Famous Kentuckians

List of Famous Kentuckians

This list of Famous Kentuckians appeared on our website beginning in 1998, currently it is a bit out of date, some names can be added and some of the people listed here are now deceased. Nonetheless it was a great research project and well-done in an objective manner.

Our website author could not determine which of these people were recognized as Kentucky colonels at the time so we have begun a new list of those who were recognized based on information identified online. This list however is equally important because being a Kentucky colonel involves knowing about Kentucky as much as it does about being a colonel, moreover there are many famous people who are Kentucky colonels that are not Kentuckians.

Famous Kentuckians

  • Alben W. Barkley (1877-1956) U.S. vice president under Harry Truman, 1949-53.
  • Daniel Carter Beard * (1850-1941) "Father of Scouting"; founded Boy Pioneers, 1905; founded Boy Scouts of America, 1910.
  • George Barry Bingham, Sr. (1906-1988) Head of a newspaper and broadcasting empire that set the standard for ethical journalism; under his leadership the Louisville Courier-Journal won seven Pulitzer Prizes and was ranked in the top 10 papers in the country; he served on the board that awarded Pulitzer Prizes and chaired the International Press Institute.
  • James Gillespie Birney (1792-1857) Executive secretary of the American Anti-Slavery Society, 1837; vice-president of the World Anti-Slavery Convention in London, 1840; presidential candidate of the Liberty Party, 1840 and 1844.
  • Montgomery Blair (1813-1883) Chief defense counsel in the Dred Scott case; postmaster general under Abraham Lincoln, responsible for innovations such as money orders, postage stamps and free rural delivery.
  • Louis Brandeis (1856-1941) U.S. Supreme Court justice, 1916-39.
  • John Cabell Breckinridge (1821-1875) U.S. vice president under James Buchanan, 1857-61.
  • Madeline McDowell Breckinridge (1872-1920) Reformist; national leader in women's suffrage movement.
  • Mary Breckinridge (1881-1965) Organized the Frontier Nursing Service in eastern Kentucky, which became a model for similar programs throughout the world.
  • Sophonisba Preston Breckinridge (1866-1948) Lawyer, pioneer in social work, first woman admitted to the Kentucky bar, first woman to receive a PhD in political science, credited with making social work a profession.
  • Belle Brezing (1860-1940) Well-known madam; thought to be the prototype for Belle Watling in "Gone With the Wind."
  • Benjamin Helm Bristow (1832-1896) First U.S. solicitor general, 1870; secretary of the treasury, 1874-76; second president of the American Bar Association.
  • Edgar Cayce (1877-1945) "The Sleeping Prophet," psychic counselor, author, founder of the Association for Research and Enlightenment.
  • Cassius Marcellus Clay (1810-1903) Ambassador to Russia; abolitionist; a founder of the Republican Party; known as "The Lion of White Hall."
  • Henry Clay * (1777-1852) U.S. senator; speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives; U.S. secretary of state; known as the "Great Compromiser."
  • Laura Clay (1849-1941) Women's rights advocate; organized and led the Kentucky Equal Rights Association for 24 years.
  • Martha Layne Collins (1936- ) First female Kentucky governor, 1983-87.
  • John Sherman Cooper (1901-1991) U.S. senator; ambassador to India and East Germany; member of the Warren Commission.
  • Emma Guy Cromwell (1869-1952) First woman in Kentucky to be elected to statewide office, 1886.
  • Jefferson Davis (1808-1889) Only president of the Confederate States of America, 1861-65.
  • Mary Desha (1850-1911) Co-founded the Daughters of the American Revolution.
  • Mary Elliott Flanery (1867-1933) First woman to serve in a Southern state legislature, 1921.
  • Nancy Green (1834-1923) Known to the world as "Aunt Jemima," the former slave became the advertising world's first living trademark, beginning at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893.
  • Larry Claxton Flynt (1942- ) Pornographer, nightclub owner and magazine publisher who has tested the limits of free speech in America, winning in the Supreme Court, and thereby strengthening the First Amendment.
  • John Marshall Harlan (1833-1911) U.S. Supreme Court justice, 1877-1911.
  • Margaret Ingels (1892-1971) First woman in the U.S. to earn a mechanical engineering degree.
  • Richard M. Johnson (1780-1850) U.S. vice president under Martin Van Buren, 1837-41.
  • Albert Sidney Johnston (1803-1862) Confederate general; his death in the Battle of Shiloh was a severe blow to Confederate hopes of winning the war.
  • John "Casey" Jones (1864-1900) Railroad engineer immortalized in song.
  • Arthur Krock (1886-1974) Newspaper reporter and editor; four-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize; head of the New York Times Washington bureau from 1932-1965; credited with transforming the structure of newspaper bureaus, a reorganization copied by the radio and television industries.
  • Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) Sixteenth U.S. president, 1861-65.
  • Mary Todd Lincoln (1818-1882) Wife of Abraham Lincoln.
  • McCoys of the Hatfield-McCoy feud, resolved in 1888.
  • John Hunt Morgan * (1825-1864) Confederate general; known as "The Thunderbolt of the Confederacy."
  • Carry A. Nation (1846-1911) Temperance crusader; known as "the lady with a hatchet."
  • Katherine Pettit (1868-1936) Began the first rural social settlement work ever undertaken in the U.S., founded Hindman Settlement School and Pine Mountain Settlement School.
  • Georgia Powers (1923- ) Kentucky's first female African-American state senator, marched with Martin Luther King, addressed the dramatic 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, chaired Jesse Jackson's 1984 and '88 Kentucky presidential campaigns.
