RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — You don’t need to go to Hollywood to find the rich and famous when you can find them right here in North Carolina. You might see Michael Jordan, James Taylor, J. Cole, Evan Rachel Wood and Steph Curry in your hometown. These are just a few famous people who call North Carolina home.
This article lists actors, musicians, politicians, and athletes that are from North Carolina. Read the full list below.
Zach Galifianakis, 53, is an actor and comedian from North Wilkesboro, North Carolina. He attended North Carolina State University and majored in communications.
Galifianakis is best known for portraying Alan in The Hangover trilogy from 2009-2013. He also starred in the TV series Baskets, and was nominated for an Emmy Award in 2017.
When Galifianakis is not filming, you might find him at his farm in Sparta, North Carolina, with his wife and two sons.
Ava Gardner was born on Christmas Eve in 1922 in Johnston County, North Carolina. She grew up in Smithfield as the youngest of seven children to tobacco sharecroppers.
She starred in movies such as We Were Dancing (1942), Ghosts on the Loose (1943), The Hucksters (1947), The Sun Also Rises (1957), and On the Beach (1959). Garner also was in movies throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Her last TV movie, Maggie, was in 1986.
Gardner was married three times to husbands Mickey Rooney, Artie Shaw and Frank Sinatra. Gardner had no children during those marriages.
Gardner died in January 1990, at the age of 67 in London. She is buried in Smithfield, North Carolina, and The Ava Gardner Museum, founded in 1996, is nearby.
Andy Griffith was born June 1, 1926 in Mount Airy, North Carolina. His father was a carpenter and his mother was a homemaker. Griffith attended UNC and graduated with a Bachelor’s in Music in 1949. He later began teaching music and drama at Goldsboro High School.
Griffith was best known for his role as Sheriff Andy Taylor in The Andy Griffith Show (1960-1968). He also appeared and starred in several movies and TV shows such as A Face in the Crowd (1957), Angel in My Pocket (1969), and Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. (1966-1968).
Griffith married Barbara Bray Edwards and adopted a daughter and son. They divorced in 1972. He later married Solica Cassuto in 1973 and they were together until 1981. Griffith’s third wife was Cindi Knight and they married in 1983, remaining together until his death in 2102.
Griffith is a Television Hall of Fame inductee (class of 1991), has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, a North Carolina Music Hall of Fame inductee (class of 2010), and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005. The Andy Griffith Museum opened in 2009 in Mount Airy.
Ken Jeong, 54, was born in Detroit but moved to Greensboro, North Carolina when he was four. Jeong graduated from Duke University in 1990 and obtained his M.D. at the UNC School of Medicine in 1995.
While attending medial school, Jeong performed at Charlie Goodnights Comedy Club in Raleigh and Tootie’s Durham Comedy Club. He practiced as a physician in Los Angeles from 1998 until 2006, when he pursued acting full time.
He is best known for his movie roles in The Hangover trilogy (2009-2013) alongside fellow North Carolinian Zach Galiafianakis, Despicable Me (2010), Despicable Me 2 (2013), Crazy Rich Asians (2018) and Avengers: Endgame (2019).
He lives with his wife and children in Calabasas, California.
Hunter Schafer, 24, was born in New Jersey on New Year’s Eve in 1998. Her family moved between churches while her father was a minister, before settling in Raleigh. Schafer has three younger siblings and attended Needham B. Broughton High School before transferring to the North Carolina School of the Arts.
Schafer is best known for starring in Euphoria since 2019. She is also known as a transgender activist and protested against HB2. Schafer has also modeled for Dior, Prada, Gucci, Calvin Klein, Coach, Tommy Hilfiger, Ver Wang, Marc Jacobs and other fashion houses.
She is in The Hunger Games prequel film The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes, which will be released in November.
Evan Rachel Wood
Evan Rachel Wood, 36, was born in Raleigh to actress Sara Moore and father Ira David Wood III, a playmaker.
Wood was involved in Theatre in the Park in Raleigh and appeared in her father’s adaptation of A Christmas Carol. She briefly attended Cary Elementary School before moving to Los Angeles with her mother.
