Since the Commonwealth of Kentucky was established as the fifteenth state of the Union in 1792, it has been home to a host of famous and infamous politicians, writers, actors, musicians, inventors, and scientists. While this Southern state is often only associated with fried chicken, race horses, and hillbillies, some of the celebrities who have called “The Bluegrass State” home may surprise you.
1. Abraham Lincoln – Sinking Spring Farm, Hardin County, KY
Abraham Lincoln was the sixteenth President of the United States, and has since become one of the most iconic figures of U.S. government, and of the United States as a whole. Before his assassination by John Wilkes Booth on April 14, 1865, Lincoln ushered in the Emancipation Proclamation to free slaves, and delivered the most quoted speech in U.S. history – the Gettysburg Address.
2. Johnny Depp – Owensboro, KY
Undoubtedly the best looking thing to come from Kentucky since the first piece of Col. Sanders’ original recipe chicken, Johnny Depp is one of the most famous actors in the world. He has played such iconic roles as Edward from Edward Scissorhands, and Captain Jack Sparrow from Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.
3. George Clooney – Lexington, KY
This Academy Award-winning actor known just as much for his eternal bachelor status as his high caliber acting, was born and raised in the state of “Unbridled Spirit.” Clooney attended grammar and high schools in Fort Mitchell and Augusta Kentucky, and also attended Northern Kentucky University as a history and political science major. He is best known for his roles in ER, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, and the Ocean’s series of films. Clooney is also active in political and charitable causes, including ending the genocide in Darfur.
4. Muhammed Ali – Louisville, KY
A three-time heavyweight boxing champion, Muhammed Ali – born Cassius Clay – is thought to be one of, if not the best heavyweight boxer of all time. After all, he didn’t earn the nickname “The Greatest” for nothing. In 1999, he was named “Kentucky Athlete of the Century,” and a biographical film about of his life – Ali – was nominated for several Academy Awards. Ali has also been active in political activism and charitable causes, receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and traveling as the U.N. Messenger of Peace.
5. Loretta Lynn – Butcher Hollow, Van Lear, KY
As the iconic “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” Loretta Lynn is revered as one of the most well-respected country music artists in history. Some of Lynn’s biggest hits include, “You Ain’t Woman Enough,” “The Pill,” and “She’s Got You.” She currently resides on her ranch in Hurricane Mills, TN, which is one of the state’s most popular tourist attractions.
6. Diane Sawyer – Glasgow, KY
Diane Sawyer is one of the leading ladies in broadcast journalism. From the location television news in Louisville, KY, Sawyer transitioned to work for the administration of President Richard Nixon. She stayed with the administration even after his resignation and actually helped Nixon prepare for his infamous interviews with David Frost. In December 2009, Sawyer became the anchor for ABC’s nightly news show, now titled World News with Diana Sawyer.
7. Larry Flynt – Lakeville, KY
Dubbed “The Most Powerful Person in Porn” by Arena magazine, Larry Flynt is head of Larry Flynt Publications, which most notably owns Hustler magazine. Flynt’s controversial publications have involved him First Amendment court battles, and even spawned an assassination attempt that left him paralyzed from the waist down.
Other notable public figures born in Kentucky include Billy Ray Cyrus, Hunter S. Thompson, Nick Lachey, Ned Beatty, Jim Varney, Chuck Woolery, Jefferson Davis, Larry Birkhead, Duncan Hines, and Wynonna and Naomi Judd.