  • Stanley Forman Reed (1884-1980) U.S. Supreme Court Justice for 19 years; cast the deciding vote on Brown vs. Board of Education, the 1954 case that struck down the notion that separate schools for different races could still offer equal educational opportunities.
  • Colonel Harland Sanders * (1890-1980) Kentucky Fried Chicken founder.
  • John Thomas Scopes (1900-1970) Defendant in famous the "Monkey Trial" for violating a Tennessee law against teaching evolution.
  • Franklin R. Sousley, PFC (1925-1945) Helped raise the U.S. flag at Iwo-Jima; immortalized in the most famous war photograph in history.
  • Elvis J. Stahr Jr. (1916-1998) University of Kentucky College of Law Dean 1948-56, West Virginia University President 1958-61, Secretary of the Army 1961-62, Indiana University President 1962-68, National Audubon Society President 1968-79.
  • Adlai Stevenson (1835-1914) U.S. vice president under Grover Cleveland, 1893-97.
  • Cora Wilson Stewart (1875-1958) Educator whose school for adult education became a model throughout the world.
  • Zachary Taylor * (1784-1850) Mexican War hero; twelfth U.S. president, 1849-50.
  • Frederick Moore Vinson (1890-1953) U.S. Supreme Court chief justice, 1946-53.
  • Charles A. Young (1864-1922) Third black graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, the nation's highest-ranking black soldier in World War I, and the first black to serve as a U.S. military attaché.
  • Whitney M. Young, Jr. (1921-1971) Civil rights leader; executive director of the National Urban League, 1961-71; advisor to Presidents Johnson and Nixon; awarded Medal of Freedom, 1969.
  • Judge Roy Bean (1825-1903) Trader; bartender; infamous "hanging judge" of Langtry, Texas.
  • Daniel Boone * (1734-1820) Hunted and explored Kentucky, 1767-74; cleared the Wilderness Road and founded Fort Boonesborough, 1775.
  • James Bowie (1796-1836) Texas Ranger who died at the Alamo; designed the Bowie knife.
  • Kit Carson (1809-1868) Indian agent; trapper; scout.
  • George Rogers Clark * (1752-1818) American Revolution frontier general and explorer; secured the Northwest Territory for the U.S.; founder of Louisville, 1778.
  • William Clark * (1770-1838) U.S. Army lieutenant; co-leader of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, 1803-06; Indian agent for the Louisiana Territory, 1807-13; governor of the Missouri Territory, 1813-1821.
  • Floyd Collins (1887-1925) Explorer whose entrapment and death in a cave became one of the most widely reported stories of the 1920s.
  • James Harrod * (1742-1793) Frontiersman; founder of Harrodsburg, first permanent settlement west of the Alleghenies, 1774.
  • Simon Kenton * (1755-1836) Frontier explorer and soldier; scout for Daniel Boone and George Rogers Clark.
  • Dr. Thomas Walker * (1715-1794) Surveyor; led the first documented expedition through the Cumberland Gap, 1750.
  • John Colgan (1840-1916) Developed a sweetened chewing gum in 1879, Colgan's Taffy Tolu, which became popular in the U.S., Canada and Australia after its introduction at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair.
  • Thomas D. Dillehay (1948- ) Archaeologist; University of Kentucky professor who disproved the century-old theory of the first Americans by excavating a site near Monte Verde, Chile that shows hunter-gatherers lived there 1,000 years before the Clovis people; now the questions are again, who were the first Americans, and how and when did they get here?
  • Frank Talbert Etscorn, III (1945- ) Behavioral psychologist, discovered the nicotine patch in 1980, helping millions of people quit smoking.
  • John Fitch * (1743-1798) Conceived the idea of a steamboat in 1785; received first patent, 1791.
  • Frederick McKinley Jones (1893-1961) Invented the first process that enabled movie projectors to play back recorded sound, making talking pictures possible; invented automatic refrigeration units for trucks, trains, and ships allowing the shipment of perishable goods; invented portable refrigeration units for military camps for storing blood; invented a portable X-ray machine.
  • William Kelly * (1811-1888) Discovered the Bessamer process of steel-making, 1846.
  • William Lipscomb * (1919- ) Nobel prize winner for research on the chemical bonding of atoms, 1976.
  • Ephraim McDowell * (1771-1830) Surgeon; founder of modern abdominal surgery; performed first successful surgical removal of an ovarian tumor, 1809.
  • Garrett A. Morgan (1877-1963) Patented the world's first gas mask, 1912; invented the first automatic, tri-color traffic signal, 1923.
  • Thomas Hunt Morgan (1866-1945) Biologist; Nobel Prize winner in medicine for genetic research, 1933.
  • Florence Peebles (1874-1956) Biologist, known for her work on how external influences affect the development of living tissue.
  • Matthew B. Sellers * (1869-1932) Aviation pioneer; among first to experiment with gliding and power flight.
  • Phillip A. Sharp (1944- ) Nobel Prize winner for the discovery of split genes and for advancing research on cancer and hereditary diseases, 1993.
  • Nathan B. Stubblefield (1860-1928) Successfully demonstrated wireless voice transmission (radio), 1892.
  • John T. Thompson (1860-1940) Invented the "tommy gun," the world's first submachine gun, 1920.
  • Cornelia B. Wilbur (1909-92) University of Kentucky professor of psychiatry; expert on multiple personality disorders; doctor of "Sybil," the subject of the 1970s best-selling book about the bizarre case of a woman plagued with multiple personalities.
  • John James Audubon * (1785-1851) Ornithologist; artist; began his work on "Birds of America" in Kentucky.
