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Famous people with ties to Central Virginia

  • 12 min to read

History

Julian Bond. A leader in the civil rights movement, the late Bond was a founding member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in 1960 and led protests against segregation in public facilities. He was chairman of the NAACP from 1998 to 2010, taught history at UVa and was a professor-in-residence at American University.

Lawrence Eagleburger. The first career foreign service officer to become secretary of state, Eagleburger moved to the area in 1990. A protégé of Henry Kissinger, he held high-ranking positions for every president from Richard Nixon to George H.W. Bush. He was named secretary of state in 1992 and also served as Jimmy Carter’s ambassador to Yugoslavia.

Sally Hemings. A slave at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, she tended to one of his daughters during his stint as ambassador to France and likely was the Founding Father’s intimate companion and bearer of several children. Journalist James Thomson Callendar is said to have first suggested the story after being passed over for a government job in Jefferson’s administration.

Patrick Henry. The patriot orator who made the ultimate ultimatum — liberty or death — moved from Hanover County to Louisa County in 1764. As a member of the House of Burgesses, he argued for liberalized voting rights, opposed the British Stamp Act and represented Virginia in the First Continental Congress. He served in the state militia during the American Revolution and in assorted government posts afterward.

Thomas Jefferson. The third president of the United States, Jefferson arranged the Louisiana Purchase, started Lewis and Clark on their expedition, wrote — with just a little help from a committee — the Declaration of Independence, served as a leader in the American Revolution, became a successful farmer and was a self-taught architect. He founded the University of Virginia and wrote the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom.

John “Jack” Jouett. He rode through the briars and brambles to warn members of the Virginia legislature — Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, Benjamin Harrison and Thomas Nelson, who all had signed the Declaration of Independence and who came to Monticello to escape the British at Richmond — that the Redcoats were coming after them. For his act of bravery, Jouett received a sword and two pistols. An Albemarle County middle school was named in his honor.

Lewis, Clark and Sacajawea. Meriwether Lewis grew up in Albemarle County and, after a successful military career, trekked his way to fame at Jefferson’s behest, traveling from St. Louis through the West and eventually to the Pacific Ocean and back. The quest, which likely could not have been completed without the knowledge Sacajawea provided to the explorers, was one of discovery, sending back to Jefferson a variety of Native American items and handicrafts, animal hides, heads and bones, flora and fauna. It also was a quest to discover what lands might be available to the new country and to learn of the people who populated those areas. William Clark, who co-led the expedition, was born in Caroline County. His grandfather had property near the Rivanna River, and Clark’s son and daughter-in-law inherited some of the property, Buena Vista, near Stony Point.

James Madison. A Jefferson protege and the fourth president of the United States, he helped craft the U.S. Constitution and its Bill of Rights and fought in the War of 1812. His wife, Dolley, did not invent the snack cake. She did, however, throw galas in Washington that were the talk of the 1800s. The Madisons’ Orange County home, Montpelier, later was owned by the DuPont family and recently has been restored.

James Monroe. The fifth president’s home, Highland, is just up the road and over the mountain from Jefferson’s Monticello. Monroe oversaw the Missouri Compromise and warned Europe that further colonization of the American continent would not be tolerated, hence the development of the Monroe Doctrine.

Antonin Scalia. The late Supreme Court justice was a professor at UVa’s law school during the late 1960s and early ’70s. (Among some of the notable students who attended law school here were Robert F. and Ted Kennedy.)

Zachary Taylor. The nation’s 12th president is believed to have been born at Montebello near Gordonsville. He died in office, leaving the country with Millard Fillmore, the 13th president.

Kathryn C. Thornton. This former astronaut earned both her master’s degree and doctorate at UVa. She went to work for NASA in 1985 and flew on the space shuttles Discovery, Endeavour and Columbia. She is a faculty member at UVa.

Alexander Vandergrift. He led his troops to victory at the Battle of Guadalcanal in World War II and became the 18th commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps. Born in Charlottesville, he attended the University of Virginia. During his military career, he was awarded the Medal of Honor and the Distinguished Service Medal.

 

Literature

David Baldacci. The lawyer-turned-author has penned multiple best-selling novels and several screenplays. The UVa graduate serves as a national ambassador for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

Rita Mae Brown. A social activist for gay and lesbian rights, this entertaining speaker and author has won several prestigious awards. Along with her cat, Sneaky Pie, the Nelson County resident has written a successful series of mystery novels.

