Made in NC: 51 Famous People Born in North Carolina

North Carolina exports everything from soybeans and sweet potatoes to microprocessors and craft beer.

But after you take a look at this list of 51 Famous People from North Carolinait's clear to see that the Tar Heel State has a penchant for producing serious talent.

This list is by no means comprehensive, but it's definitely a fascinating collection of athletes, musicians, actors, inventors, businesspeople and broadcasters.

51 Celebrities Born in North Carolina

North Carolina Celebrities 1

1. Zach Galifianakis
Comedian, actor, writer

Born: October 1, 1969 in Wilkesboro, NC
Best known for: Movie roles in The Hangover and his interview show Between Two Ferns

Did you know?
Galifianakis owns a farm in Sparta, NC.
He attended Wilkes High School and North Carolina State University where he majored in communications.
Galifianakis’s uncle, Nick Galifianakis is a former politician who served as a U.S. Congressman of North Carolina (1967-1973).

North Carolina Celebrities 2

2. Ava Gardner

Born: December 24, 1922 in Grabtown, NC
Died: January 25, 1990 (67 years old)
Best known for: Movie roles in Show Boat (1951), Mogambo (1953), Night of the Iguana (1964)

Did you know?
Gardner originally lived in Newport News, Virginia with her family as a young girl until her father passed in 1938. The Gardner family moved to Wilson, NC to make ends meet.
Louis B. Mayer, head of MGM, sent a telegram about Gardner saying: “She can’t sing, she can’t act, she can’t talk… she’s terrific! Sign her up!”
The American Film Institute ranked her #25 on the greatest screen legends of classic American cinema.
Gardener was married to Mickey Rooney, Artie Shaw AND Frank Sinatra.
You can visit the Ava Gardner Museum in Smithfield, NC.

North Carolina Celebrities 3

3. Pam Grier 

Born: May 26, 1949 in Winston-Salem, NC
Best known for: Movie roles in Coffy, Foxy Brown, Sheba Baby, Friday Foster, Jackie Brown, The L Word

Did you know?
Grier was a military brat.
Grier moved to LA in 1967 and was initially hired as the “switchboard girl” at American International Pictures, until she was discovered by director Jack Hill.
Grier received an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and honorary Doctorate of Science from Langston University in 2011.

North Carolina Celebrities 4

4. Andy Griffith
Actor, Singer, Director 

Born: June 1, 1926 in Mount Airy, NC
Died: July 3, 2012 (86 years old)
Best known for: The Andy Griffith Show and Matlock

Did you know?
Griffith attended Mount Airy High School and participated in the school’s drama program. One of the first leads Griffith received was in the play The Lost Colony as Sir Walter Raleigh. 
He attended University of North Carolina and graduated with a music degree in 1949.
Griffith began his college studies to be a Moravian preacher, but changed his major to music and became part of the Carolina Playmakers.
After graduation, Griffith taught music and drama at Goldsboro High School in Goldsboro, NC.
There is a statue of Griffith and Ron Howard (who played Opie on The Andy Griffith Show) in Pullen Park in Raleigh, NC.

North Carolina Celebrities 5

5. Vince McMahon
Chairman of World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE)

Born: August 24, 1945 in Pinehurst, NC
Best known for: Pioneer of the professional wrestling revolution, co-creator of the XFL 

Did you know?
Vince McMahon is also a professional wrestler.
He attended Fishburne Military School in Waynesboro, VA while battling dyslexia. He graduated in 1964.
He graduated from East Carolina University with a degree in business in 1968.
Vince married Linda McMahon on August 26, 1966 in New Bern, NC.

North Carolina Celebrities 6

6. Julianne Moore

Born: December 3, 1960 in Fort Bragg, NC
Best known for: As the World Turns, Boogie Nights, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, The End of the Affair, The Hunger Games

Did you know?
Moore is the oldest of three siblings. 
A military brat, Moore did not stay in one place too long. She attended high school in Falls Church, Virginia and Frankfurt, West Germany. 
Moore won a Best Actress Academy Award in 2015 for her portrayal of a woman suffering from Alzheimers in the 2014 film, Still Alice .