Wood appeared in TV series such as American Gothic (1995-1996), Once and Again (1999-2002) and Westworld (2016-2022). She appeared movies such as Thirteen (2003), The Upside of Anger (2005), Frozen II (2019) and Weird: The Al Yankovic Story (2022).
Wood married Jamie Bell in 2012 and had their son in 2013. They divorced in 2014.
Wood has been nominated for three Emmy Awards and three Golden Globe awards during her career.
North Carolina was the home for three U.S. presidents that served between 1829 and 1869.
Andrew Jackson was born in 1767 in the Waxhaw Settlements between North and South Carolina. He became a lawyer in Tennessee and was a slave owner.
Jackson was the first person elected from Tennessee to the House of Representatives, and served briefly in the Senate. According to the White House Historical Association, he was a major general in the War of 1812 and became a national hero when he defeated the British at New Orleans.
Jackson was a Democrat and won the presidency in 1828. He was the seventh U.S. President between 1829 and 1837. In 1830 he signed the Indian Removal Act, which displaced thousands of Native Americans from Mississippi.
According to the White House Historical Association, the Federal Union was challenged when South Carolina threatened to to nullify a tariff set by the government. However, the tariffs were lowered and the State dropped nullification. Jackson also vetoed to reauthorize the Second Bank of the United States, and it was eventually dismantled. As one of his final presidential acts, Jackson recognized the Republic of Texas.
Jackson married Rachel Donelson in 1794 and they had two children. Jackson’s face is on the front of the $20 bill. He died in 1845 at 78 years old. Jackson is buried next to his wife in Tennessee.
James K. Polk
James K. Polk was born in 1795 in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. He graduated from UNC in 1818, became a lawyer, served in the Tennessee legislature and was a friend of Andrew Jackson.
He owned slaves for most of his adult life and became a cotton planter. Polk’s will stated that his slaves would be freed after he and his wife died.
Polk married Sarah Childress in 1824. They did not have children.
Polk was also the Governor of Tennessee and was the 13th Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Polk was a Democrat and was elected president in 1844, and served one term from 1845-1849.
His presidency is most known for the Mexican American War, in which Mexico relinquished the entire American Southwest. Polk pledged to only serve one term and retired in 1849.
Three months after his presidency ended, Polk died on June 15, 1849.
Andrew Johnson was born in Raleigh in 1808. Johnson grew up in poverty and was apprenticed to a tailor as a boy before running away.
He opened a tailor shop in Tennessee and married Eliza McCardle in 1827. They had five children. Johnson was a slave owner, but freed them in 1863 during the Civil War.
According to the White House Historical Association, Johnson served in the House of Representatives and Senate during the 1840s and 1850s. He was later appointed Military Governor of Tennessee by President Abraham Lincoln.
Johnson was Lincoln’s running mate in 1864 and became Vice President in 1865. One month after taking office, Lincoln was assassinated and Johnson became the president.
He proceeded to reconstruct the former Confederate States in 1865. Republicans refused to seat legislators from states that passed Black Codes to deprive former slaves from civil liberties. Johnson vetoed those bills and Republicans overrode his veto, making the Civil Rights Act of 1866 become law.
Johnson also opposed the Fourteenth Amendment, which granted citizenship to former slaves. It was ratified in 1868.
In 1867, Congress passed laws placing restrictions on the President. Johnson allegedly violated one of the laws, the Tenure of Office Act, by dismissing Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton. The House voted 11 articles of impeachment against him, making Johnson the first president to be impeached.
Johnson was tried by the Senate in 1868 and was acquitted by one vote. Johnson sought the 1868 Democratic nominee for president, but lost the nomination. His term ended March 4, 1869.
Johnson returned to politics in 1875 and served as a U.S. Senator for Tennessee, but died five months into his term on July 31, 1875.
James Taylor, 75, was born in Massachusetts in 1948 and moved to Chapel Hill, North Carolina in 1951.
Taylor achieved his musical breakthrough in 1970 with “Fire and Rain,” and had his first number one hit in 1971 with his recording of “You’ve Got a Friend.” He also wrote “Carolina In My Mind” in 1968. His most recent album, American Standard, was released in 2020.