John Casey. A professor of English literature at UVa, Casey’s won the National Book Award for fiction for his 1989 “Spartina,” has published numerous novels and translated texts from Italian.

Rita Dove. A former poet laureate of the United States, Dove won the Pulitzer Prize in 1987 for “Thomas and Beulah.” The UVa professor has written several collections of poetry, as well as a play. And in 2016, Dove was short listed in the poetry category for a National Book Award.

William Faulkner. He spent 1957 to 1962 as writer-in-residence at UVa, purchasing property nearby and dividing his time between Central Virginia and his home state of Mississippi. The Pulitzer Prize winner renewed his love of foxhunting at the Farmington Hunt Club and worked on several screenplays and novels while living here.

George Garrett. A Virginia poet laureate, the late UVa professor was the author of numerous books, short stories, pieces of criticism and compilations of poetry.

John Grisham. The Albemarle resident, Arkansas native and former Mississippi lawyer is a best-selling author whose forte is legal thrillers, but he also has branched out to write a Christmas story and nonfiction. He’s a baseball fan and funded the building of Cove Creek Park, a youth baseball complex near Covesville.

Jan Karon. The best-selling author of the “Mitford” series about Father Tim and a fictional community in North Carolina used to live in a historic home in southern Albemarle that she renovated.

Edgar Allan Poe. He dropped out of UVa to pay some debts and write poems and stories that still have readers raving. His room onetime quarters at UVa have been turned into a display room.

Mary Lee Settle. A well-respected writer, the late Charlottesville resident founded the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction and was a founding member of the Fellowship of Southern Writers. She taught at Bard College in New York and served as a visiting lecturer at UVa, as well as the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

Peter Taylor. A pre-eminent author of short stories and an award-winning novelist, the late Charlottesville resident won the Pulitzer Prize for his novel “Summons to Memphis.” He taught literature and writing at UVa.

Charles Wright. This UVa professor emeritus won the National Book Award in 1983 for “Country Music: Selected Early Poems.” In 1998, he brought home a Pulitzer for “Black Zodiac.” In 2014, he was named poet laureate of the United States.

 

Entertainment

Billy Campbell. People magazine named this Western Albemarle High School grad as one of the World’s 50 Most Beautiful People in 2000. He has starred in TV shows such as “Once and Again” and “Dynasty.” His film credits include “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” and “The Rocketeer.”

Miriam Cooper. This silent-film actress starred alongside Lillian Gish in D.W. Griffith’s epic “Birth of a Nation.” Friends with Carole Lombard and Charlie Chaplin, she appeared in more than 20 silent films. After retiring from acting, she moved to Charlottesville in the 1950s, where it has been said that she started a women’s writing club. She died at a local nursing home in 1976.

Katie Couric. This well-known journalist lived on the Lawn during her days at UVa. Before becoming the first woman anchor of “CBS Evening News” and the global anchor of Yahoo! News, Couric worked at ABC, CNN and NBC, where she was co-host of the “Today” show.

Chris Daughtry. Before he was known as the lead singer of the band Daughtry, this Grammy-nominated rocker attended high school in Fluvanna County. He became a star when he competed in the fifth season of “American Idol.”

Tina Fey. Another UVa grad who made it big on the small screen. Fey’s won eight Emmy Awards, including one for her portrayal of vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin on “Saturday Night Live.” Fey was the head writer and co-anchor of Weekend Update for “SNL” before she left to create and star in “30 Rock.”

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. The professional wrestling star-turned-movie star was seen working out in a couple of local gyms after he purchased property in the area in 2007.

Maxine Jones. She was one of the original members of the seven-time Grammy-nominated R&B group En Vogue. She moved to Charlottesville and has served as a celebrity judge on “Paramount Idol.”

Jessica Lange. The Oscar-winning actress has since moved back home to the Great White North at the Wisconsin-Minnesota border, but for several years she was a well-known area resident.

Rob Lowe. Born in Charlottesville in 1964 to a trial lawyer and a retired teacher, Rob and his family moved to Ohio when he was a child. He is still seen on screens around the world from his Brat Pack days in films such as “St. Elmo’s Fire” and “About Last Night” and his TV roles on “The West Wing,” “Brothers and Sisters” and “Parks and Recreation.”