  • Frank Duveneck (1848-1919) Painter; sculptor; educator.
  • Henry L. Faulkner (1924-1981) Unconventional artist and poet.
  • Edward Franklin Fisk * (1886-1944) Portrait and landscape artist.
  • Fontaine Fox (1884-1964) Originated the nationally syndicated cartoon "The Toonerville Trolley."
  • Ed Hamilton (1947- ) Sculptor; "The Spirit of Freedom" at the African American Civil War Memorial in Washington, D.C. (1998); "Amistad Memorial" (1992) in New Haven, Connecticut; "Joe Lewis" (1987) in Cobo Hall, Detroit, Michigan.
  • Joel Tanner Hart (1810-1877) Sculptor.
  • Harlan Hubbard (1900-1988) Writer and painter, known for his rejection of industrial development and the consumer culture.
  • Matthew Harris Jouett (1787-1827) Portrait artist.
  • Shirley Ardell Mason * (1923-98) Watercolorist; best known as "Sybil," the subject of the 1970s best-selling book about a woman with multiple personalities.
  • Ralph Eugene Meatyard * (1920-1972) Photographer, creator of inventive settings and images sometimes humorous, enchanting or haunting.
  • Thomas Satterwhite Noble (1835-1907) Artist known for powerful works depicting the horrors of slavery.
  • Samuel Woodson Price (1828-1891) Portrait artist.
  • Paul Marvin Rudolph (1918- ) Architect whose work was influential as an alternative to the rectilinear glass and steel International Style; designed the School of Art and Architecture at Yale University in 1964.
  • Paul Sawyier * (1865-1917) Landscape artist; known for scenes of Frankfort and the Kentucky River.
  • Gideon Shryock (1802-1880) Architect; introduced Greek Revival style to the "West."
  • Moneta J. Sleet, Jr. (1926-1996) First black American to win the Pulitzer Prize in photography, 1969: the forlorn image of a veiled Coretta Scott King cradling her young daughter on a crowded church pew at the funeral of her husband, Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Morgan (1910-1993) and Marvin Smith (1910- ) Photographers of the Harlem Renaissance.
  • Edward Troye * (1808-1874) Equine artist; foremost American sports painter of the nineteenth century.
  • Helen M. Turner (1858-1958) Impressionistic landscape artist; portraitist.
  • John Tuska * (1931-1998) Versatile artist known principally for his sculpture, especially the human form.
  • Ellis Wilson (1899-1977) Described as "an interpreter of Negro life," Wilson turned the everyday lives of black people into colorful, vibrant art.
  • Enid Yandell (1870-1934) Sculptor; first female member of the National Sculpture Society.
  • Noah Adams Broadcast journalist, co-host of National Public Radio's "All Things Considered" since 1979.
  • James Lane Allen (1849-1925) "The Choir Invisible," "A Kentucky Cardinal."
  • Joseph Alexander Altsheler (1862-1919) "The Young Trailers" series of historical novels (1907-12) were the most popular stories for young people in their day.
  • Harriette Simpson Arnow (1909-1986) "The Dollmaker," "Hunter's Horn," "Seedtime on the Cumberland, "Between the Flowers."
  • Wendell E. Berry (1934- ) A modern-day Agrarian, environmentalist, poet, novelist, and essayist; "The Unsettling of America," "Nathan Coulter," "A Place on Earth," "The Memory of Old Jack."
  • Cleanth Brooks (1906-1994) Literary critic, literary historian; co-founder and editor (with Robert Penn Warren) of the "Southern Review," the most highly respected literary journal in America during the 1930s; "Modern Poetry and the Tradition," "The Well-Wrought Urn: Studies in the Structure of Poetry," "A Shaping Joy: Studies in the Writer's Craft."
  • William Wells Brown (1814-1884) Physician, historian, and author: America's first black novelist; "Clotel; or, the President's Daughter: a Narrative of Slave Life in the United States," published in 1853 in London, but not published in the United States until 1969 because the story was loosely based on Thomas Jefferson and his slave Sally Hemings.
  • Charles Neville Buck (1879-1930) Novelist; "The Call of the Cumberlands," "Battle Cry," "The Code of the Mountains."
  • Harry Caudill (1922-1990) Political writer, conservationist, novelist; "Night Comes to the Cumberlands: A Biography of a Depressed Area."
  • Billy C. Clark (1928- ) Novelist, poet; "Song of the River," "A Long Row to Hoe," "Goodbye Kate," "Sourwood Tales," "To Leave My Heart at Catlettsburg."
  • Thomas D. Clark * (1903- ) Historian laureate of Kentucky; "A History of Kentucky," "The Kentucky," "Frontier America," "The Emerging South," "Kentucky: Land of Contrast," "Pills, Petticoats and Plows: The Southern Country Store."
  • Irvin S. Cobb (1876-1944) Journalist, humorist, short story writer; best known for his cigar and his Judge Priest stories.
  • Joseph S. Cotter (1861-1949) Poet, short story writer, educator; "Negro Tales," "A White Song and a Black One," "Negroes and Others at Work and Play."
  • Alfred Leland Crabb (1884-1980) Novelist, educator; "Dinner at Belmont," Home to Kentucky," "Peace at Bowling Green," "Journey to Nashville."
  • Joe Creason (1918-1974) Journalist; "Joe Creason's Kentucky," "Crossroads and Coffee Trees."
  • Olive Tilford Dargan (1869-1968) Poet, novelist (pen name Fielding Burke); "Highland Annals," "Call Home the Heart," "The Welsh Pony."
