40 Surprisingly Famous People from Missouri

Last updated on March 27th, 2024 at 10:30 pm.

A surprising number of celebrities come from Missouri; from politicians to writers, actors to athletes, and more. Across time and across all walks of life, these famous people from Missouri have made their mark on the history of America and the world.

This article shares some of the famous people who were born in Missouri as well as a few who called Missouri home for most of their lives. Some of the entries in this list may surprise you. From the brilliant scientist George Washington Carver to world-famous singer-songwriter Sheryl Crow to President Harry S. Truman, Missouri has produced an amazing number of notable figures.

40 Famous People You Didn’t Know Were From Missouri

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40 Famous People You Didn’t Know Were From Missouri

1. Bill Bradley – Crystal City, MO

Bill Bradey
Photo Credit: www.billbradley.com

William Warren Bradley was born in Crystal City, MO, in 1943. He went on to serve as a Democratic U.S. senator for the state of New Jersey from 1979 to 1997. He was an Olympic gold medalist in 1964 and a professional basketball player with the New York Knicks from 1967 to 1977 during which time they won 2 NBA championships. In 1982 he was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame. He is also the author of We Can All Do Better.

2. Martha Jane Canary (Calamity Jane)

Born in 1852, Calamity Jane, was an American frontierswoman known for her claim of being an acquaintance of Wild Bill Hickok. She was born in Princeton, Missouri. Her parents, Robert W. and Charlotte Cannary, were listed in the 1860 census as living about 7 miles further northeast of Princeton in Ravanna. Martha Jane was the eldest of six children, having two brothers and three sisters.

3. Chuck Berry – St. Louis, MO

Chuck Berry
Photo Credit: Flickr

Charles Edward Anderson Berry, better known by his stage name, Chuck Berry, was an influential singer and guitarist. Born in 1926 in St. Louis, he went on to innovate and popularize the rock and roll genre of music, releasing such memorable hits as “Roll Over Beethoven” and “Johnny B. Goode.”

4. Dale Carnegie – Maryville, MO

Dale Carnegie

Born in Maryville, MO in 1888, Dale Carnegie was an author and lecturer who specialized in the topics of self-improvement, sales, and social skills. He is best remembered for his book How to Win Friends and Influence People.

5. Don Cheadle – Kansas City, MO

Don Cheadle
Don Cheadle as Marty Kaan in House of Lies | Flickr Photo: Michael Desmond/SHOWTIME

Donald Frank Cheadle Jr. was born in Kansas City in 1964. He is a renowned actor and filmmaker, having received a number of awards including two Grammy Awards, a Tony Award, two Golden Globe Awards, and two Screen Actors Guild Awards. He is best known for his roles in the Marvel movies, the Ocean’s series, and Boogie Nights.

6. Gen. John J. Pershing – Laclede, MO

Gen. John J. Pershing

John Joseph Pershing was an 1886 graduate of West Point and one of the most famous U.S. Army generals in U.S. history. Pershing was responsible for U.S. Army forces on the Western Front during World War I from 1917 to 1918. His mentorship also helped to shape the command styles of later World War II generals, including George S. Patton, Douglas MacArthur, and Dwight D. Eisenhower (who would later become president of the United States). He was born in Laclede, MO in 1860.

7. George Washington Carver – Diamond, MO

George Washington Carver

George Washington Carver, born in Diamond, MO, circa 1864, was an inventor and agricultural scientist who developed a number of new products, as well as techniques to prevent soil depletion. Born into slavery, Carver became one of the most famous and influential scientists in history.

8. Grant Wistrom – Joplin, MO

Grant Wistrom
Photo Credit: Grant Wistrom Linkedin

Grant Alden Wistrom, born in Joplin, MO, in 1976, is a former professional football player for the St. Louis Rams and the Seattle Seahawks. He played in the NFL for nine seasons and was a two-time All-American.

