Virginia has been indispensable since the beginning of its existence. In addition to eight U.S. presidents, the Commonwealth was home to numerous Founding Fathers who helped shape the direction of the country and many civil rights leaders who believed it was capable of more. In music, Virginians not only helped launch the genre of country music but shaped the path of jazz (Ella Fitzgerald), rock and roll (Gene Vincent), and hip-hop (Timbaland). Other notable Virginians in the arts include acclaimed writers from Faulkner to Grisham and Hollywood stars as iconic as Warren Beatty and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. In sports, Virginians broke barriers both racial (Arthur Ashe, who grew up in segregated Richmond and became the first Black man to win Wimbledon) and professional (Moses Malone, the first basketball player to turn pro directly from high school). Read on to learn about Virginia’s contributions to these fields and more.

A
ARTHUR ASHE
Tennis player (3-time Grand Slam champion); Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient
From: Richmond

STEPHEN F. AUSTIN
Settler, “Father of Texas”
Born in: Wythe County

JAMES AVERY
Actor, “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”
From: Suffolk
Attended: Virginia State University

B
PEARL BAILEY
Actress/singer, Tony and Emmy Award winner; Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient
From: Newport News

RONDE BARBER
Football player, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Super Bowl XXVII champion); Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee
From: Roanoke
Attended: University of Virginia

TIKI BARBER
Football player, New York Giants; correspondent, “Today” and “Football Night in America”
From: Roanoke
Attended: University of Virginia

DAVE BAUTISTA
Professional wrestler, World Wrestling Entertainment; actor, “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “Avengers: Endgame”
From: Arlington County

FRANK BEAMER
Football coach, Virginia Tech; College Football Hall of Fame inductee
From: Carroll County
Attended: Virginia Tech

WARREN BEATTY
Actor, “Heaven Can Wait,” “Reds,” “Dick Tracy”; 7-time Academy Award winner
Born in: Richmond

TONY BENNETT
Men’s basketball coach, University of Virginia (2019 NCAA champion)
Works at: University of Virginia

CONNIE BRITTON
Actress, “Friday Night Lights,” “Nashville”
From: Lynchburg

CHRIS BROWN
Singer, “Run It!,” “Kiss Kiss”
From: Essex County

SANDRA BULLOCK
Actress, “Speed,” “The Blind Side”; Academy Award winner
From: Arlington County

C
MARY CHAPIN CARPENTER

Singer, “Shut Up and Kiss Me”; 5-time Grammy Award winner
Lived in: Alexandria, Charlottesville

NEKO CASE
Singer, The New Pornographers
Born in: Alexandria

STEVE CASE
CEO, America Online
Lived in: Fairfax County

DAVID CHANG
Michelin star-winning chef, Momofuku
From: Arlington County

ROY CLARK
Host, “Hee Haw”; singer, “Yesterday, When I Was Young”; Country Music Hall of Fame inductee
From: Lunenburg County

WILLIAM CLARK
Leader, Lewis and Clark Expedition; Governor, Missouri Territory
From: Caroline County

HENRY CLAY
Representative/Senator from Kentucky; U.S. Secretary of State
From: Hanover County

CLARENCE CLEMONS
Saxophonist, Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band; Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee
From: Chesapeake

PATSY CLINE
Singer, “I Fall to Pieces,” “She’s Got You”
From: Winchester

JOSEPH COTTEN
Actor, “Citizen Kane,” “Shadow of a Doubt,” “The Third Man”
From: Petersburg

KATIE COURIC
Host/anchor, “Today,” “CBS Evening News”; Television Hall of Fame inductee
From: Arlington County
Attended: University of Virginia

D
D’ANGELO
Singer, “Lady,” “Untitled (How Does it Feel)”; 2-time Grammy Award winner; born Michael Archer
From: Richmond

JIMMY DEAN
Singer; “Big Bad John”; founder, Jimmy Dean Foods
Lived in: Henrico County

GABBY DOUGLAS
Gymnast, 2012 Olympic all-around champion
From: Virginia Beach

E
MISSY “MISDEMEANOR” ELLIOTT
Rapper, “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly),” “Work It”; Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominee
From: Portsmouth