  • Guy Davenport * (1927- ) Poet, critic, essayist, writer of short fiction; "The Cardiff Team," "Twelve Stories," "Tatlin! Six Stories."
  • David Dick * (1930- ) CBS News correspondent, director of the University of Kentucky School of Journalism, author; "The Scourges of Heaven," "The View From Plum Lick," "The Quiet Kentuckians."
  • Michael Dorris (1945-1997) Founder of the Native American Studies Program at Dartmouth College, author; "A Yellow Raft in Blue Water," "The Broken Cord," "Morning Girl," "Sees Behind Trees."
  • Leon V. Driskell * (1932-1995) Novelist, critic, educator; "Passing Through."
  • Bob Edwards Broadcast journalist, host of National Public Radio's "Morning Edition" since 1979.
  • John Fox, Jr. (1863-1919) "The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come," "The Trail of the Lonesome Pine."
  • Janice Holt Giles * (1909-1979) Historical novelist; "The Kentuckians," "Hannah Fowler," "The Enduring Hills."
  • Caroline Gordon (1895-1981) Novelist, short story writer, critic; "Penhally," "Aleck Maury," "None Shall Look Back."
  • Sue Grafton (1940- ) Mystery writer, author of the best-selling alphabet mystery series such as "O is for Outlaw."
  • Jonathan Greene * (1943- ) Poet and Gnomen Press publisher; "Small Change for the Long Haul."
  • A.B. Guthrie, Jr. * (1901-1991) Pulitzer Prize winning novelist; "The Big Sky," "The Way West," "These Thousand Hills."
  • James Baker Hall (1935-) Author and poet; "Music for a Broken Piano," "Getting It on Up to the Brag," "The Mother on the Other Side of the World."
  • James W. Hall (1947- ) Suspense writer; "Body Language."
  • Elizabeth Hardwick (1916- ) Literary critic, editor, essayist and novelist; "Sleepless Nights," "Seduction and Betrayal," "Bartleby in Manhattan," "A View of My Own," "Sight Readings: American Fictions, "Herman Melville."
  • Lynn S. Hightower * (1955- ) Fiction writer; "No Good Dead," " Flashpoint," "Eyeshot, "Alien Blues."
  • Duncan Hines (1880-1959) Food critic, restaurant-guide publisher; "Adventures in Good Eating," "Lodging for a Night."
  • Felix Holt (1898-1954) "The Gabriel Horn," "Dan'l Boone Kissed Me."
  • Harlan Hubbard (1900-1988) "Shantyboat: A River Way of Life," "Payne Hollow: Life on the Fringe of Society."
  • Bell Hooks (1952- ) Literary activist; "Ain't I A Woman; Black Women and Feminism," "Outlaw Culture: Resisting Representation," "Killing Rage: Ending Racism."
  • Virginia Cary Hudson (1894-1954) "O Ye Jigs and Juleps," a series of hilarious school essays written in 1904 and published posthumously.
  • Fenton Johnson (1953- ) Novelist; "Crossing the River," "scissors, paper, rock."
  • Paul Brett Johnson (1947- ) Children's author and illustrator; "A Perfect Pork Stew," "The Cow Who Wouldn't Come Down," "Old Dry Frye."
  • Annie Fellows Johnston * (1863-1931) The first Kentuckian to gain fame as an author of children's stories; "The Little Colonel" series.
  • Gayl Jones (1949- ) Novelist, poet; "Corregidora," "White Rat," "Eva's Man," "The Healing," "Mosquito."
  • Marcia Thornton Jones * Children's books author; "The Adventures of the Bailey School Kids," "Triplett Troubles," "Bailey City Monsters."(1958- )
  • Barbara Kingsolver * (1955- ) Novelist, poet; "The Bean Trees," "Animal Dreams," "Pigs in Heaven," "The Poisonwood Bible."
  • Arthur Krock (1886-1974) Journalist, winner of four Pulitzer Prizes; he may have been the most influential journalist of his era for his column "In the Nation," which ran in the New York Times for 33 years.
  • George Ella Lyon (1949- ) Novelist, poet; "A Regular Rolling Noah," "Catalpa," "Come a Tide," "With a Hammer for My Heart."
  • Bobbie Ann Mason (1940- ) Novelist; "Clear Springs," "In Country," "Feather Crowns," "Shiloh," "Spence & Lila," "Midnight Magic."
  • Ed McClanahan (1932- ) Novelist; "The Natural Man," "Famous People I Have Known," "A Congress of Wonders," "My Vita, If You Will."
  • Teresa Medeiros (1963- ) romance novelist; "Once An Angel," "A Whisper of Roses," "Lady of Conquest," "Nobody's Darling."
  • Thomas Merton * (1915-1968) Legendary Trappist monk, priest, author, poet, essayist on spiritual and social issues; "The Seven Storey Mountain."
  • Jim Wayne Miller * (1936-1996) Novelist, Kentucky Poet Laureate 1986; "Dialogue With a Dead Man," "The Mountains Have Come Closer," "His First, Best Country," "Newfound."
  • J.T. Cotton Noe (1869-1953) Kentucky's first poet laureate, 1926-53; "Tip Sams of Kentucky and Other Poems."
  • Gurney Norman (1937- ) Novelist; "Divine Right's Trip," "Kinfolks."
  • Marsha Norman (1947- ) Pulitzer Prize winning playwright; "Getting Out," "'night Mother"
  • Chris Offutt (1958- ) "Kentucky Straight," "The Same River Twice," "Out of the Woods," "The Good Brother."
  • Theodore O'Hara (1820-1867) "Bivouac of the Dead."