North Carolina Celebrities 7

7. Soupy Sales

Born: January 8, 1926 in Franklinton, NC
Died: October 22, 2009 (83 years old)
Best known for: The Soupy Sales Show and taking pies in the face

Did you know?
His real name is Milton Supman.
Enrolled in the United States Navy and later enrolled and earned a master’s degree in journalism at Marshall University.
In 1965 he ended one of his live broadcasts by telling children to steal the “funny green pieces of paper with pictures of the U.S. Presidents from their parents' pants and pocketbooks, put them in an envelope and mail them to me and I'll send you a postcard from Puerto Rico!” The TV station’s management suspended Supman for two weeks.

North Carolina Celebrities 8

8. Ben Vereen
Actor, Entertainer

Born: October 10, 1946 in Laurinburg, NC
Best known for: The original Broadway productions of Jesus Christ Superstar and Pippin and the TV miniseries Roots

Did you know?
Ben Vereen was born Benjamin Augustus Middleton.
Vereen discovered he was adopted at age 25 while applying for his passport .
Vereen is the godfather of R&B superstar Usher.

North Carolina Celebrities 9

9. David Brinkley
Television Newscaster

Born: July 10, 1920 in Wilmington, NC
Died: June 11, 2003 (82 years old)
Best known for: Host of ABC-TV's This Week with David Brinkley (1981–96); co-anchor of the Huntley-Brinkley Report nightly newscast on NBC (1956–70)

Did you know?
Brinkley began writing for the Wilmington Morning Star while also attending New Hanover High School.
He attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Emory University, and Vanderbilt University, before entering the United States Army in 1940.
In 1992, Brinkley was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George H. W. Bush.

North Carolina Celebrities 10

10. Howard Cosell
Television Sports Journalist

Born: March 25, 1918 in Winston-Salem, NC
Died: April 23, 1995 (77 years old)
Best known for: ABC's Monday Night Football

Did you know?
Cosell served in the US Army during World War II.
After the war, Cosell practiced law in Manhattan.
In 1993, TV Guide named Howard Cosell "All-Time Best Sportscaster."

North Carolina Celebrities 11

11. Charles Kuralt
Journalist and Television Personality

Born: September 10, 1934 in Wilmington, NC
Died: July 4, 1997 (62 years old)
Best known for: His "On the Road" segments for CBS News, hosting CBS Sunday Morning (1979-1994)

Did you know?
Kuralt was born in Wilmington, NC, but his father moved the whole family to Charlotte in 1945 after becoming Director of Public Welfare in Mecklenburg County, NC.
Kuralt’s family home at time was the ONLY man made structure in the area.
Kuralt attended Central High School in Charlotte and was voted “Most Likely to Succeed” in his graduating class of 1951.
Portion of lands along the Roanoke, Tar, Neuse, Cape Fear ecosystems, as well as the rivers that flow into the Albemarle, Currituck, and Pamlico Sounds, have been named for Kuralt.

North Carolina Celebrities 12

12. Edward R. Murrow

Born: April 25, 1908 in Guilford County, NC
Died: April 27, 1965 (57 years old)
Best known for: His CBS radio reports during World War II and a distinguished career in television journalism

Did you know?
His birth name was Egbert R. Murrow.
His famous sign-off, "Good night and good luck," was borrowed from Londoners who said it to each other during the nightly German bombings in 1940.
Murrow helped shut down the McCarthy hearings after a series of hard-hitting TV news reports.
Murrow was a heavy smoker (three packs a day) and died from lung cancer. 
   North Carolina Celebrities 13

13. Clay Aiken

Born: November 30, 1978 in Raleigh, NC
Best known for: Coming in second on the second season of American Idol

Did you know?
Aiken sang in the Raleigh Boychoir, school choirs, church choir, musicals, and local theatre productions. As well as with the local band Just By Chance in Dunn, NC after high school. 
Aiken attended Leesville Road High School while taking courses at Campbell University at the same time.
In 2014, Aiken dipped his feet into the world of politics as the Democratic Party’s candidate for North Carolina’s 2nd congressional district.
He has sold over 5 million albums, and is the fourth-highest-selling American Idol alumnus.

