North Carolina has a proud history. We’ve also produced some legendary, iconic and fab-n-famous people. Below are just a sampling — perhaps some you might not have heard of before.

William Sydney Porter (O’Henry)
Born Sept. 11, 1862
Died June 5, 1910 (aged 47)
Born to a middle class family, William Sydney Porter — better known by his pen name, O’Henry — lost his mother to tuberculosis at age three. His father, a physician, moved the family into Porter’s maternal grandmother’s home. By age 20, Porter was a licensed pharmacist and moved to Texas. While living in Austin, Porter took jobs as a drafstman, bank teller and journalist. He began writing first as a hobby and then as a side job. Porter’s famed short stories made him famous; their surprise and twist endings left a legacy in the world of literature.

Fab and Famous: Print edition. Click to enlarge.

Charlie Rose
Born Jan. 5, 1942
(age 69)
The only child of rural tobacco farmers and country store owners, Rose grew up in a home located above his parents’ store and started working there from the age of seven. Rose attended Duke University intending to earn a pre-med degree though a later internship with Democratic Tar Heel Sen. B Everett Jordan piqued his curiosity in politics. Rose graduated in 1964 and received a law degree from Duke in 1968. Rose has worked as a journalist, producer and manager in the television news industry since 1972. He now hosts his own self-titled PBS talk show.

Pam Grier
Born May 26, 1949 (age 62)
Born in Winston-Salem, Grier’s mother was a homemaker and nurse and her father a member of the U.S. Air Force. She moved around frequently as a child, living in England and Denver, Colo. In the early 1970s, Grier became famous for her roles in such films as 1974’s “Foxy Brown.” In 1997, she appeared in Quentin Tarantino’s “Jackie Brown.” More recently, she played a strong supporting role in “The L Word.” Grier is only one of only a handful of African-American women to receive a Golden Globe nomination for best actress.

Julianne Moore
Born Dec. 3, 1960 (age 50)
A decorated and award-winning actress, Moore was born the daughter of a psychiatrist mother and U.S. Army lawyer at Fort Bragg. She lived in several places across the U.S. and the world and attended high school in Falls Church, Va. and at Franfurt American High School in Frankfurt, Germany. Moore is known for her roles in “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle,” “The Fugitive,” “Boogie Nights,” “The Hours” and 2010’s lesbian-themed “The Kids Are All Right.”

Tori Amos
Born Aug. 22, 1963
(age 47)
Popular with lesbians the world over, Amos’ family wasn‘t from North Carolina, but we’re proud to claim her. Born at Old Catawba Hospital in Newton during a family vacation, Amos has an award-winning, multi-decade career selling millions of albums and receiving 10 Grammy Award nominations.

John Coltrane
Born Sept. 23, 1926
Died July 17, 1967
(aged 40)
Born in Hamlet and raised in High Point, jazz saxophonist and composer Coltrane pioneered new musical techniques and worked with the likes of Miles Davis and Thelonius Monk (also a North Carolina native, born in Rocky Mount). In 1943, Coltrane moved to Philadelphia and later enlisted in the U.S. Navy. While stationed in Hawaii, Coltrane joined the Navy jazz band, where some of his first recordings were made.

North Carolina’s Presidents
Three U.S. presidents were born and lived in North Carolina. Andrew Jackson (1767-1845), born in Raleigh, was the seventh president serving 1829-1837. James Knox Polk (1795-1849), born in Mecklenburg County (though also claimed by South Carolina) served as the 11th president from 1845 to 1849. Andrew Johnson (1808-1875) was also born in Raleigh and served as the 17th president from 1865 to 1869. Though all three were born in North Carolina, each became president while living in Tennessee.

Joey Cheek
Born June 22, 1979
(age 32)
Cheek is among only a handful of North Carolina-born Olympic medalists. A speed skater, Cheek won a bronze medal in the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. At the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, Cheek won gold in the men’s 500-meter event. He also won silver that year in the men’s 1,000-meter race and was selected by his U.S. teammates to carry the American flag during the closing ceremonies. Cheek has been a leader in philanthropic giving. He donated Olympic prize monies to Right to Play, an athletic humanitarian organization, and encouraged other Olympic winners to do the same leading to close to $400,000 being contributed to the cause.

The Tar Heel State…of Education

We have a public UNC System and countless private colleges and universities to thank for the presence of a plethora of now-famous folks who studied here in North Carolina. Some, like Michael Jordan, now make North Carolina their home.

Actress Sandra Bullock
(East Carolina)
MTV host and actor Dan Cortese
Activist Jesse Jackson
(N.C. A&T)
Michael Jordan
President Richard Nixon
Arnold Palmer
(Wake Forest)
Actress Mary-Louise Parker
(UNC School of the Arts)
Actress Missi Pyle
(UNC School of the Arts)
Actress Jada Pinkett Smith
(UNC School of the Arts)

From the boob tube to the big screen:
North Carolina’s TV- and film-friendly atmosphere have produced classics

In 1980, Gov. James Hunt had a vision to harness the power of the Tar Heel State’s burgeoning film industry. More than 30 years later, the North Carolina Film Office ( has helped to facilitate and attract both film and TV producers to locales across the state. A bevy of notable TV series and films have been produced in places like Wilmington, Asheville, Charlotte and Winston-Salem.

Dirty Dancing
Film: 1987
Filming locations: Asheville; Grove Park Inn, Asheville; Lake Lure; Rutherford County.

Film: 2008
Filming locations: Charlotte; Greensboro; Rural Hall; Salisbury; Spencer; Statesville; Tobaccoville; City Hall, Winston-Salem.

Forrest Gump
Film: 1994
Filming locations: Biltmore Estate, Asheville; Grandfather Mountain, Linville.

The Color Purple
Film: 1985
Filming locations: Anson County; Ansonville; Charlotte; Lilesville; Marshville; Union County; Wadesboro Courthouse, Wadesboro.

The Green Mile
Film: 1999
Filming locations: Blowing Rock; Blue Ridge Parkway.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Film: 1990
Filming locations: Castle Hayne; Wilmington.

Shallow Hal
Film: 2001
Filming locations: Bank of America World Headquarters and Latta Arcade, Charlotte; Charlotte; Concord.

Dawson’s Creek
TV series: 1998-2003
Filming locations: Duke University, Durham; Franklin St., Chapel Hill; Southport; Wilmington; University of North Carolina at Wilmington.

Other TV series filmed in N.C.
American Gothic, CBS (1995-1996)
Eastbound & Down, HBO (2009-present)
Homeland, Showtime (Premiere, Fall 2011)
One Tree Hill, WB/CW (2003-present)

Fab and Famous feature photos (July 23, 2011 print edition front page and page 18) by Nicolas Genin (Julianne Moore), Kris (Tori Amos) and David Shankbone (Charlie Rose). All other photos used under public domain. Licensed under Creative Commons.