  • John Patrick (1906- ) Pulitzer Prize winning playwright, screen writer; "Teahouse of the August Moon," "The Hasty Heart."
  • John Ed Pearce (1919- ) Pulitzer Prize winning journalist; "Divide and Dissent," "The Ohio River."
  • Joe Ashby Porter (1942- ) Novelist; "Eelgrass," "The Kentucky Stories."
  • Ted Poston (1906-1974) First African-American to spend a career at a mainstream daily newspaper (New York Post); considered the dean of black journalists during the civil rights movement.
  • Alice Hegan Rice (1870-1942) "Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch," "Lovey Mary."
  • Elizabeth Madox Roberts (1881-1941) "The Time of Man," "The Great Meadow."
  • Diane Sawyer (1945- ) Broadcast journalist, commentator.
  • Effie Waller Smith (1879- 1960) Traditional poet; "Rhymes from the Cumberland," "Rosemary and Pansies."
  • Martha Bennett Stiles * (1933- ) Novelist and childrens' author; "Lonesome Road," "Island Magic," "Kate of Still Waters," "Sarah the Dragon Lady."
  • James Still * (1906- ) Poet, novelist; Kentucky Poet Laureate 1995-97; "River of Earth," "Pattern of a Man and Other Stories," "The Wolfpen Notebooks," "Sporty Creek."
  • Jesse Stuart (1907-1984) Author, educator, Kentucky Poet Laureate; "Man With a Bull-Tongue Plow," Taps for Private Tussie," "Head o' W-Hollow," "The Beatinest Boy"; his autobiographical book, "The Thread That runs So True" in 1949 was called "the best book on education in the last 50 years" by the National Education Association.
  • Hollis Summers (1916-1987) Novelist; "Brighten the Corner," "City Limit," "The Weather of February," "The Garden," "The Day After Sunday."
  • Allen Tate (1899-1979) Critic, poet, novelist; one of the original Nashville "Fugitives" in the 1920s and one of the Agrarians; "The Fathers," "Ode to the Confederate Dead."
  • Walter Tevis * (1928-1984) Novelist, science fiction writer; "The Hustler," "The Man Who Fell to Earth."
  • Helen Thomas (1920- ) Journalist, UPI White House correspondent from 1961-2000, covering United States presidents from Kennedy through Clinton; "Front Row at the White House."
  • Hunter S. Thompson (1937- ) Inventor of "Gonzo" journalism, using fiction techniques to portray people and events Thompson was personally involved in; began writing for "Rolling Stone" in 1970; "The Great Shark Hunt," "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream," "The Proud Highway," "The Rum Diary."
  • Robert Penn "Red" Warren (1905-1989) The century's most versatile figure in American letters; poet, novelist, critic, essayist, biographer; the United States' first Poet Laureate; Pulitzer Prize winner 1947, 1958, 1979 and the only person to win the prize for both prose and poetry and the only three-time winner; "All the King's Men," "Promises," "World Enough and Time," "The Cave."
  • Henry Watterson * (1840-1921) Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing, 1918.
  • Backstreet Boys Two band members are Kentuckians: Brian Littrell (1975- ) and Kevin Richardson (1972- ).
  • Ned Beatty (1937- ) Actor; "Deliverance," "White Lightning," "Nashville," "Network," "The Big Easy."
  • Foster Brooks (1912- ) Comedian known for his "Lovable Lush" role.
  • Marty Brown (1965- ) Country singer; "Wildest Dreams," "Every Now and Then," "High and Dry."
  • John Howard Carpenter (1948- ) Producer/director/writer; "Halloween," "The Fog," "The Thing"; Academy Award-winner for "The Resurrection of Bronco Billy."
  • Steven Curtis Chapman (1962- ) Gospel singer.
  • Manuel Dewey "Old Joe" Clark, Jr. (1922-1998) Country singer and comedian.
  • George Clooney (1961- ) Actor; "From Dusk Till Dawn," "Batman & Robin," "ER," "Roseanne," "Sisters."
  • Nick Clooney Actor, American Movie Classics host.
  • Rosemary Clooney (1928- ) Singing star of radio, motion pictures, and television; "Come-on-a-My House."
  • John Conlee Country singer; "Rose Colored Glasses," "Backside of Thirty," "Before My Time."
  • William Conrad (1925-1997) Actor; "Jake and the Fatman," "Nero Wolfe."
  • Billy Ray Cyrus (1961- ) Country singer; "Achy Breaky Heart, "Some Gave All," "Trail of Tears," "It's All the Same to Me,""It Won't Be the Last."
  • Roger Davis (1939- ) Television actor; "Gallant Men," "Dark Shadows," "The Young Country," Alias Smith and Jones."
  • Skeeter Davis (1931- ) Country singer; "I Forgot More Than You'll Ever Know (About Him)," "The End of the World."
  • Johnny Depp (1963- ) Actor; "Nightmare on Elm Street," "Platoon," "Edward Scissorhands," "21 Jump Street," "Cry Baby."
  • Todd Duncan (1903-1998) Operatic baritone who originated the role of Porgy in George Gershwin's Porgy and Bess; a trailblazer in desegregating American opera; in 1945 he became the first black artist to appear with the New York City Opera.
  • Irene Dunne (1898-1990) Actress; "Showboat," "Cimarron," "I Remember Mama," "Anna and the King of Siam."
  • The Everly Brothers Don (1937- ) and Phil (1939- ) Country and rockabilly singers.
  • Tom Ewell (1909- ) Actor; "Adam's Rib," "The Seven Year Itch," "The Girl Can't Help It."
