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Notable People from Florida Who Became Famous Around the World

Famous People from Florida
Florida is proud to be home to some of the world's most famous people. Floridians take pride in the talented people that the state has produced. This Historyplex article tells you about the 15 most famous people from Florida.
Manali Oak
Did You Know?
Jacqueline Cochran (1906 - 1980), who was a pioneering figure in American Aviation, the first woman pilot to "go supersonic" and the first woman to fly a bomber across the Atlantic, was a Floridian.
Some of the most famous people from Florida include Academy Award winners like Sidney Poitier and Faye Dunaway, and the Nobel Prize winner George Smoot. Here we tell you about these Floridians and some more. Let us take a look at the famed figures who call Florida their home. We have enlisted them in the alphabetical order.
Burt Reynolds
Burt Reynolds
He is an American actor, director, and producer who has won two Golden Globe awards. Born on February 11, 1936, Georgia, he moved to Riviera Beach, Florida at the age of 10. As a child, he was good at football. His skill at the sport earned him a scholarship to the Florida State University. Due to an injury and an accident, he had to opt out of a career in football, which he had aspired for. While studying at the Palm Beach Junior College, Watson B. Duncan was his teacher, who suggested him to act in a play that he would be producing. His work in plays and on television was appreciated. His role in the sitcom Evening Shade earned him an Emmy award as well as a Golden Globe. His credit as a TV actor fetched him roles in low-budget films. Angel Baby was his first movie. Some of his notable films include The Longest Yard, Striptease, and Boogie Nights.
Cannonball Adderley
Julian Edwin "Cannonball" Adderley was born on September 15, 1928. He was a jazz alto saxophonist of world renown. He was from Tampa but migrated to New York in 1955. He met with acclaim for his musical work, in the 1950s and the '60s. His playing showed influences of the electric jazz style and the style of doubling on soprano saxophone. He gave several live performances and also appeared on television. This Year, Walk Tall, and Work Song are some of the works that Adderley made popular. He died in 1975. He was inducted to the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame. He was a winner of the Grammy Award in 1967.
Danell Leyva
He is a Cuban-American gymnast and the winner of Olympic Bronze in 2012. He was born on October 30, 1991 in Cuba. His parents defected to Miami the following year. He took part in the 2006 Winter Cup. In the Junior Division of the US National Championships, he won a gold medal for Floor Exercise and Horizontal Bar and tied for a silver medal for Parallel Bars. At the 2008 Junior National Championships, he won the all-round, high bar, parallel bars, and pommel horse titles. At the age of 17, he was the youngest member of the US national Senior team. In 2011, he won the first All-Around US National Championship at the Senior Level. At the 2012 London Olympics, he won the bronze medal in the Men's All Around. He specializes in parallel bars and horizontal bar.
Fabiano Caruana
He is an Italian-American chess grandmaster, ranked as the world's Number 3 player. He holds the record of being the youngest grandmaster in the history of Italy and the United States. Born on July 30, 1992, in Miami, Florida, he shifted to New York at the age of four. At the age of five, his talent in chess was found out during a school chess program. To pursue a career in chess, he moved to Madrid in 2004, and to Budapest in 2007. He earned the first grandmaster title in July 2007. With the Elo rating of 2844 that he obtained in October 2014, he became the third highest rated player in history.
Faye Dunaway
Faye Dunaway
An Academy Award-winning actress of the '60s, Dorothy Faye Dunaway is one of the prominent names on the list of famous American actresses. Born on January 14, 1941 in Bascom, Florida, she was raised in different parts of the United States and Europe. As a child, she took classes in dancing and singing. At the age of 21, she took acting classes at the American National Theater and Academy. The Happening that was released in 1967 was her first movie. Hurry Sundown of the same year earned her a nomination for the Golden Globe Award for Best New Star of the Year. After about half a decade from 1968, of less commercial successes, Dunaway's career soared again with films like Chinatown and The Towering Inferno. She continues her acting career in independent films and on television.
George Smoot
George Smoot
He is the only Nobel Prize winner born in Florida. Born on February 20, 1945, he graduated from a school in Ohio. From the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he obtained a bachelor's degree in mathematics and physics and a Ph.D. in particle physics. He worked in the field of cosmology. For his work on the Cosmic Background Explorer, that led to the "discovery of the black body form and anisotropy of the cosmic microwave background radiation", he won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2006. His work helped in taking the Big Bang theory ahead and in the development of cosmology as a science. He is the winner of the Einstein Medal, the Oersted Medal and the USD 1 million prize on Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?.