North Carolina Celebrities 14

14. Tori Amos

Born: August 22, 1963 in Newton,NC
Best known for: Pop songs like "Cornflake Girl," "Crucify" and "Silent All These Years"

Did you know?
Amos is a classically trained musician with a mezzo-soprano vocal range
She won the full scholarship to Peabody Institute at John Hopkins University at the of five, in which is the youngest person to ever have received and been admitted. At age eleven the scholarship was discontinued for what Rolling Stone called  “musical insubordination”
Amos is listed on VH1's 1999 "100 Greatest Women of Rock and Roll" at number 71

North Carolina Celebrities 15

15. George Clinton
Funk Musician

Born: July 22, 1941 in Kannapolis, NC
Best known for: Leader of funk bands Parliament-Funkadelic, the songs "Atomic Dog" and "Give Up the Funk"

Did you know?
Clinton is regarded as on of the foremost innovators of funk music.
Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997.
Received a Lifetime Achievement Grammy in 2019.

North Carolina Celebrities 16

16. John Coltrane
Jazz Saxophonist & Composer 

Born: September 23, 1926 in Hamlet, NC
Died: July 17, 1967 (40 years old)
Best known for: A pioneer of free jazz, the landmark albums A Love Supreme (1965) and Ascension (1966)

Did you know?
Coltrane was born in his parents’ apartment at 200 Hamlet Avenue in Hamlet, North Carolina.
Coltrane grew up in High Point, North Carolina and attended William Penn High School, it was not long before he and his mother moved to Philadelphia where he was bought his first saxophone.
Coltrane’s maternal grandfather, The Reverend William Blair was a minister at an African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church in High Point, North Carolina. His paternal grandfather, The Reverend William H. Coltrane was also an A.M.E. Zion minister in Hamlet, North Carolina.
He was posthumously awarded a Pulitzer Prize Special Citation in 2007 and was also canonized by the African Orthodox Church.

North Carolina Celebrities 17

17. Luke Combs
Country Music Singer/Songwriter

Born: March 2, 1990 in Huntersville, NC
Best known for: The albums This One's for You (2017) and What You See is What You Get (2019) 

Did you know?
Combs was born in Huntersville, North Carolina, but the Combs family moved to Asheville, North Carolina when he was eight years old.
Combs attended A.C. Reynolds High School while playing football and he performed in multiple vocal groups, including a solo performance at Carnegie Hall. 
Combs attended Appalachian State University.
He played his first country music gig at the Parthenon Cafe in Boone, North Carolina. With less than a month of college left to go, he dropped out to pursue country music.
Named the Country Music Association's Entertainer of the Year for 2021

North Carolina Celebrities 18

18. Charlie Daniels
Country Music Singer/Songwriter

Born: October 28, 1936 in Wilmington, North Carolina
Died: July 6, 2020 (83 years old)
Best known for: The hit song "The Devil Went Down to Georgia"

Did you know?
Daniels worked as a Nashville session musician and played guitar and electric bass on three Bob Dylan albums during 1969 and 1970.
Daniels won the Grammy Award for Best Country Vocal Performance in 1979 for "The Devil Went Down to Georgia." The song became a major crossover success on rock radio stations after its inclusion on the soundtrack for the movie Urban Cowboy

North Carolina Celebrities 19

19. Roberta Flack

Born: February 10, 1937 in Black Mountain, NC
Best known for: Hit songs "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face," and "Killing Me Softly with His Song"

Did you know?
Flack attended Howard University at the age of 15, making her the youngest student to enroll.
Flack graduated from Howard at 19.
The sudden death of her father forced her to take a job teaching music and English back in North Carolina in the city of Farmville.
Flack was inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame in 2009.

North Carolina Celebrities 20

20. Don Gibson
Country Music Singer/Songwriter

Born: April 3, 1928 in Shelby, NC
Died: November 17, 2003 (75 years old)
Best known for: The hit songs "Sweet Dreams," "Oh Lonesome Me," and "I Can't Stop Loving You"

Did you know?
Gibson's family was so poor that he had to drop out of school in the second grade.
In 2001 he was inducted into the Country Hall of Fame as well as the North Carolina Hall of Fame in 2010.
In 2009 The Don Gibson Theater opened in historic Shelby, located in Cleveland County, North Carolina.
Gibson was given the nickname “The Sad Poet” because he often wrote songs about lost love and loneliness.