Dave Matthews Band. Formed in Charlottesville, the band cut its chops during the area’s hot music scene in the 1990s. While selling millions of records, the band as a unit and as individuals (Dave, Boyd Tinsley, Carter Beauford, Stefan Lessard and the late LeRoi Moore) has shared its wealth with the community by supporting a variety of civic projects and nonprofit service organizations through its Bama Works Fund.

Tim Reid and Daphne Maxwell Reid. The husband-and-wife actors lived in Central Virginia before moving to the Richmond area to open a film production studio. He is perhaps best known for his TV role as Venus Flytrap on “WKRP in Cincinnati.” Daphne played the mother on “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.” Both Reids starred in “Frank’s Place” and “Sister, Sister.”

Sam Shepard. The late playwright, author and actor moved from a farm near Scottsville to the north with Lange (the two later broke up). You can still hear stories about his visits to Miller’s on the Downtown Mall.

Sissy Spacek. Also known as a coal miner’s daughter and Carrie, the Academy Award winning actress lives in Albemarle and is active in many local charities and causes. Her daughter, Schuyler Fisk, is an actress and musician. And her husband is production designer and art director Jack Fisk.

Donald Trump. The business mogul and TV personality became the 45th U.S. president in 2017. He visited Albemarle County in 2011 to open Trump Winery, which is run by his son Eric.

 

Athletics

Bruce Arena. If you get a kick out of soccer, chances are you have heard of this former UVa coach. He led the Cavaliers to 15 consecutive NCAA Tournaments and five national championships. He also coached D.C. United. He was the longtime coach of the Los Angeles Galaxy and leads the U.S. men’s national team. He was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2010.

Ronde and Tiki Barber. These identical twins were famous both on the field and off at UVa and in the NFL. Ronde’s forte was defense, while Tiki was a star on offense. Ronde was a five-time Pro Bowl cornerback who led Tampa Bay in interceptions. Tiki was a three-time Pro Bowl running back who led the New York Giants in rushing. Tiki also was a correspondent for the “Today” show and co-authored several books with his brother.

Renee Blount. The No. 1 singles and doubles player at UCLA, she became the first African-American woman to win a professional tennis tournament since Althea Gibson. Along with her victory at the Futures of Columbus, she reached the quarterfinals of Wimbledon with partner Janet Newberry in 1984. Coached by Arthur Ashe, she also owns three National Junior titles. After retiring as a player, she moved to Charlottesville, where she coached at UVa and started the Keswick Tennis Foundation.

Malcolm Brogdon. The Atlanta native was one of the most acclaimed Virginia men’s basketball players in program history. As a senior in 2016, he became the first player in history to be named ACC Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year in the same season and led the Cavaliers to the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament. Brogdon was a second-round NBA Draft pick by the Milwaukee Bucks and won Rookie of the Year honors in the 2016-2017 season.

Roosevelt Brown. Truly a football great, Brown got his start when they pulled him out of the band at Jefferson High School, made him put down his trombone and hit the line of scrimmage. He went from Jefferson High to Morgan State University to the New York Giants and entered the NFL Hall of Fame in 1975. A street in Charlottesville is named in his honor.

Heidi and Heather Burge. The tall identical twins led UVa’s women’s basketball team to three ACC championships and three Final Four appearances before graduating in 1993. Both played basketball in Europe and in the WNBA.

Mike Cubbage. Born in Charlottesville, this baseball player graduated from Lane High School and UVa. He played in the big leagues from 1974 to 1981 as a third baseman with the Texas Rangers, Minnesota Twins and New York Mets. He also served as interim manager for the Mets and the Boston Red Sox.

William “Bullet Bill” Dudley. A member of both the College and Pro Football halls of fame, he played at UVa from 1939 to 1941, scoring 206 of the team’s 279 points in 1941. Dudley flew bombers during World War II and returned to the Pittsburgh Steelers after the war to lead the league in rushing, interceptions and punt returns in 1946. He also played for the Detroit Lions and the Washington Redskins. Dudley, UVa’s first All-American and first player to have his jersey retired, died in 2010.