PERRY ELLIS
Fashion designer
From: Portsmouth
Attended: College of William & Mary

F
WILLIAM FAULKNER

Author, “The Sound and the Fury,” “As I Lay Dying”
Worked at: University of Virginia

ELLA FITZGERALD
Singer, “Dream a Little Dream of Me,” “Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall”; 14-time Grammy Award winner; nicknamed “First Lady of Song”; Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient
From: Newport News

ROBERTA FLACK
Singer, “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” “Killing Me Softly With His Song”
From: Arlington County

CHARLES BROWNE FLEET
Inventor, ChapStick
From: King and Queen County
Lived in: Lynchburg

STEPHEN FURST
Actor, “Animal House,” “St. Elsewhere”
From: Norfolk
Attended: Virginia Commonwealth University

G
VINCE GILLIGAN
Creator, “Breaking Bad,” “Better Call Saul”
From: Chesterfield County

NIKKI GIOVANNI
Writer and poet; winner, Langston Hughes Medal, NAACP Image Award; one of Oprah Winfrey’s “Living Legends”
Worked at: Virginia Tech

LAUREN GRAHAM
Actress, “Gilmore Girls,” “Parenthood”
From: Fairfax County

JOHN GRISHAM
Author, “The Firm,” “A Time to Kill”
Lives in: Albemarle County

DAVE GROHL
Singer/guitarist, Foo Fighters; drummer, Nirvana; Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee with both bands
From: Fairfax County

H
CHARLES HALEY
Football player, San Francisco 49ers, Dallas Cowboys; first player to win five Super Bowls; Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee
From: Campbell County
Attended: James Madison University

MARK HAMILL
Actor, “Star Wars,” “Batman: The Animated Series”
From: Fairfax County

JENNY HAN
Author, “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before”
From: Richmond

EMMYLOU HARRIS
Singer, “We Believe in Happy Endings”; 14-time Grammy Award winner; Country Music Hall of Fame inductee
From: Prince William County

PATRICK HENRY
Founding Father; first post-colonial governor of Virginia; delivered famous “Give me liberty, or give me death!” speech
From: Hanover County

GRANT HILL
Men’s basketball player, Duke University, Detroit Pistons, Orlando Magic, Phoenix Suns; Basketball Hall of Fame inductee
From: Fairfax County

OLIVER HILL
Civil rights attorney; helped end “Separate but equal” doctrine in the United States
From: Richmond

BRUCE HORNSBY
Singer, “The Way it Is”; pianist, Grateful Dead
From: Williamsburg

SAM HOUSTON
First president of the Republic of Texas; only American to be elected governor of two states (Texas and Tennessee)
From: Rockbridge County

I
ALLEN IVERSON
Men’s basketball player, Georgetown University, Philadelphia 76ers; No. 1 NBA draft pick; 4-time NBA scoring leader; Basketball Hall of Fame inductee
From: Hampton

J
BARBARA JOHNS

Civil rights leader; plaintiff in Davis v. Prince Edward County, the only student-initiated case consolidated into Brown v. Board of Education
From: Prince Edward County

VERNON JOHNS
Pastor, civil rights leader
From: Prince Edward County
Attended: Virginia Theological Seminary (now Virginia University of Lynchburg)

DWAYNE “THE ROCK” JOHNSON
Professional wrestler, World Wrestling Entertainment; actor, “Fast & Furious” series, “Black Adam,” “Moana”
Lives in: Orange County

K
BARBARA KINGSOLVER
Author, “The Poisonwood Bible,” “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” 
Lives in: Washington County 

HODA KOTB
Co-anchor, “Today”
From: Alexandria
Attended: Virginia Tech

L
HENRIETTA LACKS
Source of HeLa, the first immortalized cell line and one of the most important cell lines in medical research
From: Roanoke

MERIWETHER LEWIS
Leader, Lewis & Clark Expedition; Governor, Louisiana Territory
From: Albemarle County

HOWIE LONG
Football player, Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders; Fox Sports analyst; Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee; father of NFL players Chris and Kyle Long
Lives in: Albemarle County