  • Crystal Gayle (1951- ) Country and pop singer, winner of three Grammys and four Academy of Country Music Awards.
  • Haven Gillespie (1888-1975) Wrote more than a thousand popular songs including "Violet Blue," "God's Country," "Right or Wrong," "Santa Claus is Coming to Town."
  • Edwin Franko Goldman (1878-1956) Founder and conductor of the Goldman Band, one of the foremost in the U.S.; composer, best known for "On the Mall."
  • D.W. Griffith (1875-1948) Innovative movie producer best known for "The Birth of a Nation."
  • Tom T. Hall (1936- ) Country singer, songwriter, and author, winner of a Grammy and 46 BMI awards; "Harper Valley PTA."
  • Lionel Hampton (1908- ) Jazz musician, band leader, and composer, the "King of Swing" was best known vibraphone player in the world; "Night in Tunisia," "Flying Home."
  • W.C. Handy (1873-1958) The "Father of the Blues" began his musical career in Henderson, Kentucky where he lived from 1893-1903.
  • Larnell Harris Gospel singer.
  • Louis Marshall "Grandpa" Jones (1913-1998) Country music singer, banjo player, comedian; "Old Rattler," "Eight More Miles to Louisville," "Mountain Dew," Old Rattler's Pup," "Tragic Romance."
  • Jon Jory Producing Director of Actors Theatre of Louisville
  • Ashley Judd * (1968- ) Actress; "Kiss the Girls," "A Time to Kill," "Simon Birch," "The Locusts, "Kuff's," "Double Jeopardy."
  • The Judds Naomi (1946- ) & Wynonna (1964- ) Country singers, winners of more than 30 music awards including four Grammys.
  • Kentucky Headhunters Country musicians; "Walk Softly On This Heart of Mine," "Dumas Walker."
  • John Lair (1894-1985) Country music entrepreneur, promoter, and folklorist; created the "Renfro Valley Barn Dance" and the "Saturday Night Barn Dance" radio shows; developed the Renfro Valley Country Music Center.
  • Arthur Lake (1905-1987) Actor, known for his portrayal of Dagwood Bumstead in the "Blondie" series of films.
  • Homer Ledford * (1927- ) Bluegrass musician with the Cabin Creek Band; internationally-recognized instrument maker, especially known for his dulcimers, one of which is part of the permanent musical instrument collection at the Smithsonian Institution.
  • Patty Loveless Country singer; "Blue Side of Town," "Chains," "Hurt Me Bad (In a Real Good Way)."
  • Loretta Lynn (1935- ) Country singer and songwriter, known as "The Coal Miner's Daughter "and the "First Lady of Country Music"; "I'm a Honky Tonk Girl," "Blue Kentucky Girl," "You Ain't Woman Enough."
  • Lee Majors (1939- ) Actor; "Big Valley," "Will Penny," "The Six Million Dollar Man, "The Fall Guy."
  • Victor Mature (1915-1999) Star of more than fifty films; "No, No Nanette," "My Darling Clementine," "The Robe," "Samson and Delilah," "Chief Crazy Horse."
  • Una Merkel (1903-1986) Tony Award-winning actress; "Destry Rides Again," "Summer and Smoke."
  • Bill Monroe (1911-1996) "The Father of Bluegrass Music" known for ballads such as "Blue Moon of Kentucky," Molly and Tenbrook," "My Rose of Old Kentucky," and "Mule Skinner Blues."
  • John Michael Montgomery (1965- ) Country singer; "I Swear," "Be My Baby Tonight," "I Love the Way You Love Me."
  • Patricia Neal (1926- ) Academy Award-winning actress; "Hud," "A Face in the Crowd," "The Fountainhead," "The Subject Was Roses."
  • John Jacob Niles (1892-1980) Folk singer, collector of folk songs and folk music.
  • Warren Oates (1928-1982) Actor; "In the Heat of the Night," "The Wild Bunch," "Two Lane Blacktop," "The Hired Hand," "Badlands," "The Border."
  • Joan Osborne (1962- ) Singer; "Righteous Love," "Soul Show," "Blue Million Miles," "Relish" (Top Ten and triple-platinum, Entertainment Weekly album of the year, Rolling Stone cover, and seven Grammy nominations in 1996).
  • John Patrick (1905- ) Playwright and screenwriter, the author of "The Hasty Heart" and the Pulitzer Prize-winning "The Teahouse of the August Moon."
  • Boots Randolph (1927- ) Tenor saxophonist; "Yakety Sax," Cacklin' Sax," "Little Big Horn," "Chick in the Rough," "Simple Simon."
  • William Ray Opera baritone and actor famous in Europe; "Hello Young Lovers," "Das Goldene Paul Abraham Album," Black and Gold," William Ray Sings Negro Spirituals."
  • Jean Ritchie (1922- ) Folk singer and songwriter, emphasizes traditional ballads in their original form.
  • Kelly Rutherford (1968- ) Actress; "Melrose Place."
  • Ricky Skaggs (1954 - ) Award-winning musician known for a unique blend of bluegrass, country, jazz and "new traditional" styles.
  • Harry Dean Stanton (1926- ) Actor; "Paris, Texas," "Cool Hand Luke," "Kelly's Heroes," "Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid," "Private Benjamin," "Pretty in Pink."
  • Robert L. Surtees (1906-1985) Academy Award-winning cinematographer; "Oklahoma!," "Ben-Hur," "The Last Picture Show," "King Solomon's Mines," "The Bad and the Beautiful," "The Sting," "The Graduate," "Summer of '42."
  • Daniel Taradash (1913- ) Academy Award-winning screenwriter and director; "From Here to Eternity," "Picnic," "Bell, Book and Candle."
