It’s easy to feel like most celebrities are from huge and highly populated cities. After all, how often do we hear that our favorite celeb is from someplace like New York? Los Angeles? Chicago? If you’re from a small town or even a less-populated state or city, it often seems like these bigger cities have a monopoly on every celebrity in the world.
Don’t be so sure though. While it’s true that plenty of celebrities hail from major hubs of culture and population like New York, there are also plenty out there just like you and me. These celebrities might come from the places we don’t hear about that much — like small towns and less populated cities.
If you’ve ever thought to yourself, “No one famous comes from my state,” you might be surprised. Famous actors, musicians, writers, politicians, athletes, chefs, comedians, models, lifestyle personalities and more have come from every state in the country. Don’t believe us? That’s all right. We’ve got proof.
We’re going to be talking about the wide range of famous people who have come from the state of Indiana. Even if you think you don’t know anyone famous from the state, we’re willing to bet you’re wrong. Check out this list of Indiana celebrities, and see how many of these people you never knew were from the Midwest.
Famous People From Indiana
To keep things simple and streamlined, we’ve grouped this list into categories of different professions.
You probably know several of the following people who had their hand in politics at one time or another.
1. Abraham Lincoln
That’s right, one of our most famous presidents in the history of our country was from Indiana. While he was born in Kentucky, he moved to Indiana around the age of seven, making this state the home he grew up in. Most of these growing-up years were spent in what is today Spencer County in southern Indiana. He also moved to Springfield when he began his law career. This state, with its anti-slavery policies at the time, no doubt did a great deal to shape Lincoln into the president he became.
The state of Indiana is proud to honor Lincoln’s legacy today. If you’re curious about visiting the places where he grew up, you’ll find that many of these spots have been transformed into museums and cultural heritage sites. Just a few of the places you can visit include the Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial, the Lincoln Pioneer Village and Museum and more.
2. Benjamin Harrison
You’d be forgiven if you’ve never heard of Benjamin Harrison before. Despite the fact that not many people know his name today, however, he was our 23rd president, serving from 1889 to 1923. Even before he was president, this accomplished leader was serving in the Civil War, working as a lawyer and a prominent church leader and even acting as governor of Indiana in 1876. The Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site is open to the public in Indianapolis, which also happens to have been President Harrison’s hometown.
3. William Henry Harrison
Here’s another president you may never have heard of. William Henry Harrison was the ninth president of the United States and also happened to be Benjamin Harrison’s grandfather, making them the only grandfather-grandson presidential duo in our history. A native of Vincennes, Harrison also has the distinction of serving the shortest term of any American president in history. He served just 31 days before dying of pneumonia.
If you’re interested in learning more about President Harrison, you can always do so by visiting his estate and mansion, known as Grouseland, in Vincennes.
4. Mike Pence
Did you know that our current vice president is an Indiana native? Mike Pence was born and raised in Columbus before going on to become a lawyer, politician and eventual vice president. He has also served as Indiana’s governor in the past, giving him a strong connection to the state as a whole.
The following Indiana celebrities are known for keeping thousands entertained.
5. Michael Jackson
One of the most famous — if not the single most famous — acts in the history of pop music originated right in Gary, Indiana. That’s right, Michael Jackson, the King of Pop himself, was born and raised in Indiana. If you’ve never heard of Michael Jackson, you may have been living under a rock. As a quick recap, though, his hits include songs like “Thriller,” “Billie Jean,” “Beat It” and many, many more.
6. Janet Jackson
While perhaps not quite as famous as her older brother Michael Jackson, the youngest of the Jackson family is a musical icon and best-selling artist in her own right. Famous for her elaborate performances and innovative music, Janet Jackson has had a widespread influence on pop culture for decades. Like her siblings, she was born and raised in Gary, Indiana. While the childhood home of the Jackson siblings still exists, it’s not open to the public, unfortunately.
7. James Dean
James Dean was born in Marion, Indiana, although he spent the largest portion of his growing-up years in Fairmount before moving to California for college. Nonetheless, this time growing up in Indiana surely shaped him as a young person. He went on to become an actor and movie star of truly iconic proportions, despite only ever performing in three feature films. His untimely death at age 24 led to him receiving a cult-like following of fans, even many years later.
Fairmount, Indiana lays claim to Dean’s legacy today and proudly celebrates it by hosting the James Dean Festival every year, where classic cars are featured, and everything is styled as a tribute to the 1950s.
8. Adam Lambert
If you’ve ever watched American Idol, you might recognize Adam Lambert as the runner-up on the eighth season back in 2009. While he didn’t end up winning the show, he quickly shot to fame afterward. He’s sold millions of albums worldwide and is an exceptionally talented musical performer known for his powerhouse vocals. Before all that, however, he was born and raised in Indianapolis, where he got his start singing in school and local programs.
9. Cole Porter
You might not know Cole Porter’s name, but we’re willing to bet you’ve heard his music before. Born in Peru, Indiana, he composed the music for many popular and well-known Broadway musicals throughout the mid-1900s. A few of his best-known musicals include “Anything Goes” and “Kiss Me Kate.” One of his most famous and enduring songs that many people still sing today is, “Let’s Do It, Let’s Fall in Love.” Over the course of his long career, he wrote well over 800 songs.
Indiana continues to honor Cole Porter and his legacy today by maintaining the house he grew up in. Today, this house has been converted into an inn and Bed and Breakfast, meaning that if you’re a huge Broadway fan, there’s no better place to spend the night next time you’re in Peru.
