There’s a lot to love about Louisville, KY. The Bluegrass state features a beautiful humid, subtropical climate and friendly southern culture. Louisville has produced a number of well-known celebrities and athletes. You may be surprised as to how many distinguished personalities have hailed from this state. Each one serves as a reminder that in Louisville, KY, anything is possible.
Between 2015-2016, Jennifer Lawrence was the highest paid actress in the world with her star-studded appearance in the Hunger Games series. Born in Louisville, KY to a daycare manager and a construction worker, Jennifer started her career in NYC at age 14. After stunning agents at a cold reading, the family moved to L.A. to focus on her career. She was cast in the TBS sitcom The Bill Engvall Show and a few smaller shows before her role as Ree in Winter’s Bone, Mystique in X-Men and the role of a lifetime, Katniss Everdeen. The Hunger Games is still one of the highest-grossing movies ever and instantly put Jennifer Lawrence on the A-list. For her role in Silver Linings Playbook, she earned the title of youngest person ever to be nominated for two Academy Awards and is thus far the only person born in the 1990s to have won an acting Oscar.
As one of the greatest sporting figures of the 20th century, Muhammad Ali was a former heavyweight champion boxer and an Olympic gold medalist. By age 18, he had captured two national Golden Gloves titles, two Amateur Athletic Union national titles and 100 victories against eight losses. After graduating high school, he traveled to Rome and won the light heavyweight gold medal in the 1960 Summer Olympics. Muhammad Ali was the first boxer to win the heavyweight title three times, Ali won 56 times in his 21-year career. Muhammad Ali appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated 38 times, second only to Michael Jordan. In 1984 Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson’s syndrome and passed away at the age of 74 in 2016.
A native of Louisville, KY, Jennifer Carpenter attended St. Raphael the Archangel and then Sacred Heart Academy and studied drama at the Walden Theatre in Louisville before training at Julliard in New York City. She started her career on Broadway before nailing her role as Emily Rose in the Exorcism of Emily Rose, which she won a MTV Movie Award for “Best Frightened Performance” and a Hollywood Life Breakthrough Award. She was also named “Breakout Performer” at the 2006 Scream Awards.
Born and raised in Louisville, KY, Maggie Lawson was an actress from a young age. She started appearing in local community productions at the age of 8. By 10 years old, she had an on-air commercial gig at a Louisville TV station, which then turned into a mini news reporting targeting at delivering the news to kids. She moved to L.A. in hopes of becoming an actress and made her first TV appearance in the sitcom Unhappily Ever After in 1995. In 2000, she starred in twin roles as a model and a nerdy student in the movie Model Behavior.
Nicknamed “the busiest actor in Hollywood” Ned Beatty was born in St. Matthews, KY and grew up fishing and working on farms. He started as a professional performer at age ten, when he earned pocket money singing in gospel quartets and a barber shop. He spent his teenage years working at the Barter Theatre in Abingdon, VA before moving onto other venues to pursue acting. In 1971, Beatty got his break when he was chosen by director John Boorman for the role of Bobby Trippe in the hit film Deliverance (1972). He developed a strong friendship with his co-star Burt Reynolds was then cast by Burt in six other films. Beatty continued to work virtually nonstop. He received an Emmy Award nomination for Best Actor for his performance in Friendly Fire (1979) with Carol Burnett, and a Best Supporting Actor nomination for Family Channel’s Last Train Home (1989).
Ever heard of Old Yeller? Swiss Family Robinson? Hardy Boys? Tommy Kirk is synonymous with the clean, fun Disney Entertainment of the 1950s and 60s. Born in Louisville, KY to a mechanic and a secretary, Tommy was one of four sons who was discovered by a Hollywood agent after the family moved to California. Tommy started in show business at 13 years old and became a member of the Mickey Mouse Club TV series shortly after. Soon Tommy became a golden boy of Disney movies for his exuberant work in Old Yeller (1957), The Shaggy Dog (1959), Swiss Family Robinson (1960), The Absent Minded Professor (1961), Babes in Toyland (1961), Bon Voyage! (1962), Moon Pilot (1962), Son of Flubber (1963) and The Misadventures of Merlin Jones (1964). In 1963 the Disney factory found out 21-year-old Tommy was gay which nearly ended his career. Shortly after, he was arrested when a party he was attending was raided and busted for marijuana use. Although charges were dropped, his career never recovered.
After getting his basketball start at St. Xavier High School in Louisville, Scott Padgett played basketball for the University of Kentucky before playing in the NBA for seven seasons playing for the Utah Jazz, Houston Rockets, New Jersey Nets, and Memphis Grizzlies. In 2007, Padgett left the NBA and started co-hosting a morning sports talk show, The Dave and Scott show, with former University of Louisville football player Dave Ragone. The show was syndicated in 2007, but later Padgett returned to the game as part of the coaching staff at the University of Kentucky. Today, Padgett is the head coach at Samford University.
College football star Jeff Brohm got his start in Louisville, KY at Trinity High School where he was a standout football player. As quarterback, he lead his team to a state championship and an undefeated season. Named Kentucky High School Player of the Decade for the 1980s and won the Kentucky “Mr. Football” Award in 1988. He attended the University of Louisville to play for the Louisville Cardinals as well as playing minor league baseball during the summers. Brohm started his NFL career by signing with the San Diego Chargers as an undrafted free agent, but never played in a game. He was later signed several other teams without playing much before he finally landed in the XFL playing for the Orlando Rage. Today he is the head coach at Purdue University.
St. Elmo Brady
Born in 1884, Saint Elmo Brady was the first African American to obtain a Ph.D in Chemistry in the United States in 1916. Brady also had a close relationship with and was mentored by Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver. He started his education at Fisk University and earned his bachelor’s degree in 1908. After graduation, he started teaching at Tuskagee Institute in Alabama, and then was offered a scholarship to the University of Illinois where he completed his M.S. and Ph.D. writing a dissertation titled “The Divalent Oxygen Atom.” After graduation, Brady went back to Fisk University as a teacher for the next 25 years until his retirement in 1952.
If you’ve ever had Once Upon a Time or Manifest on your DVR, you know exactly who Josh Dallas is. Our very own Prince Charming was born in Louisville, KY in 1978, but grew up mostly in Indiana. He attended New Albany High School and was a major player in their award-winning performing arts program. Josh Dallas is also known as a Sarah Exley scholarship recipient. This scholarship is only given once every three years to just one student in the United States that receives a full-ride scholarship to the prestigious Mountview Conservatoire for the Performing Arts in London. In addition to several popular TV shows in recent years, Josh has performed with the Royal Shakespeare Company and The English National Opera. Today he is married to Jennifer Goodwin and has two sons.
This is just a few of the many Louisvillians that make Kentucky proud. Louisville Pride banners are hung on buildings around the city to build pride within the community to recognize and honor the city’s famous sons and daughters.
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