  • Mary Travers (1937- ) Member of folk music trio Peter, Paul, and Mary; "Leavin' On a Jet Plane," "Puff the Magic Dragon."
  • Merle Travis (1917-1983) Grammy-winning guitarist known for originating the "Travis picking style"; designed the Fender guitar.
  • Gus Van Sant (1952- ) Award-winning director: "Drugstore Cowboy," "Mala Noche."
  • Jim Varney (1949-2000) Actor and comedian, best known for his Ernest P. Warrell character; "Ernest Goes to Camp," "Ernest Saves Christmas," "Dr. Otto and the Riddle of the Gloom Beam," The Beverly Hillbillies," "Treehouse Hostage."
  • Steve Wariner (1954- ) Country singer; "I Should Be With You," "Life's Highway," "You Can Dream of Me," "Some Fools Never Learn."
  • Keith Whitley (1955-1989) Country singer; "I'm No Stranger to the Rain," "Don't Close Your Eyes," "I Wonder Do You Think of Me."
  • Chuck Woolery (1951- ) "Hook 'Em Up Chuck" television host of "Love Connection" and "The Dating Game."
  • Dwight Yoakam (1956- ) Country singer; "Honky Tonk Man," "Two Doors Down," "Guitars, Cadillacs," "Streets of Bakersfield," "Little Sister."
  • Sean Young (1959- ) Actress; "Blade Runner," No Way Out."
  • Muhammad Ali (1942- ) World Heavyweight Champion during 1964-67, 1974-78, and 1978-79; the only boxer to win the undisputed heavyweight title three times; probably the quickest heavyweight boxer who ever fought.
  • Eddie Arcaro * (1916-1997) Only jockey to ride two Triple Crown winners; won a record five Kentucky Derbies; 1958 National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame inductee.
  • Frank Beard * (1939- ) Professional golfer, top money winner in 1969.
  • Bernie Bickerstaff (1944- ) Youngest assistant coach in the NBA at age 29, named Coach of the Year in 1987, general manager of the Denver Nuggets, Washington Bullets coach.
  • Susan Bradley-Cox (1937- ) World-class amateur athlete, five-time World Triathlon Championship gold medal winner, 1989, '93, '94, '97 and '98; All American swimmer.
  • Gay Brewer * (1932- ) Professional golfer, winner of more than ten PGA titles.
  • Paul "Bear" Bryant * (1913-1983) All-time winningest coach in University of Kentucky history, 1946-53.
  • Don Brumfield (1938- ) Jockey, retired with the most wins in the history of both Churchill Downs (925 wins) and Keeneland (716 wins).
  • Jim Bunning (1931- ) Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher, U.S. senator and representative; had a 17 year record of 2,855 strikeouts, placing him ahead of Cy Young and second only to Walter Johnson on the all-time strikeout list; first pitcher to throw no-hitters in both the American and National Leagues.
  • Archie Burchfield (1939- ) Hall of Fame croquet player, winner of five national titles in singles and doubles.
  • Steve Cauthen (1960- ) Hall of Fame jockey; In 1977 became the first jockey in the world to win $6 million in purses; youngest jockey to win the Triple Crown on Affirmed in 1978; two-time Eclipse Award winner; only jockey ever to win all three classics in the U.S. (Kentucky Derby, Preakness, Belmont Stakes) and in England (Two Thousand Guineas, Epsom Derby, St. Leger).
  • A.B. "Happy" Chandler (1898-1991) National Commissioner of Baseball, 1945-51; helped integrate major-league baseball; Baseball Hall of Fame; twice Kentucky governor; U.S. senator.
  • Citation (1945-1970) First horse to earn more than $1 million racing and the last horse to win the Triple Crown (1948) until Secretariat won it 25 years later; 1948 Horse of the Year.
  • Earle Combs (1899-1976) Hall of Fame baseball player and coach, batted over .300 nine times and led the American League in at-bats (648) and hits (231) and in triples in 1927, '28 and '30.
  • Dave Cowens (1948- ) Named most valuable player by the National Basketball Association in 1973.
  • Denny Crum * (1937- ) University of Louisville head basketball coach, with two NCAA national championships in 1980 and '86; 1994 Basketball Hall of Fame inductee.
  • Louie Dampier * (1944- ) All-time leading scorer in the history of the American Basketball Association as a player for the Kentucky Colonels.
  • Ed Diddle (1895-1970) Western Kentucky University head basketball coach 1922-64, first man to coach 1,000 games at the same college, fourth winningest coach in NCAA Division 1.
  • Jimmy Ellis (1940- ) Winner of the World Boxing Association heavyweight championship, 1968.
  • Joe Fulks (1921-1976) Hall of Fame professional basketball player, credited with introducing the jump shot to the game, named outstanding athelete of the year in America in 1948, elected to the NBA's Silver Anniversary All-Time Team in 1971.
  • Larry Gilbert (1942-1998) Professional golfer, winner of the 1994 Dallas Reunion Pro-Am, 1994 Vantage Championship, 1997 Ford Senior Players Championship, and the PGA of America Club Professional Championship in 1981, 1982 and 1991.
  • Darrell Griffith (1958- ) Basketball player, led the University of Louisville to the NCAA national championship in 1980 and received the John Wooden Award as the nation's top player; U of L's all-time leading men's basketball scorer; NBA Rookie of the Year.
  • Cliff Hagan (1931- ) Hall of Fame Basketball player; restauranteur; UK athletic director (1975-88); led the University of Kentucky to 86 wins and five losses during 1950-54 and the NCAA championship in 1951; NBA All-Star five times.
