Famous Chicagoans: Who’s Your Favorite?


Chicago has birthed a lot of talent — from actors and musicians to writers and political figures, many big names call Chicago home. We’ve compiled an exciting list of some of the famous people who started their lives in the Windy City. Whether you grew up in the same neighborhood or they star in your favorite movie, you might just find your favorite celebrity grew up in the beloved city of Chicago!

Betty Ford

William and Hortense Bloomer were married in Chicago on November 9, 1904, and Hortense gave birth to Elizabeth Ann Bloomer at Lake View Hospital on April 8, 1918. Though she would have preferred being called Elizabeth, she was given the nickname Betty as a child and it stuck. Her family relocated a couple of times in the following years, but most of her childhood was spent in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Betty married Gerald Ford on October 15, 1948, and after Richard Nixon’s resignation, her husband became the President on August 9, 1974 — making her the First Lady of the United States.

Bonnie Hunt

One of seven children, Bonnie Hunt was born on September 22, 1961. She graduated from Notre Dame High School for Girls and then went on to earn a degree in nursing in 1982. She worked as an oncology nurse at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, but in 1986, she joined the improv theater troupe called The Second City. Since then, Bonnie has acted in several films, done voice work for Pixar, and hosted her own daytime talk show The Bonnie Hunt Show. To this day, she is still a die-hard Chicago Cubs fan.


Craig Robinson

Craig Robinson was born on October 25, 1971 and was raised on Chicago’s South Side. He attended Illinois State University and Saint Xavier University for degrees in music, and he became an elementary school music teacher after graduation. While living in Chicago, he did comedy performances and took acting classes at The Second City. In 2005, Craig was cast as Darryl Philbin on the American version of the sitcom The Office.

Curtis Mayfield

R&B singer Curtis Mayfield was born on June 3, 1942. From a young age, he was a singer in gospel choirs. He attended Wells Community Academy High School but dropped out his sophomore year, moving to Chicago’s North Side to join the vocal group that would become the Impressions in 1956. In 1970, Curtis left the Impressions to start a solo career. The Impressions were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1991, and he was inducted as a solo artist in 1999. He was known for addressing politics and social awareness in his music.

Danny Pudi

Born on March 10, 1979, Danny Pudi was raised by his Polish mother and Indian father on the south side of Chicago. He then attended Notre Dame College Prep in Niles, Illinois, a northern Chicago suburb. His mother signed him up for many different performance classes when he was young, including dance classes. After attending Marquette University and performing in summer stock theatre in Wisconsin, Danny returned to Chicago to study improv with The Second City. In 2009, he was cast as Abed Nadir on the sitcom Community.

Dick Butkus

Dick Butkus was born on December 9, 1942, and he was raised with his seven siblings on Chicago’s South Side. From a young age, he knew he wanted to be a professional football player. He chose to attend Chicago Vocational High School even though it was a relatively far commute, becoming an all-state fullback on their team.

He went on to play for the University of Illinois as a center and linebacker. In 1965, when drafted by two NFL teams, he chose to stay in his hometown and play for the Chicago Bears. After several extraordinary years, he was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1979. In 1982, he relocated to Malibu, California to pursue acting and sports broadcasting.


Dwyane Wade

Professional basketball player, Dwyane Wade, was born on January 17, 1982. His parents separated shortly after his birth, and his mother was given custody of the children. However, when he was eight years old, his sister Tragil told him they were going to the movies but instead dropped him off at his father’s house in a different South Side neighborhood. They moved a year later to Robbins, Illinois, a south Chicago suburb.

Being in a better environment enabled him to practice basketball outside with his friends and attend Harold L. Richards High School in Oak Lawn. His performance on their basketball team helped him make a name for himself throughout Chicago. He went on to play college basketball for Marquette University, and when he entered the NBA draft in 2003, he was picked up by the Miami Heat. Playing for their team, Dwyane became a two-time NBA champion and received other various honors.

Ernest Hemingway

Remembered as one of the great American novelists of the 20th century, Ernest Hemingway was born on July 21, 1899. He was raised in Oak Park, Illinois, then called Cicero, a conservative suburb of Chicago. However, his time was split between his family’s Illinois home and their cabin in northern Michigan, where he discovered his love of the outdoors. His life’s journey took him all across the globe, but a brief return to Chicago in his adulthood was when Ernest met his first wife, Hadley Richardson. In 1951, he wrote The Old Man and the Sea, which went on to win a Pulitzer Prize, and he received a Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954.


Gillian Anderson

Though Gillian Anderson was born in Chicago on August 9, 1968, she didn’t spend much of her childhood there, moving to Puerto Rico and then England with her family. They moved back to the states years later. After graduating high school in 1986, she returned to Chicago to enroll in DePaul University’s Goodman Theater, where she earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts. Gillian was cast in her most memorable role, Dana Scully in the television series The X-Files, in 1993. During her time on The X-Files, she received numerous awards, including an Emmy and a Golden Globe.

Harrison Ford

Harrison Ford was born on July 13, 1942. He spent his childhood in Des Plaines, a Chicago suburb, and attended Maine Township High School. He left after graduation in 1960 to study English and philosophy at Ripon College in Wisconsin, where he discovered his love for performing completely by accident. In 1977, he received his breakthrough role as Han Solo in Star Wars, and his other legendary film character Indiana Jones debuted in Raiders of the Lost Ark in 1981.

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Diane Rodham was born on October 26, 1947. She grew up in Park Ridge, Illinois, a Chicago suburb located 15 miles northwest of downtown. She was politically active from a young age, and though she started out a member of Republican groups, she was inspired to become a Democrat in 1968 after hearing a speech Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. gave in Chicago.
On October 11, 1975, she married Bill Clinton and became First Lady of the United States when he won the election in 1992. Hillary went on to serve as a U.S. senator from 2001 to 2009, which was the first time a First Lady had ever won a public office seat.