North Carolina Celebrities 21

21. Ben E. King
Soul/R&B Singer

Born: September 28, 1938 in Henderson, NC
Died: April 30, 2015 (76 years old)
Best known for: Lead singer of The Drifters, solo hit songs including "Stand By Me"

Did you know?
King was inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
"Stand By Me" was voted as one of the "Songs of the Century" by the Recording Industry Association of America.
"Stand By Me" was a Top 10 hit in 1961 and 1986, when it came out as the theme song to the 1986 film of the same name.

North Carolina Celebrities 22

22. Ronnie Milsap
Country Music Singer/Songwriter

Born: January 16, 1943 in Robbinsville, NC
Best known for: Country crossover hits like "(There's) No Gettin' Over Me", "I Wouldn't Have Missed It for the World" and "Any Day Now"

Did you know?
Milsap was born completely blind and was sent to the Governor Morehead School for the blind in Raleigh, North Carolina at the age of five.
Milsap wanted to become a lawyer, but he declined a scholarship to law school and left college to pursue a music career.
Six miles of U.S. 129 in Graham County, North Carolina are designated as the Ronnie Milsap Highway.

North Carolina Celebrities 23

23. Thelonious Monk
Jazz Pianist & Composer

Born: October 10, 1917 in Rocky Mount, NC
Died: February 17, 1982 (64 years old)
Best known for: Landmark jazz recordings such as "'Round Midnight,""Blue Monk," and "Straight, No Chaser"

Did you know?
Although born in Rocky Mount, North Carolina Monk grew up in Manhattan, New York City.
Monk is one of only five jazz musicians to have been featured on the cover of Time magazine.
In 2006 he received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and a Special Pulitzer Prize.
North Coast Brewing Company, located in Fort Bragg, North Carolina produces Brother Thelonious Ale and donates the proceeds to jazz music education for young people.

North Carolina Celebrities 24

24. Maceo Parker
Funk/Soul/Jazz Saxophonist

Born: February 14, 1943 in Kinston, NC
Best known for: Stints with James Brown and Parliament-Funkadelic, as well as a solo career 

Did you know?
In May of 2016 he received The North Carolina Heritage Award.
Parker was also inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame in October 2011.
When Parker began his solo career, his first album spent ten weeks at the top of the Billboard Contemporary Jazz Charts, his band is known as “the greatest little funk orchestra on Earth.”
As a solo artist Parker has collaborated on record and on tour with The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Prince, The Dave Matthews Band and Ani DiFranco (just to name a few).

North Carolina Celebrities 25

25. Kellie Pickler
Country Music Singer/Songwriter

Born: June 28, 1986 in Albemarle, NC
Best known for: Finishing 6th on the 5th season of American Idol and a successful, post-Idol country music recording career

Did you know?
Both of her parents were absent in her life, leaving her to be raised by her grandparents.
She attended North Stanly High School in New London, North Carolina. She sang “On the Side of Angels” by LeAnn Rimes at her high school graduation. She was a cheerleader and beauty queen in her high school years.
Pickler won the “Miss Stanly County” pageant at age seventeen and then competed for Miss North Carolina in 2004.
In 2005, Pickler auditioned for American Idol at 19 in Greensboro, North Carolina. She was among judge Simon Cowell’s favorite contestants.

North Carolina Celebrities 26

26. Max Roach
Jazz Drummer & Composer

Born: January 10, 1924 in Pasquotank County, NC
Died: August 16, 2007 (83 years old)
Best known for: A pioneer of bebop, Roach is considered one of the most influential drummers of all time

Did you know?
Roach performed in bands led by Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, Coleman Hawkins and Miles Davis.
Roach was also given the MacArthur Genius Grant in 1988 and cited as a Commander of the Ordre des Arts et des lettres of France in 1989.
Roach’s birth certificate states he was born on January 10th, but his family claims he was born on January 8th. 