Taylor has won six Grammy Awards, is a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, a North Carolina Music Hall of Fame inductee, Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient and a Kennedy Center Honor recipient.
He married Carly Simon in 1972 and had two children before divorcing in 1983. Taylor then married Kathryn Walker in 1985, but they divorced in 1996. Taylor married Caroline Smedvig in 2001 and they have twin boys.
Jermaine Cole, 38, also known as J. Cole, was born on a military base in Germany and was raised in Fayetteville, North Carolina.
Cole graduated from Terry Sanford High School in Fayetteville. He then graduated in 2007 from St. John’s University in New York.
Cole signed to Jay Z’s entertainment agency, Roc Nation in 2009. He released his debut studio album Cole World: The Sideline Story in 2011, which debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200. Cole’s fifth album, KOD, (2018), became his fifth number-one album on the Billboard 200. It also featured six simultaneous top twenty hits on the Billboard Hot 100, tying with the Beatles.
In January 2015, Cole began housing single mothers rent-free at his home in Fayetteville.
Cole’s most recent album, The Off-Season, was released in 2021. As of 2023, he has won a Grammy Award, a Billboard Music Award, and eight BET Hip Hop Awards. All five of Cole’s albums have been certified platinum.
In 2019, Cole started the annual Dreamville Festival in Raleigh, North Carolina at Dorothea Dix Park. Drake, Usher, SZA, 21 Savage, Big Sean and Nelly have all performed at the festival.
Cole is married and has two children.
Luke Combs, 33, was born in Huntersville, North Carolina and grew up in Asheville. he attended Appalachian State University and was a performer at the bar he worked at. Combs dropped out to pursue a music career.
His first single, “Hurricane” (2016), debuted at number 46 on the Hot Country Charts. It was re-released in 2017, hitting number one on country radio. Combs’ debut album, This One’s For You (2017), hit number one on Billboard’s country charts and number five on the Billboard 200.
Since then, Combs released three more hit albums: What You See Is What You Get (2019), Growin’ Up (2022) and Gettin’ Old (2023). His cover of Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car” was streamed on Spotify over 65 million times less than two months after its release.
Combs has been nominated for three Grammy Awards, won four Academy of Country Music Awards and six Country Music Awards. He is married and has two children.
Jonathan Kirk, also known as “DaBaby”, 31, was born in Cleveland, Ohio, but grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina. He graduated from Chambers High School in 2010 and attended UNC Greensboro for two years before dropping out.
Kirk release several mixtapes between 2014 and 2018. Kirk released his debut album, Baby on Baby in 2019, which included the hit single “Suge.”
His second studio album, Kirk (2019), debuted at number one on the Billboard 200. The album had the highest-charting song, “Rockstar” (featuring Roddy Ricch), and spent several weeks at number one on the Billboard Top 100. his most recent album, Baby on Baby 2, was released in 2022.
Kirk has won a BET Award, two Billboard Music Awards and has been nominated for eight Grammy Awards. He has four children.
Randy Travis, 64, was born as Randy Traywick in 1959 in Union County, North Carolina. He began singing in the church choir at eight years old and performed in talent shows.
Travis released his first country single “Dreamin'” in 1978, but was rejected by every major record label in Nashville. Travis had his breakthrough with the album Storms of Life (1986), which sold over four million copies. Travis had a stroke in 2013, and he could not sing or talk for several years. Before his stroke, he recorded 20 studio albums and more than 50 singles were charted with 16 number ones.
Travis performed at his Country Music Hall of Fame induction in 2016 and released an autobiography in 2019. Travis’ most recent album, Precious Memories (Worship & Faith) was released in 2020.
Travis has won seven Grammy Awards, six Country Music Awards, 11 Academy of Country Music Awards, 10 American Music Awards and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Travis married his first wife in 1991. Travis married his second wife in 2015. Travis has no children.
You can’t mention North Carolina without mentioning Michael Jordan, 60. Jordan was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1963 and moved to Wilmington, North Carolina in 1968.