ROB LOWE
Actor, “St. Elmo’s Fire,” “The West Wing,” “Parks and Recreation”
Born in: Charlottesville

M
SHIRLEY MacLAINE
Actress, “Terms of Endearment,” “Steel Magnolias”; Academy Award winner
From: Richmond

MOSES MALONE
Men’s basketball player, Philadelphia 76ers (1983 NBA champion); first basketball player to turn professional directly from high school
From: Petersburg

JOHN MARSHALL
4th Chief Justice of U.S. Supreme Court; longest-serving Chief Justice; Secretary of State
From: Fauquier County

GEORGE MASON
Founding Father; author, Virginia Declaration of Rights
From: Fairfax County

DAVE MATTHEWS
Singer, Dave Matthews Band (“Ants Marching,” “Crash Into Me”); 2-time Grammy Award winner; owner, Blenheim Vineyards
Lived in: Charlottesville

DANNY McBRIDE
Actor, “Eastbound and Down,” “The Righteous Gemstones,” “Tropic Thunder”
From: Spotsylvania County

CYRUS McCORMICK
Inventor, mechanical reaper
From: Rockbridge County

LELAND MELVIN
Astronaut; flew two missions on Space Shuttle Atlantis

From: Lynchburg
Attended: University of Richmond

ALONZO MOURNING
Men’s basketball player, Georgetown University, Miami Heat; Basketball Hall of Fame inductee
From: Chesapeake

JASON MRAZ
Singer, “The Remedy (I Won’t Worry),” “I’m Yours”
From: Hanover County

N
WAYNE NEWTON
Singer, “Danke Schoen”; nicknamed “Mr. Las Vegas”
From: Roanoke

O
GEORGIA O’KEEFFE
Modernist artist; known as “Mother of American modernism”
Worked at: University of Virginia

PATTON OSWALT
Actor, “The King of Queens,” “Ratatouille,” “The Secret Life of Pets 2”
From: Loudoun County
Attended: College of William & Mary

P
POCAHONTAS
Native American woman captured and held for ransom by English colonists
From: Gloucester County

LEWIS “CHESTY” PULLER
U.S. Marine Corps officer; most decorated Marine in American history with five Navy Crosses and one Distinguished Service Cross
From: West Point

PUSHA T
Rapper, Clipse (“Grindin’”); born Terrence Thornton
From: Virginia Beach

R
WALTER REED
U.S. Army physician known for discovering the cause of yellow fever
From: Gloucester County

TIM REID
Actor, “WKRP in Cincinnati,” “Sister, Sister”
From: Petersburg
Attended: Norfolk State University

TOM ROBBINS
Author, “Even Cowgirls Get the Blues”
From: Warsaw
Attended: Richmond Professional Institute (now Virginia Commonwealth University)

BILL “BOJANGLES” ROBINSON
Singer, dancer, actor; best-known Black entertainer in United States in early 20th century
From: Richmond

DAVID ROBINSON
Men’s basketball player, San Antonio Spurs (2-time NBA champion), U.S. national team (1992 Olympic gold medalist); No. 1 NBA draft pick; Basketball Hall of Fame inductee
From: Manassas

SPOTTSWOOD ROBINSON III
Civil rights attorney; judge, U.S. Court of Appeals
From: Richmond
Attended: Virginia Union University

JOSEPH JENKINS ROBERTS
1st and 7th president of Liberia
From: Norfolk

S
BOB SAGET
Comedian, actor, “Full House”; host, “America’s Funniest Home Videos”
From: Norfolk

RALPH SAMPSON
Men’s basketball player, 3-time national college basketball player of the year; No. 1 NBA draft pick; Basketball Hall of Fame inductee
From: Harrisonburg
Attended: University of Virginia

GEORGE C. SCOTT
Actor, “Patton,” “Dr. Strangelove,” “The Exorcist III”
From: Wise

WILLARD SCOTT
Weather reporter, “Today”; creator and original performer of Ronald McDonald
From: Alexandria