North Carolina Celebrities 27

27. Earl Scruggs
Banjo Player & Bluegrass Musician

Born: January 6, 1924 Cleveland County, NC
Died: March 28, 2012
Best known for: A three-finger banjo picking style, now called "Scruggs style"

Did you know?
He was in inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame in 1991 as well as the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame in 2009.
The Earl Scruggs Center opened on January 11, 2014. It is located in the court square of Shelby, North Carolina, at the renovated county courthouse. It serves as an educational center for classes and field trips for students.
Scruggs is the most popular of the three finger banjo picking style now called “Scruggs style” that has become the defining element of bluegrass music. 

North Carolina Celebrities 28

28. Nina Simone

Born: February 21, 1933 in Tryon, NC
Died: April 21, 2003 (70 years old)
Best known for: An influential music career, songs such as "Sinnerman," "Feeling Good" and "My Baby Just Cares for Me"

Did you know?
Simone attended Allen High School for Girls in Asheville, North Carolina and Juilliard School of Music in New York City.
Simone was inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame in 2009 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2018.
In 2010 a statue was created in her honor on Trade Street in Tryon
Nina Simone was born “Eunice Kathleen Waymon," but changed her name to disguise herself from family members who thought she chose to play “the devil’s music.”
Rolling Stone named her the 29th greatest singer of all time.

North Carolina Celebrities 29

29. Randy Travis
Country Music Singer/Songwriter

Born: May 4, 1959 in Marshville, NC
Best known for: Hit songs such as "Forever and Ever, Amen," "On the Other Hand" and "I Told You So"

Did you know?
Travis and his siblings performed at local clubs and talent contests, calling themselves the Traywick Brothers.
Travis dropped out of high school, became a juvenile delinquent and was arrested for auto theft and burglary.
In 1975 Travis won a talent contest, Country City USA, in Charlotte.
Travis has sold over 25 million records and won 7 Grammy awards.
Travis also had an acting career in movies and TV. 

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30. Loudon Wainwright III

Born: September 5, 1946 in Chapel Hill, NC
Best known for: Folk rock songs, various acting roles and the 1972 novelty hit "Dead Skunk (in the Middle of the Road)"

Did you know?
Wainwright's mother was a yoga teacher and his father was a columnist and editor for Life Magazine.
Two of Wainwright's children has found recording success: Rufus Wainwright and Martha Wainwright.
Wainwright appeared as the musical guest on the fifth show of the debut season of Saturday Night Live. 

North Carolina Celebrities 31

31. Doc Watson
Guitarist & Singer/Songwriter

Born: March 3, 1923 in Deep Gap, NC
Died: May 29, 2012 (89 years old)
Best known for: Bluegrass, folk, country, blues, and gospel music recordings, and his distinctive finger-style and flat-picking guitar skills

Did you know?
Watson was blind, due to an eye infection contracted before his second birthday.
Watson attended Governor Morehead School, in Raleigh, which is North Carolina’s school for the blind.
There is a Doc Watson sculpture on the corner of King and Depot Streets in Boone, North Carolina.
Merlefest, the popular music festival Wilkesboro, North Carolina, was named for (and dedicated to) Watson's son Merle who passed in 1985.
Part of U.S. Route 421 near Deep Gap is identified as the "Doc and Merle Watson Highway."

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32. Link Wray
Rock Guitarist and Songwriter

Born: May 2, 1929 in Dunn, NC
Died: November 2, 2005 (76 years old)
Best known for: The 1958 hit instrumental, "Rumble"

Did you know?
Wray served in the U.S. Army when he contracted tuberculosis, with the removal of a lung, the doctors said he would never be able to sing again… they were wrong!
“Rumble” led the way for the modern rock guitarists because it popularized the power chord.
The song was banned in New York and Boston for fear it would incite gang violence.
Pete Townshed from The Who once said, “If it hadn’t been for Link Wray and ‘Rumble’, I never would have picked up a guitar.”

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33. Dwight Clark
Football Wide Receiver

Born: January 8, 1957 in Kinston, NC
Died: June 4, 2018 (61 years old)
Best known for: Nine seasons with the San Francisco 49ers (1979-1987)

Did you know?
Clark graduated from Garinger High School in Charlotte, where he played as a quarterback. He accepted a scholarship to play football at Clemson University, where they played him as a wide receiver because the team had too many quarterbacks.
Clark caught the winning reception in the final minute of the 1981 NFC Championship game against the Dallas Cowboys. The moment is regarded as one of the most memorable in NFL history, and has since been known simply as "The Catch."
Clark was diagnosed with ALS in 2017 and died a year later.