He played basketball in high school and accepted a scholarship at UNC where he played under coach Dean Smith.
At UNC, Jordan won the NCAA Championship in 1982, was ACC Player of the Year, ACC Athlete of the Year, ACC Rookie of the Year, and had his jersey No. 23 retired by the North Carolina Tar Heels.
Jordan declared for the 1984 NBA Draft one year before his scheduled graduation. He was the third overall pick by the Chicago Bulls and played on the team between 1984-1993 before his first retirement. He came back to the Bulls and played between 1995-1998. Jordan became a six-time NBA champion with the Chicago Bulls winning in 1991, 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997 and 1998. His No. 23 jersey was retired by the Bulls.
Between 1993-1995, Jordan played Minor League baseball and first signed with the Chicago White Sox in 1994. He then played for the Birmingham Barons, a minor affiliate of the Chicago White Sox.
Jordan returned to the NBA in 1995, winning three championships and retired for the second from basketball in 1998. Jordan returned to basketball with the Washington Wizards and played between 2001-2003. Jordan also played for the U.S. national basketball team in the 1984 and 1992 Olympics, winning two gold medals.
The National Basketball Association’s website states that “by acclamation, Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player of all time.” His other accolades include 5x NBA Most Valuable Player, 14x NBA All Star, NBA Defensive Player of the Year, NBA Rookie of the Year, and 10x NBA scoring champion. The Miami Heat also retired the No. 23 jersey. Jordan also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016 and is a member of the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame.
Jordan was an owner of the Charlotte Hornets from 2006-2023. Jordan sold his majority stake in August for $3 billion.
Jordan has three children from his first marriage to Juanita Vanoy and two from his second marriage to Yvette Prieto. Jordan own homes in Lake Norman, North Carolina, Chicago and Jupiter, Florida.
Wardell Stephen Curry Jr., 35, also known as Steph, was born in Akron, Ohio, before moving to Charlotte. His father, Dell Curry, is a former NBA player and his brother, Seth Curry, plays for the Dallas Mavericks.
Curry’s father played with the Charlotte Hornets and he and his brother shot hoops with the players during warm ups. Curry went to Davidson College and opted out of his senior season to declare for the NBA Draft. Curry earned his degree in sociology in 2022.
Curry was the seventh overall pick by the Golden State Warriors during the 2009 NBA Draft. He is currently a point guard with the team. Curry is a 4x NBA champion, winning in 2015, 2017, 2018 and 2022. He also is a 2x Most Valuable Player for the 2015 and 2016 season.
Curry is considered as the greatest shooter and one of the greatest NBA players in history. He is a 9x NBA All Star member and an NBA All Star Game MVP. Curry was also declared AP Athlete of the Year in 2015 and was an NCAA season scoring leader in 2009. Curry’s No. 30 jersey was retired by the Davidson Wildcats.
Curry is married with three children and lives in California.
Roy Williams, 73, was born in McDowell County, North Carolina in 1950. Williams’ family relocated to Asheville, where he grew up. Williams attended UNC and played under Coach Dean Smith before assisting him.
Williams took his first coaching job as a high school basketball coach in 1973 at Charles D. Owen High School in Black Mountain, North Carolina. He then assisted Smith at UNC from 1978 until 1988.
Williams became head coach at Kansas in 1988, taking the team to 14 consecutive NCAA tournaments, four Final Four appearances and two national championship appearances. With Kansas, he won three Big 12 tournaments and one Big Eight tournament.
Williams left Kansas in 2003 and became head coach of the Carolina Tarheels and retired in 2021. Williams won three NCAA Championships in 2005, 2009 and 2017. He made nine Final Four appearances and won three ACC Tournaments.
Williams was inducted into the College basketball Hall of Fame in 2006 and the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007. He won two ACC Coach of the Year awards and two AP National Coach of the Year awards. Williams also received a bronze medal as an assistant coach for the United States during the 2004 Olympics.
In 2021, the North Carolina State Board of Transportation named Interstate 40 between north Carolina Highway 86 and U.S. 15-501 “Roy Williams Highway.” Williams and his wife have one son who played basketball at UNC.