10. David Letterman
Yet another Indianapolis native, David Letterman is probably most famous as the American TV host who spent the longest tenure as the host of a late-night TV talk show, on Late Night with David Letterman. In addition to being a talk show host, he’s a comedian and a producer of both film and TV shows.
Letterman also attended college in Indiana, where he studied journalism and telecommunications, an experience that no doubt played a huge role in shaping him into the well-loved comedian and TV host he grew to become.
11. Jenna Fischer
Even if you’ve never seen an episode of “The Office” in your life, we’re willing to bet you’ve heard about Jim and Pam. We bet you didn’t know that Jenna Fischer, the actress responsible for bringing Pam to life, was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana. While she didn’t live there long, Indiana residents can still take pride in calling The Office’s Pam one of their own.
If you’re someone who follows great writers, you’ve probably heard of one or more of the following.
12. Kurt Vonnegut
Kurt Vonnegut was one of the most influential and innovative writers of the 20th century, and he was born right in Indianapolis. Most famous for his combination of satire, science-fiction and dark comedy, he wrote many influential works of literature, such as “Slaughterhouse-Five,” “Breakfast of Champions,” “Cat’s Cradle” and more. A little-discussed fact about Vonnegut is that prior to launching his writing career, he served in the army and was even held as a prisoner of war in Europe for a time.
Vonnegut is famously quoted as having once said, “All my jokes are Indianapolis. All my attitudes are Indianapolis. My adenoids are Indianapolis. If I ever severed myself from Indianapolis, I would be out of business. What people like about me is Indianapolis.” Based on this admission, it’s not hard to see how crucial this city was in shaping Vonnegut into the writer he became. Learn more about some of the great places in and around Indianapolis dedicated to Vonnegut.
13. John Green
Yet another famous writer from Indianapolis, John Green is a popular contemporary author of young adult books such as “The Fault in Our Stars,” “Paper Towns,” “Looking for Alaska” and several more. His books have an enormously loyal following and have been translated into many languages and adapted into movies. Millions of copies have sold. In addition to being a famous author, Green is also well-known for his various YouTube projects that he co-runs with his brother, Hank Green.
While Green moved to other states throughout his life, citizens of Indiana can still feel proud and claim this author as one of their very own.
14. James Whitcomb Riley
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that someone whose nickname was “the Hoosier Poet” came from Indiana. James Whitcomb Riley was born in Greenfield, Indiana, now part of the greater Indianapolis metropolis area, and he saw his Indiana identity as an enormous part of who he was both as a person and a writer. His poems, many of which were inspired by his own humble log-cabin roots, were written in dialect and intended for children.
Many different memorials and buildings are dedicated to Riley across the state, including the James Whitcomb Riley Hospital for Children, so named to honor Riley’s legacy of children’s poetry.
Celebrities don’t always fit into easy categories, as can be seen with some of these miscellaneous famous people from Indiana.
15. Larry Bird
Basketball legend Larry Bird may be most famous for his time playing on the Boston Celtics, but he grew up in French Lick, Indiana. Indiana formed an enormous part of Bird’s education, in terms of both academics and athletics, as he attended multiple different universities within the state while playing college basketball at the same time. Today, Bird is known as one of the most legendary basketball players in NBA history, having an astonishing array of awards, records and acknowledgments under his belt that few others have even come close to achieving.
If you visit French Lick today, you can stop by 33 Brick Street, a restaurant that’s also a museum to all things Larry Bird. Enjoy looking at memorabilia with other Bird enthusiasts while having a delicious meal of burgers, fries and other comfort food.
16. Colonel Sanders
This name may be one you associate more with Kentucky than with Indiana. It may come as a surprise, then, to learn that the Colonel best known for founding the Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant chain was born in Henryville, Indiana.
Initially, the art of cooking chicken was something he learned during his tenure in the army at the height of the Great Depression. During this time, he perfected his recipe and methods. Today, his chicken is served in more than 80 different countries around the world, and his legacy continues to live on.
17. Wilbur Wright
Without his famous brother’s name alongside his own, the name of Wilbur Wright may not look familiar. Wilbur, along with his brother Orville, formed the Wright Brothers duo, famous for creating the world’s first successful airplane. While other attempts had been made before them, these two brothers crafted the first power-driven airplane capable of sustaining human flight. While the family didn’t live in Indiana for long, Wilbur Wright was born within the state limits, in the town of Millville.
If you’re a flight enthusiast or interested in learning more about the childhood of this inventor and aviator, stop by the Wilbur Wright Birthplace & Museum in Hagerstown.
Stop by Giordano’s Pizza in Indianapolis
Now that you know so many celebrities and famous Americans have their roots right here in Indiana, why not make a tour out of it? See how many of these memorial sites and museums you can visit. After all, what better way to get to know the state than by visiting sites dedicated to the many talented individuals it has produced?
As you make your way across the state of Indiana, you’ll surely be making a stop in Indianapolis. While you’re here, we’d like to invite you to drop by Giordano’s Pizza for a slice of the best deep-dish pizza you’ve ever tasted. And if you’re not in the mood for pizza, we’ve also got a full menu of other options, including pasta, salads and sandwiches. Whether you want to eat in our dining room or order out, you’ll enjoy a meal you won’t soon forget when you stop by our restaurant.
Browse our full menu today and decide what looks good to you — we’ll be waiting to greet you with a delicious meal!