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34. Dale Earnhardt Sr.

Born: April 29, 1951 in Kannapolis, NC
Died: February 18, 2001 (49 years old)
Best known for: A winning career that included earning the checkered flag in 76 Winston Cup races, an aggressive driving style that earned him the nickname, "The Intimidator" and made him what some consider the greatest driver in NASCAR history 

Did you know?
Earnhardt’s father, Ralph Earnhardt, was one of the best short-track drivers in North Carolina at the time, winning the NASCAR Sportsman Championship in 1956 at Greenville Pickens Speedway in Greenville, South Carolina.
He was the only driver in NASCAR history to score at least one win in each of four different decades.
Earnhardt tragically died in a racing accident on his final lap during the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway.
It seems an appropriate honor for a legendary NASCAR driver to have roads named after you. In his hometown of Kannapolis, Dale Earnhardt Boulevard is marked as exit 60 off Interstate 85, northeast of Charlotte. Dale Earnhardt Drive also happens to be the beginning of The Dale Journey Trail, a self-guided driving tour of landmarks in the lives of Earnhardt and his family.

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35. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Nascar Driver

Born: October 10, 1974 in Kannapolis, NC
Best known for: A winning career, including two wins of the Daytona 500 (2004 and 2014)

Did you know?
Earnhardt followed in his father’s footsteps by beginning his racing career at age 17. He starting competing in the Street Stock division at Concord, North Carolina’s Motorsport Park.
Earnhardt also worked at his father’s dealership as a mechanic while he attended Mitchell Community College to earn an associate degree in automotive technology.
Earnhardt won the Most Popular Driver Award fifteen consecutive times from 2003 to 2017.

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36. Joe Gibbs
Football Coach & Auto Race Team Owner

Born: November 25, 1940 in Mocksville, NC
Best known for: Hall of Fame head coach for NFL's Washington Redskins (1981-1992, 2004-2007) and owner of Joe Gibbs Racing

Did you know?
Gibbs was one of the winningest coaches in the NFL, with a combined winning percentage of .683 that put him third on the list, just behind Vince Lombardi and John Madden.
Gibbs put together his first NASCAR team in 1992 and his first driver was Dale Jarrett.
Other than football and auto racing, Gibbs has a love for motorcycles. He created a JGRMX team competing in AMA motocross and supercross championships. The team is based in Huntersville, North Carolina.

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37. Jim "Catfish" Hunter
Major League Baseball Pitcher

Born: April 8, 1946 in Hertford, NC
Died: September 9, 1999 (53 years old)
Best known for: Starting for the Oakland Athletics and New York Yankees in five World Series championships during the 1970s

Did you know?
His nickname comes a time when he went missing as a child and was later found with a string of catfish.
Hunter was born and raised in Hertford. He grew up on a farm and attended Perquimans County High School, where he excelled in a variety of sports.
He was diagnosed with diabetes and retired from baseball at age 33. He returned to his farm in Hertford in North Carolina to grow soybeans, corn, peanuts, and cotton. He also became a spokesman for diabetes awareness.
Hunter was diagnosed with ALS. He died at home in 1999 at age 53. There is a Jim “Catfish” Hunter Memorial is located in Hertford.

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38. Dale Jarrett

Born: November 24, 1956 in Conover, NC
Best known for: Winning the Daytona 500 three times (1993, 1996, and 2000) and the NASCAR Winston Cup Series championship in 1999

Did you know?
Jarrett’s father Ned was the manager of Hickory Motor Speedway, where Dale also worked.
Jarrett played golf, football, basketball, and baseball while attending Newton-Conover High School. He turned down a full golf scholarship from the University of South Carolina to follow in his father's footsteps as a race car driver.
Jarrett earned his first career victory at Orange County Speedway in Rougemont, North Carolina.