9. Harry S. Truman – Lamar, MO

President Harry Truman
Photo Credit: Truman Library

Harry S. Truman (yes, his middle name was “S.”) was the 33rd president of the United States from 1945 to 1953. He is remembered as the president who oversaw the post-war period, creating the Marshall Plan and NATO to help Western Europe recover from WWII. Born in Lamar, MO, in 1884, he was also a veteran of the First World War.

Learn more about President Truman by reading The Biography of Harry Truman

10. John Danforth – St. Louis, MO

Born in Saint Louis, MO, in 1936, John Claggett Danforth is the former Attorney General of Missouri. He also served as a U.S. Senator for the state of Missouri for three terms. Danforth also served as a United States Ambassador to the United Nations and is an ordained Episcopal priest. He is also the author of two books, The Relevance of Religion: How Faithful People Can Change Politics and Faith and Politics.

11. Jack Dorsey – St. Louis, MO

Photo Credit: Flickr | JD Lasica

Jack Patrick Dorsey is best known as the creator of the social media site Twitter. Born in St. Louis, MO, in 1976, he co-founded Twitter in 2006 and served as its CEO for a time. He is now the principal executive of Block, Inc., a financial payments company, which he co-founded.

12. James Cash Penney Jr. (J. C. Penney) – Hamilton, MO

J.C. Penney
Photo Credit: Historic Missourians

James Cash Penney Jr. was the founder of the JCPenney chain of retail stores, which first opened their doors in 1902. Born in Hamilton, MO, in 1875, his JCPenney brand became a household name nationwide.

13. Jayson Tatum – St. Louis, MO

Jayson Christopher Tatum Sr. is a professional basketball player who has played for the Boston Celtics since 2017. Born in St. Louis, MO in 1998, he is a three-time NBA All-Star. In 2022, he was honored as the NBA Eastern Conference Finals MVP.

14. Jean Harlow – Kansas City, MO

Harlean Harlow Carpenter
Photo Credit: Flickr

Born Harlean Harlow Carpenter in 1911 in Kansas City, MO, Jean Harlow was one of the most prominent actresses in early-20th-century American cinema. Renowned for playing the “bad girl” and for her status as a Hollywood sex symbol, she sadly died at the age of 26, just nine years into her screen career.

15. Jesse James – Kearney, MO

Portrait of Jesse James

Jesse Woodson James was one of the most infamous outlaws of the Old West. Born near Kearney, MO, in 1847, he made a career out of robbing banks and trains as the leader of the James–Younger Gang. In James’ own time, he was feared for the particularly brutal nature of his crimes, but he has since become a romanticized icon of the Wild West. He was shot in his home in St. Joseph, Missouri.

>> Read More About Jesse James

16. Jon Hamm – St. Louis, MO

Flickr (ABC/Image Group LA)

Jonathan Daniel Hamm was born in St. Louis, MO, in 1971. He is one of the most well-known actors working today, most famous for his role as Don Draper in the television series Mad Men. He has won a Golden Globe Award, two Screen Actors Guild Awards, and a Primetime Emmy Award.

17. Josephine Baker – St. Louis, MO

Josephine Baker
Photo Credit: Flickr

Josephine Baker, born Freda Josephine McDonald in St. Louis, MO, in 1906, was a dancer, singer, and actress notable for being the first black woman to star in a major motion picture (Siren of the Tropics).

18. Kate Spade – Kansas City, MO

Katherine Noel Valentine Brosnahan Spade was born in Kansas City, MO, in 1962. She is known for creating the designer fashion brand Kate Spade New York.

19. Kathleen Turner – Springfield, MO

Kathleen Turner
Photo Credti: Flickr

Mary Kathleen Turner is an actress and singer born in Springfield, MO, in 1954. Her career took off in the 1980s, and since then, she has earned and been nominated for a number of awards. She has also appeared in numerous TV shows in live-action and voice-acting roles, including Friends, The Simpsons, Family Guy, King of the Hill, and Rick and Morty.