John C. Reilly

John C. Reilly was born on May 24, 1965, the fifth of six children. Growing up on the South Side of Chicago, he spent his time hanging out near the train tracks with his friends and getting into mischief by stealing hundreds of boxes of cereal from a boxcar. He attended Brother Rice High School, a Catholic school in Chicago, and then went on to graduate from DePaul University. John has acted in over fifty films and has received numerous Academy Award nominations.

Mr. T

Multi-talented Lawrence Tureaud, also known as Mr. T, was born on May 21, 1952. He was the youngest of twelve children, raised by a single mother for most of his childhood. For high school, he attended Paul Lawrence Dunbar Vocational Career Academy. After trying out college, the U.S. Army and professional football, he returned to Chicago in the mid-1970s. That’s when he became a bouncer at one of Chicago’s hottest nightclubs and earned the nickname Mr. T. Sylvester Stallone cast him in the 1982 film Rocky III, giving him his big break. He went on to become a professional wrestler, as well as star in the television series The A-Team, in 1985.

Michelle Obama

Michelle LaVaughn Robinson was born on January 17, 1964 and grew up in a small bungalow on Chicago’s South Side. She attended the city’s first high school for gifted children, Whitney M. Young Magnet High School, and graduated as class salutatorian in 1981.

After studying at Princeton University and Harvard Law School, she returned to Chicago to work in a law firm, which is where she met Barack Obama. They married on October 3, 1992. She did a lot of high-profile work in Chicago before becoming First Lady, filling leadership positions at the Chicago office of Public Allies and the University of Chicago and serving as a board member for the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.


Pat Sajak

Pat Sajak was born on October 26, 1946. He was raised in Chicago, graduating from Farragut High School in 1964. Afterwards he attended Columbia College Chicago and took a job as a desk clerk at the Palmer House hotel. He started his broadcast career as a newsman for local radio station WEDC and went on to have several related jobs, including hosting the Armed Forces Radio in Vietnam. However, he is best known for hosting the game show Wheel of Fortune.

Quincy Jones

Quincy Jones was born on the South Side of Chicago on March 14, 1933. He discovered his love for music through his mother’s singing of religious songs and his piano-playing, next-door neighbor. At the age of ten, his family moved to Bremerton, Washington. He has received several Oscar nominations for his songwriting, and he also produced three of Michael Jackson’s albums — in 2013, he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Robin Williams

Comedic legend Robin Williams was born in St. Luke’s Hospital on July 21, 1951. Growing up, he attended Gorton Elementary School and Deer Path Junior High School in Lake Forest, Illinois. His father was a senior executive at Ford Motor Company, and the family moved to Michigan when Robin was still a young kid because his father had been transferred to Detroit. He got his start as Mork on the sitcom Mork & Mindy, and some of his most memorable roles include John Keating in Dead Poets Society, Genie in Aladdin and Alan Parrish in Jumanji.

Sandra Cisneros

The only daughter among seven siblings, Sandra Cisneros was born on December 20, 1954. She studied at Loyola University of Chicago, receiving her Bachelor’s degree in English in 1976. Sandra is known for writing extensively about the Latina experience in the United States. Her best-selling novel The House on Mango Street, a coming-of-age story about a young Latina in Chicago, was published in 1984. She has also penned several collections of poetry. Sandra has received several honors and awards for her writing, and she has founded two organizations that serve writers.

Shel Silverstein

Shel Silverstein was born in Chicago on September 25, 1930. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1950, serving in Japan and Korea, and he became a cartoonist for Stars & Stripes magazine. After his time in the military, he contributed cartoons to magazines like Look, Sports Illustrated and Playboy, where he began to gain recognition.

With time, he started expressing his creativity in other ways, such as writing and music. In 1963, Shel met a book editor who convinced him to write children’s books. Though he wrote lots of material throughout his lifetime, both songs and poetry, he is most remembered as the author of the children’s book The Giving Tree.

Suze Orman

Susan Lynn Orman was born on June 5, 1951, and she struggled much of her childhood to overcome a speech impediment. After high school, she went to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to major in social work. However, in 1973, she left without completing her degree and moved to Berkeley, California, where she took a low-paying waitress job.

Following failed plans to open her own restaurant, she started studying finance and investing extensively, starting her own brokerage firm in 1987. In 1997, Suze’s book The 9 Steps to Financial Freedom hit the best-sellers list, and since then, she has become a nationally known personality.

Walt Disney

The incredible Walter Elias Disney was born on December 5, 1901, in Hermosa, Illinois, a community area in northwest Chicago. He spent most of his childhood in Marceline and Kansas City, Missouri, but he returned to Chicago during his adolescence and attended McKinley High School. Throughout high school, he took night classes at the Chicago Art Institute, but dropped out at 16 and served in France with the Red Cross.

Walt returned to America in 1919 and started his first animation studio, Laugh-O-Gram, in Kansas City with his brothers. Though they were forced to declare bankruptcy in 1923, they would not be deterred, relocating to Hollywood and pooling their money to start the Disney Brothers’ Studio. A few years later, they debuted a character Walt had been working on called Mickey Mouse, and as they say, the rest is history.

Success Is Born in Chicago

Some of these famous names spent their formative years in Chicago, while others were only born there. But no matter what, all of them are tied to this great city in some way. While they may have experienced setbacks, lived in rough neighborhoods or dealt with difficult circumstances, they all eventually reached their own form of success.