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39. Sonny Jurgensen
NFL Quarterback

Born: August 23, 1934 in Wilmington, NC
Best known for: Hall of Fame quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles (1957-1963) and the Washington Redskins (1964-1974)

Did you know?
Jurgensen attended New Hanover High School and was chosen as first string quarterback. He scored three touchdowns and kicked nine extra points his senior year. That same year he played in the annual North Carolina vs. South Carolina Shrine Bowl in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Jurgensen attended and played football at Duke University. He joined the varsity football team as a backup quarterback.
Jurgensen was ranked as the 9th greatest sports figure from North Carolina by Sports Illustrated. He became a member of Wilmington’s Walk of Fame in 2004.

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40. Meadowlark Lemon
Professional Basketball Player

Born: April 25, 1932 in Wilmington, NC
Died: December 27, 2015 (83 years old)
Best known for: Playing for the Harlem Globetrotters; nicknamed the "Clown Prince"

Did you know?
Lemon attended Williston Industrial School in North Carolina. He graduated in 1952 and made his way to Florida A&M University, but was drafted into the United States Army.
Lemon started playing for the Globetrotters in 1955.
In the 1970s, Scatman Crothers voiced an animated version of Lemon for the Hanna-Barbera animated cartoon series Harlem Globetrotters. The animated Globetrotters also made three appearances in Scooby-Doo.
Michael Jordan called Lemon a “true national treasure” and a personal inspiration during Jordan’s youth.

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41. Sugar Ray Leonard
Professional Boxer

Born: May 17, 1956 in Wilmington, NC
Best known for: Considered one of the greatest boxers of all time, Leonard competed between 1977 and 1997, finishing with a record of 36 wins and only 3 defeats.

Did you know?
Leonard was born in Wilmington, North Carolina but the family moved to Washington D.C. and then to Palmer Park, Maryland.
Leonard won the Olympic Gold Medal in Boxing in 1976.
Leonard was the first boxer to earn more than $100 million in purses, and was named "Boxer of the Decade" in the 1980s.
Leonard is the godfather of Khloe Kardashian.

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42. Fred "Curly" Neal
Professional Basketball Player

Born: May 19, 1942 Greensboro, NC
Died: March 26, 2020 (77 years old)
Best known for: Playing for the Harlem Globetrotters for 22 seasons (1963-1985)

Did you know?
Neal attended James B. Dudley High School and went on to attend Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte.
In college, Neal averaged 23.1 points a game and was officially named All-Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) guard.
Neal was granted the Harlem Globetrotters’ prestigious “Legends” ring, which is only presented to the players who make major humanitarian contributions.
Neal has an entire mural commemorating his achievements both as a Globetrottter and his time playing for Dudley High School in the basketball gym of the Hayes-Taylor Memorial YMCA at 1101 East Market Street in Greensboro, North Carolina.

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43. Richard Petty

Born: July 2, 1937 in Level Cross, NC
Best known for: A professional racing career that spanned from 1958 to 1992, which included a record 200 wins.

Did you know?
Petty attended Randleman High School in Randleman, North Carolina and was an All-Conference guard on the football team.
After high school, he took business classes at Greensboro Junior College and began work at his father’s racing company, Petty Enterprises.
Petty was awarded the Medal of Freedom by President George Bush in 1992. He was the first motorsports athlete to ever be honored with the award.
In 1996, Petty was nominated as the Republican Secretary of State for North Carolina but did not win.

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44. Norv Turner
NFL Coach

NFL head coach for San Diego Chargers, Washington Redskins, Oakland Raiders

Born: May 17, 1952 in Camp Lejeune, NC
Best known for: Head coach of the Washington Redskins (1994-2000), the Oakland Raiders (2004-2005) and the San Diego Chargers (2007-2012)

Did you know?
Though he was born in Camp Lejeune, Turner played football in California at Alhambra High School in Martinez as quarterback and safety.
At the University of Oregon in Eugene, Turner was the backup quarterback for future hall-of-fame quarterback Dan Fouts.
Turner’s son, Scott, is the offensive coordinator for the Washington Football Team.

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45. James Worthy
Professional Basketball Player

Born: February 27, 1961 Gastonia, NC
Best known for: Worthy was the Most Valuable Player of the 1982 NCAA basketball championship game, and the winner of three NBA titles with Los Angeles Lakers

Did you know?
While attending Ashbrook High School in Gastonia, North Carolina, Worthy led the school's basketball team to the state championship his senior year.
Worthy attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He broke his ankle during his freshman year. His sophomore year, he became a key member of the school’s 1981 NCAA runner-up team. His junior year he made more progress and became the leading scorer of the Tar Heels NCAA championship team, which included Michael Jordan.
He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003 and was voted one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History in 1996.

