at the Thomas Edison House, a 1850s shotgun-style home where Edison worked as a telegrapher for Western Union.

Zachary Taylor
Twelfth president of the United States, who lived on a frontier in Louisville during his youth. Taylor was buried in the Taylor family plot, which was later turned into a national cemetery with the help of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. In 1926 it was renamed the Zachary Taylor National Cemetery.

Colonel Harland Sanders
Harland David "Colonel" Sanders was an American fast food businessman who founded the Kentucky Fried Chicken company, now re-branded as KFC. His image remains iconic in KFC promotions. The Colonel is buried in Louisville’s Cave Hill Cemetery.

Louis D. Brandeis
An Old Louisville resident, Brandeis graduated from Harvard Law School with the highest grade average in the college’s history and helped develop the “right to privacy.” He served as the first Jewish Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. The University of Louisville’s law school is named after Brandeis, who was a patron of UofL. The law school's Louis D. Brandeis Society awards the Brandeis Medal. He and his wife are buried on UofL’s campus.

Mildred & Patty Hill
Louisville-born sisters and kindergarten teachers wrote the “Happy Birthday” song. Originally called “Good Morning To You,” it was later changed to this traditional birthday anthem. The sisters are buried in Cave Hill Cemetery, and were posthumously inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Frank Neuhauser
Son of a Kentucky stonemason and Louisville resident, Frank was 11 years old in 1925 when he spelled “gladiolus” correctly to win the nation’s first spelling championship.

John Colgan
Inventor of “Taffy Julie” in 1883, which was later known as bubble gum. Another inventor beat Colgan to the patent, though he is still credited with the invention.

Thomas Merton
Monk and priest at the Abbey of Gethsemani, Thomas Merton was born in France. He lived in New York, England and Rome all before finding his home at the Abbey of Gethsemani in Bardstown, KY. Merton is characterized as an important 20th century Catholic thinker and mystic.

George Garvin Brown
Founder of Brown-Forman, George Garvin Brown started out as a pharmaceuticals salesman who had the bright idea to bottle and seal whiskey to ensure quality. Since he started it in 1870, Brown-Forman has grown into a huge American-owned wine and spirits company, producing Old Forester, Jack Daniels, and Woodford Reserve among others.