  • Joe B. Hall (1928- ) University of Kentucky head basketball coach 1972-85, led the Wildcats to eight SEC championships, one NCAA championship in 1978, and was SEC Coach of the Year four times.
  • Clem Haskins (1943- ) Basketball player and coach; Western Kentucky University two-time All-American; WKU all-time record for points in a single game; first African-American head men's basketball coach at a predominantly white Kentucky university (WKU, 1980-86).
  • Paul Hornung (1935- ) Football player, winner of the Heisman Trophy in 1957, led the NFL in scoring from 1959-61, 1986 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee
  • Dan Issel * (1948- ) Hall of Fame basketball player, University of Kentucky men's basketball all-time leading scorer and rebounder, Denver Nuggets leading rebounder and scorer.
  • Louis Brown "Sweet Lou" Johnson (1934- ) Baseball player; 1965 World Series hero with a game-winning home run in the seventh game for a Dodgers victory.
  • Roy Kidd (1931- ) Eastern Kentucky University football coach, 1963-present; two NCAA Divison I-AA titles; third-winningest active coach in NCAA Division I; third most wins by a coach at a single school.
  • Man o' War (1917-1947) "Big Red" won 20 times in 21 starts; set five world records, in spite of carrying up to 138 pounds, unheard of today; his funeral was broadcast nationally on the radio and nine people delivered eulogies; elected Horse of the Century by the Associated Press.
  • Tamara McKinney (1962- ) Skiier, gold medal winner of the Women's Combined Title, World Alpine Ski Championships; the only American woman to win an overall World Cup Championship (1983) and World Cup season titles in giant slalom (1981, 1983) and slalom (1984).
  • Mary Meagher (1965- ) Olympic swimmer, "Madame Butterfly" set seven world records in the 100-meter and 200-meter butterfly, won three gold medals in the 1984 Olmpics, 1993 inductee to the International Swimming Hall of Fame.
  • Tori Murden (1963- ) The first American and the first woman to row across the Atlantic alone (voyage completed 12-3-1999), and the first American and the first woman to ski to the geographic South Pole.
  • Isaac Burns Murphy (1861-1896) Record-setting jockey, first back-to-back and three time Kentucky Derby winner, won 49 of 51 races at Saratoga in 1882, won the St. Leger Stakes and the Travers Stakes, won the Latonia Derby five times, won the Clark Stakes four times, and won four of the first five runnings of the American Derby.
  • Rick Pitino * (1952- ) University of Kentucky men's basketball coach, 1989-97, won 1996 NCAA championship.
  • Frank Ramsey (1931- ) Hall of Fame basketball player, twice an All-American, and three time All-SEC; his Boston Celtics team won seven NBA titles.
  • Pee Wee Reese (1918-1999) Hall of Fame baseball player; led the National League in stolen bases, double plays four times, runs scored, and in fielding average; named to the All-Star Team eight times; played on seven NL champion teams, and the only Dodgers team to win the World Series (1955).
  • Ralph Waldo Rose (1885-1913) Olympic gold medalist three times in the shot put; first man in the world to throw a shot put more than 50 feet; at the 1908 Olympics he began the tradition of U.S. flagbearers not to dip the flag, which Congress wrote into law in 1942, stating that the U.S. flag cannot be dipped "to any person or thing."
  • Adolph Rupp * (1901-1977) Head basketball coach at the University of Kentucky from 1930-72; led the Wildcats to 27 SEC championships, five Sugar Bowl Tournament championships, one National Invitational Tournament championship and four NCAA championships.
  • Howard Schnellenberger * (1934- ) Football player and coach; University of Kentucky All-America tight end; coached the Miami Hurricanes to win the '83 Orange Bowl, and the University of Louisville to win the '90 Fiesta Bowl and the '93 Liberty Bowl.
  • Secretariat * (1970-89) 1973 Triple Crown winner; Horse of the Year, 1972 and '73; Eclipse Award, 1972; all-time fastest Kentucky Derby and Belmont races.
  • Phil Simms (1956- ) Former quarterback for the New York Giants; led the Giants to their first Super Bowl victory in 1987, receiving the Most Valuable Player award and shattering Super Bowl records for completing 22 of 25 passes for 268 yards and three touchdowns.
  • Woody Stephens (1913-1998) Hall of Fame horse trainer; he trained more than 300 stakes winners, including two Kentucky Derby winners, five Kentucky Oaks winners, one Preakness winner, six Eclipse Award winners, and five consecutive Belmont Stakes winners.
  • Valerie Still * (1961- ) All-time leading scorer and rebounder, male or female, in University of Kentucky basketball history; two-time MVP in the ABL.
  • Danny Sullivan (1950- ) Auto racing, Rookie of the Year in 1980, winner of the Indianapolis 500 and CART/PPG Indy Car Championship.
  • Wes Unseld (1946- ) Hall of Fame basketball player; named All-American twice, NBA's most valuable player, NBA All-Star team five times, most valuable player of the 1978 NBA Championship Series, named one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history in 1996.
  • David Walker * (1965- ) Fisherman; Red Man All-American, Angler of the Year in the 1999 Walmart FLW Tour.
  • Darrell Waltrip (1947- ) Auto racing; first three-time winner of the prestigious American Driver of the Year; three-time winner of the NASCAR Winston Cup, 1981, '82 and '85; Daytona 500 champion, 1989.
  • Colonel Matt Winn (1861-1949) Master promoter and innovative track operator; as vice president and general manager of Churchill Downs, Winn made the Kentucky Derby the nation's most cherished race.