20. Mark Twain – Florida, MO

Mark Twain

Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known by his pseudonym Mark Twain, was an author born in Florida, MO, in 1835. Samuel Clemens aka Mark Twain is remembered as one of the most famous and influential American writers of all time, best known for his books The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

21. Maya Angelou – St. Louis, MO

Maya Angelou
Photo Credit: Flickr

Maya Angelou was a poet and civil rights activist considered to be one of the most influential figures in American black history. Born in St. Louis, MO, in 1928, her autobiographical book I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is regarded as an important work of literature, and it remains part of the educational curriculum of many schools today. Maya Angelou was key American writer best known for her unique and pioneering autobiographical writing style. Marguerite Ann Johnson

22. Omar Bradley – Clark, MO

General Omar Bradley from Missouri
Photo Credit: Historic Missourians

Omar Nelson Bradley, born in Clark, MO, in 1893, was a General of the United States Army during World War II. He was also an important figure in United States military policy during the Korean War. He was the first chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and served as a five-star general with the longest military service in U.S. history.

23. Phyllis Smith – St. Louis, MO

Phyllis Smith from the Office
Phyllis Smith as Phyllis Lapin — NBC Photo: Paul Drinkwater | The Office — “Ben Franklin” Episode 3015

Phyllis Smith is an actress best known for her role as Phyllis Vance in the hit TV series The Office (US version). She also voiced Sadness in the Pixar film Inside Out. She was born in St. Louis, MO, in 1951.

24. Redd Foxx – St. Louis, MO

Redd Foxx
Photo Credit: Flickr

Redd Foxx, born John Elroy Sandford in 1922 in St. Louis, MO, was a comedian and actor known for his raunchy stand-up acts and his role as Fred G. Sanford on the famous TV series Sanford and Son. His signature style and unique on-stage personality have influenced many comedians, and he was ranked 24th on Comedy Central’s list of the 100 Greatest Stand-ups of All Time.

25. Roy Wilkins – St. Louis, MO

Roy Ottoway Wilkins
Photo Credit: KChistory.org

Roy Ottoway Wilkins was a civil rights activist who held leadership roles in the NAACP from 1955 to 1977. He was born in St. Louis, MO, in 1901 and in 1923 joined the Kansas City Call, where the young newsman chronicled racial injustice and championed civil rights. In 1931 he went to New York City, succeeding W. E. B. DuBois as editor of the NAACP’s magazine The Crisis.

He is known for his advocacy for the advancement of the civil rights of African Americans and was considered one of the most prominent voices in the Civil Rights Movement in the mid-20th-century.

26. Rush Limbaugh – Cape Girardeau, MO

 Rush Limbaugh
Photo Credit: Flickr

Rush Limbaugh, born in 1951 in Cape Girardeau, MO, was a conservative political commentator and radio host. His hugely popular radio show and books reached a wide audience. His public views on social justice issues, including race and sexual consent, made him a highly controversial figure.

27. Scott Bakula – St. Louis, MO

Scott Bakula
Photo Credit: Flickr

Scott Stewart Bakula was born in St. Louis, MO, in 1954. He is an actor best known for his role as Sam Beckett on the TV series Quantum Leap. He also starred as Captain Jonathan Archer on the series Star Trek: Enterprise. He has been nominated for several Emmy Awards, and he received a Golden Globe Award for his role in Quantum Leap.

28. Sheryl Crow – Kennett, MO

Sheryl Crow
Photo Credit: Flickr

Sheryl Suzanne Crow is a singer and songwriter born in Kennett, MO, in 1962. Among her most famous songs are Everyday Is a Winding Road, Soak Up the Sun, and Tomorrow Never Dies (the theme song of the movie James Bond). She has also appeared as an actress on a number of popular TV shows, including 30 Rock, Cougar Town, and NCIS: New Orleans.

29. Sterling K. Brown – St. Louis, MO

Born in St. Louis, MO, in 1976, Sterling Kelby Brown is an actor known for his roles in The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story and This Is Us. He has won a number of awards for these roles, including Primetime Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe Award.