Charlie Ferguson. A right-handed pitcher, second baseman and outfielder from Charlottesville, Ferguson signed with the Philadelphia Quakers (later called the Phillies) in 1884. His career was cut short when he died of typhoid fever in 1887. In a 1931 ranking, he was named the fifth best player in baseball history. He is buried in Maplewood Cemetery. 

Larry Haney. Born in Charlottes-

ville, the right-handed catcher played professional baseball from 1966 to 1978 for several teams, including the Orioles and the Brewers. He played in the World Series for Oakland in 1974.

Chris Long. Drafted second overall by the St. Louis Rams in the 2008 NFL Draft, Howie Long’s oldest son earned a Super Bowl ring as a defensive end for the New England Patriots. He now plays for the Philadelphia Eagles. Long played ball at St. Anne’s-Belfield School and earned a scholarship to stay in his hometown to star for the UVa Cavaliers.

Howie Long. Now a recognized actor, commercial spokesman and sports commentator living in Albemarle, the Pro Football Hall of Fame member was a standout as an Oakland Raider defensive end. Two of his sons were first-round NFL Draft choices — Chris as defensive end for the Rams and Kyle as a guard for the Bears.

Kyle Long. Chris Long’s younger brother grew up in Ivy and went to St. Anne’s. He was drafted to play major league baseball by the White Sox, but opted to follow in the family business. He was the 20th pick overall in the 2013 NFL draft. Playing both guard and tackle for the Chicago Bears, Long has been tapped to play in the Pro Bowl three times.

Debbie Ryan. From 1978 to 2011, Ryan was the face of women’s basketball at UVa. While she coached the Cavaliers to 32 winning seasons in a row, the program hit a high note in the 1990s. Under Ryan’s tutelage, the Cavs made three straight trips to the Final Four, from 1990 to 1992. Selected for the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame in 2012, Ryan compiled a record of 739-324 and went to the NCAA Tournament 24 times. She was the country’s Naismith Coach of the Year in 1991 and was named the ACC Coach of the Year seven times. One of her biggest victories, however, was off the playing field. She was given six months to live after surgery for pancreatic cancer in 2000. She has been an advocate for cancer research ever since.

Eppa Rixey. A member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Rixey held the record for wins by a left-hander, with 266, for nearly 40 years. Rixey had four seasons in which he won 20 or more games, including 25 wins in 1922. He played for 21 years, dividing his time between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Cincinnati Reds.

Ralph Sampson. The most famous basketball player to grace UVa’s court, the 7-foot-4 Sampson led the Cavaliers to 23-straight wins in 1980-81, en route to the nation’s No. 1 ranking. He won three Naismith National Player of the Year honors and took UVa to the Final Four for the first time. He was the top choice in the NBA Draft in 1983, was NBA Rookie of the Year in 1984 and led the Houston Rockets to the finals in 1986. Despite playing in four consecutive NBA All-Star games, Sampson’s pro career was later crippled by injuries.

Don Shula. The NFL’s winningest coach, with 328 victories, is best known for leading the Miami Dolphins, but he started his career as an assistant football coach assigned to the backfield at UVa in 1959.

Dawn Staley. She led UVa women’s basketball to a 110-21 record during her four-year tenure. She was a three-time All-American and led the U.S. Olympic team to gold medals in 1996, 2000 and 2004. She coaches at the University of South Carolina and was inducted in the 2012 class of the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. In 2013, she was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame as a player.

Billy Wagner. The retired left-handed baseball pitcher is known throughout many Major League cities, but he chose to call Albemarle County home. Wagner pitched for the Astros, Phillies, Mets, Red Sox and Braves. A native of Southwest Virginia, Wagner was known as “Billy the Kid.” He is now the baseball coach at the Miller School of Albemarle.

Monica Wright. She finished her college basketball career as UVa’s all-time leading scorer with 2,540 points. She was the 2009-10 ACC Player of the Year and WBCA National Defensive Player of the Year, as well as a first-team All-American. She was selected second overall in the 2010 WNBA Draft.

Ryan Zimmerman. The North Carolina native enjoyed a stellar three-year career with the University of Virginia baseball team. He earned a second-team All-America selection by Baseball America in 2005 after a season in which he had a .393 batting average, 92 hits and 59 RBI. Later that year, he was the fourth overall selection in the MLB Draft by the Washington Nationals. Still a Nat, Zimmerman has been selected to the MLB All-Star Team twice, in 2009 and 2017.

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