North Carolina Celebrities 46

46. Tom Robbins

Born: July 22, 1932 in Blowing Rock, NC
Best known for: Best-selling novels including Even Cowgirls Get The Blues, Still Life with Woodpecker and Jitterbug Perfume

Did you know?
Robbins attended Warsaw High School and Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Virginia. His writing career took off after winning a Senior Essay Medal.
He dropped out of college after being disciplined by his fraternity for bad behavior and failing to earn a letter in basketball. He enlisted in the Air Force and was discharged in 1957.
His novel Even Cowgirls Get the Blues was made into a movie in 1993 by Gus Van Sant, starring Uma Thurman and Keanu Reeves.
Robbins was named one of the 100 Best Writers of the 20th Century by Writer’s Digest Magazine.

North Carolina Celebrities 47

47. Billy Graham

Born: November 7, 1918 in Charlotte, NC
Died: February 21, 2018 (99 years old)
Best known for: World-renowned evangelist and provider of spiritual counsel to every U.S. President from Harry S. Truman to Barack Obama. 

Did you know?
Graham was born in the downstairs bedroom of a farmhouse in Charlotte.
In 1950, Graham founded the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. The association relocated to Charlotte, North Carolina in 1999 and has international offices in Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Buenos Aires.
Graham preached to live audiences of 210 million people in more than 185 countries and territories.
The Billy Graham Library is located in Charlotte and is styled after a dairy barn. It even includes a stylish, mechanical “talking” cow!

North Carolina Celebrities 48

48. Richard Jordan Gatling

Born: September 12, 1818 Hertford County, NC
Died: February 26, 1903 (84 years old)
Best known for: Inventing the Gatling gun, the world's first successful machine gun.

Did you know?
At the age of 36, he invented a rice sowing machine and a wheat drill that helped revolutionize the agriculture industry.
He graduated from Ohio Medical College in 1850 with an MD, but never practiced medicine.
The hand-cranked machine gun design that became the Gatling gun was inspired by one of his seed planting inventions.
The Gatling gun was first used during the Civil War when Union commanders personally purchased 12 of the guns to use in the trenches during the Siege of Petersburg, Virginia (June 1864—April 1865). 

North Carolina Celebrities 49

49. Herman Lay
Founder of Lay's Potato Chips

Born: March 6, 1909 in Charlotte, NC
Died: December 6, 1982 (73 years old)
Best known for: Creating Lay's potato chips

Did you know?
Lay once worked as a traveling salesman who delivered potato chips to his customers in a Ford Model A.
In 1961 the H.W. Lay & Company merged with The Frito Company creating the largest-selling snack food company in the United States. The companies eventually formed PepsiCo, Inc. 
Lay has a room named after him in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a scholarship named after him at Furman University.

North Carolina Celebrities 50

50. Murray Hamilton

Born: March 24, 1923 Washington, NC
Died: September 1, 1986 (63 years old)
Best known for: Roles in The Hustler, The Graduate and a memorable part as the mayor in 1975's blockbuster Jaws

Did you know?
Hamilton displayed early interest in performing while attending Washington High School.
During World War II, bad hearing prevented him from enlisting, so he moved to NYC to start his stage career.
Hamilton's big break came in Steven Spielberg’s shark thriller, Jaws. He reprised his role for the sequel. 

North Carolina Celebrities 50B

51. Dolley Madison
First Lady of the United States

Born: May 20, 1768 in Guilford County, NC
Died: July 12, 1849 (81 years old)
Best known for: Serving as the First Lady alongside her husband, President James Madison (1809-1817)

Did you know?
Madison was born in a log cabin in New Garden (present-day Greensboro), North Carolina.
Madison was married once before she was the First Lady. A yellow fever epidemic took her first husband, son William, mother-in-law, and father-in-law
Madison was the first First Lady given an honorary seat on the floor of Congress, and the first American to respond to a telegraph message.

We couldn't list EVERY famous person born in North Carolina, but is there anyone you think belongs on this list? Let us know in the comments below! 

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