30. Susan Elizabeth Blow – Carondelet, MO

Born in Carondelet, MO, in 1843, Susan Elizabeth blow was an educator who is remembered for opening the first successful public kindergarten in the US and popularizing the notion of a kindergarten in the nation at large.

31. T. S. Eliot – St. Louis, MO

T. S. Eliot stamp

T. S. Eliot is considered one of the great American writers of all time. Famous for his poems, essays, and plays; his work is studied extensively by contemporary writers. His most famous works include The Waste Land, The Hollow Men, and Murder in the Cathedral. He was born in St. Louis, MO, in 1888.

Eliot was honored on a 22¢ stamp issued Sept. 26, 1986.

32. Yogi Berra – St. Louis, MO

Yogi Berra statue
Photo Credit: Flickr

Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra was a professional baseball player, manager, and coach who has become widely remembered for his humorous musings and witty proverbs, many of which have entered broad usage, such as “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.” In his career, Berra played for both the Yankees and the Mets and coached the Houston Astros. He was born in St. Louis, MO, in 1925.

8 More Famous People Who Call Missouri Home

While these celebrities weren’t born in Missouri, they did spend some time in the Show-Me State in their formative years or moved to Missouri and considered it their home state.

33. Albert Pujols

Pujols is a professional baseball player who currently plays for the St. Louis Cardinals. He was born in the Dominican Republic but moved to New York City and then Independence, MO, at the age of 16.

34. Brad Pitt

Brad Pitt is one of the most famous actors in Hollywood, with a career spanning over 30 years. Pitt was born in Oklahoma but moved to Springfield, MO, as a child. Brad claims Springfield, Missouri as his hometown. Brad graduated from Kickapoo High School and went to college at the University of Missouri, where he left two weeks before earning his journalism degree to pursue an acting career.

35. Jenna Fischer

Jenna Fischer is an actress best known for her role as Pam Beesly in the TV show The Office. Born in Indiana, she was raised in St. Louis, MO. She is currently one of several celebrities taking part of the Explore St Louis commercials.

36. Laura Ingalls Widler

Laura Ingalls Wilder was born in 1867, in Pepin County, Wisconsin, but she moved to Mansfield, Missouri. Also known as Rocky Ridge Farm in 1896 and lived there until her death in 1957. The author of the Little House on the Prairie series, Wilder began writing the series while living there. Her novels focus on her childhood, her family and their life as settlers and pioneers after the American Civil War.

37. Sam Walton

Samuel Moore Walton was the founder of Walmart and Sam’s Club. He became the richest man in America for a time based on the success of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which is the world’s largest corporation in terms of revenue and number of employees. He was born in Oklahoma but moved to Columbia, MO.

38. Scott Joplin

Scott Joplin was a composer and pianist nicknamed the King of Ragtime. He was born in Arkansas but moved to Sedalia, MO, in 1894.

39. Steve McQueen

Terrance Stephen McQueen, better known as Steve McQueen, was a prominent Hollywood leading man nicknamed the King of Cool. For a time, he was the highest-paid movie star in the world. He was born in Indiana but was left to live with relatives in Slater, MO, in 1933.

40. Thomas Hart Benton

Thomas Hart Benton was a US senator for the state of Missouri. He was born in North Carolina but moved to the Missouri Territory in 1815 after the War of 1812.

More Famous People From Missouri

Who are the most famous people from Missouri?

As we dug into the research for this article we realized, there are hundreds more notable folks who were born in Missouri, or who claim it as their home state. This includes Dennis Hopper, Kevin Nealon, Michael McDonald, Ryan Howard, Michael Chandler, Bob Barker, Kevin Kline, Kathleen Madigan, Joe Garagiola, Ed Asner, John Goodman, Max Scherzer, Rusty Wallace, Tyron Woodley, Akon, Misty Copeland, Langston Hughes, Eminem, T Bone Burnett, Ellie Kemper, Ginger Rogers, Vincent Price, Doris Roberts, Walter Cronkite, Ozzie Smith, Nikki Glaser, Andy Cohen, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Jenifer Lewis and many more.

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