SECRETARIAT
Racehorse, Triple Crown winner; still holds time records for all three Triple Crown races
From: Caroline County

BRUCE SMITH
Football player, Buffalo Bills; all-time NFL sack leader; Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee
From: Norfolk
Attended: Virginia Tech

SAM SNEAD
Golfer; holds record for most PGA Tour wins, 7-time major winner; World Golf Hall of Fame inductee
From: Bath County

SISSY SPACEK
Actress, “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” “Missing,” “In the Bedroom”
Lives in: Albemarle County

RALPH STANLEY
Singer, banjo player, bluegrass music pioneer; Grand Ole Opry inductee
From: Dickenson County

CURTIS STRANGE
Golfer; back-to-back U.S. Open champion; World Golf Hall of Fame inductee
From: Virginia Beach

WILLIAM STYRON
Author, “Sophie’s Choice,” “Lie Down in Darkness”
From: Newport News

JASON SUDEIKIS
Actor, “Saturday Night Live,” “Ted Lasso”
Born in: Fairfax County

WANDA SYKES
Comedian, actress, “The Chris Rock Show,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Black-ish”
From: Portsmouth
Attended: Hampton University

T
LAWRENCE TAYLOR
Football player, New York Giants; one of two defensive players to win NFL MVP award; 3-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year; Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee
From: Williamsburg

TIMBALAND
Rapper, record producer (Aaliyah, Missy Elliott, Jay-Z, Justin Timberlake); born Timothy Mosley
From: Virginia Beach

MIKE TOMLIN
Football coach, Pittsburgh Steelers (Super Bowl XLIII champion)
From: Hampton
Attended: College of William & Mary

CURTIS TURNER
NASCAR driver; named one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers; NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee 
From: Floyd County

NAT TURNER
Leader of the largest rebellion by enslaved people in U.S. history
From: Southampton County

U
BLAIR UNDERWOOD
Actor, “L.A. Law,” “Set it Off”
From: Petersburg

ODERUS URUNGUS
Singer, Gwar; born Dave Brockie
From: Fairfax County
Lived in: Richmond

V
JUSTIN VERLANDER
Baseball player, Detroit Tigers, Houston Astros; 3-time Cy Young Award winner; 2-time World Series champion
From: Goochland County
Attended: Old Dominion University

GENE VINCENT
Singer (“Be-Bop-a-Lula”), rockabilly music pioneer; Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee
From: Norfolk

W
MAGGIE WALKER
Businesswoman, educator; first Black woman to charter a bank and serve as bank president
From: Richmond

BOOKER T. WASHINGTON
Educator, author; founder, Tuskegee Institute
From: Franklin County

PERNELL “SWEET PEA” WHITAKER
Boxer; 1984 Olympic gold medalist; International Boxing Hall of Fame inductee
From: Norfolk

DOUGLAS WILDER
Governor of Virginia; first Black governor of a U.S. state after Reconstruction
From: Richmond
Attended: Virginia Union University

PHARRELL WILLIAMS
Rapper, singer, member of music production duo The Neptunes; produced for Britney Spears, Jay-Z, Justin Timberlake, Snoop Dogg, Usher
From: Virginia Beach

RUSSELL WILSON
Football player, Seattle Seahawks (Super Bowl XLVIII champion), Denver Broncos
From: Henrico County

TOM WOLFE
Author, “The Right Stuff,” “The Bonfire of the Vanities,” “A Man in Full”
From: Richmond
Attended: Washington and Lee University

CARTER G. WOODSON
Historian, author; one of the first scholars to study the African diaspora
From: Buckingham County

DAVID WRIGHT
Baseball player, New York Mets; 7-time MLB All-Star, 2-time Gold Glove Award winner
From: Chesapeake

Y
VERN YIP
Interior designer, TV personality from “Trading Spaces,” “Design Star,” “Deserving Design”
From: Fairfax County
Attended: University of Virginia

Z
RYAN ZIMMERMAN

Baseball player, University of Virginia, Washington Nationals (2019 World Series champion); 2-time MLB All-Star
From: Virginia Beach
Attended: University of Virginia

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