Gloria Estefan
Gloria Estefan
She is a Cuban-American singer, songwriter, actress, and entrepreneur. She was born on September 1, 1957 in Cuba. But due to the Cuban revolution, her family moved to Miami, Florida. Her career in singing began in 1977, when she was a lead vocalist for the group Miami Sound Machine. The first single released by this band was the song Conga released in 1985. It brought Estefan, its lead singer, a big success. After an accident in 1990, she came back in March 1991 with her album Into the Light. The Spanish album Mi Tierra that came out in 1993, earned her a Grammy Award. She gave many great hits through the 1990s and the following two decades. She is the proud winner of seven Grammy Awards, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and the Ellis Island Congressional Medal of Honor. A winner of many other awards like the American Music Award for Lifetime Achievement, she is among the world's best-selling music artists of all time. She had a brief career in acting with two films that were released in 1999 and 2000. She has written two children's books. With her husband Emilio, she is quite active in the restaurant business.
Hugh Wilson
Born on August 21, 1943, in Miami, Florida, he is an American movie director, writer, and a television showrunner. He obtained a degree in journalism from the University of Florida in 1961. In 1966, he ventured advertising, working as a copywriter and then a creative director. In 1976, he wrote for the Bob Newhart Show. The following year, he co-produced the Tony Randall Show. In 1978, he created WKRP in Cincinnati which was nominated for the Emmy Award in the Best Comedy category. In 1988, he came up with Frank's Place, which earned him an Emmy award for Best Writing and three Emmy nominations.
Hugo Vihlen
He made a world record by crossing the Atlantic Ocean in sailboats in 1968 and 1993. He was born on November 13, 1931, in Florida. He worked as a co-pilot for Delta Air Lines. On March 29, 1968, he set sail on a boat called April Fool. He covered 4100 miles in 84 days. In 1993, he crossed the North Atlantic in a boat called Father's Day. He is best-known as the single-handed sailor who crossed the Atlantic in two small sailboats.
Jacqueline Cochran
She was born on May 11, 1906 in Muscogee, Florida. In the 1930s, Cochran began taking flying lessons at Roosevelt Airfield, Long Island. Within a short period of three months, she could fly an airplane and earned a pilot's license in just two years. By 1938, she was considered as the best female pilot in the United States. To enlist her record-breaking achievements, she was the first woman to break the sound barrier, the first woman to fly, the first woman to fly a bomber across the Atlantic and the first female pilot to fly a jet across an ocean. She was the proud winner of five Harmon Trophies for her exceptional skills as a woman pilot. She made notable contributions to the formation of the wartime Women's Auxiliary Army Camps and the Women Air force Service Pilots. She died, aged 74, in Indio, California.
Janet Reno
Janet Reno
Born on July 21, 1938, Janet Reno was the Attorney General of the United States who served from 1993 to 2001. She was one of the two Danish Americans in the cabinet. Janet Reno was born in Miami, Florida and attended a public school in Miami-Dade County, Florida. After majoring in Chemistry from the Cornell University in New York, she became the President of the Woman's Self-Government Association. In 1963, she received her LL.B. from Harvard. In 1971, Reno became the staff director of the Judiciary Committee of the Florida House of Representatives. Later, in 1993, President Bill Clinton nominated her as the Attorney General of the United States and she was confirmed on March 11. After her tenure, she toured the world delivering speeches about the criminal justice system. She strongly believes in the association between the education system and crime in a country. She feels the need for the Government to assist the juvenile courts in working towards solving problems of the disturbed children and adolescents of the country.
Philip Don Estridge
Born on June 23, 1937, in Jacksonville, Florida, he earned a Bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from the University of Florida. He worked at the Army where he designed a radar system using computers. He later worked at the NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. In 1980, he took charge of the IBM Entry Level Systems and started working on developing the IBM PC. The first model they built was IBM PC model 5150, which was expandable and cost-effective. In 1984, he was the Vice President at IBM. He was offered a high position in Apple, which he did not accept. He, and his wife died in an air crash on August 2, 1985. The CIO magazine has regarded him as a man who invented the enterprise. In developing IBM's first personal computer, his thoughts were different from the norm but they brought the company a huge success by increasing the computer sales.
Sidney Poiter
Sidney Poiter
He is an actor, director, author and diplomat, and the first African-American to win an Academy Award for Best Actor. He was born on February 20, 1927, in Miami, Florida and raised in the Bahamas. At the age of 15, he moved to Miami to stay with his brother and two years later, to New York City. There, he worked as a dishwasher, considered joining the Army, but landed in the American Negro Theatre. Initially, he wasn't accepted by the audience. But determined to be successful, he devoted himself to the field. His roles in Lysistrata (theater) and No Way Out (film) brought him some success and more roles. For the 1958 film, The Defiant Ones, he was nominated for the Academy Award. The 1963 film Lilies of the Field earned him the Academy Award for Best Actor. His most remembered role was that of Virgil Tibbs in the 1967 film In the Heat of the Night, that won five Academy Awards. He directed many films and also recorded an album called Poitier Meets Plato. He was the Ambassador of the Bahamas to Japan and the Ambassador of the Bahamas to UNESCO.
Tom Petty
Best known as the lead vocalist of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, he is popular among the youngsters and is one of the best-selling music artists of all time. Born on October 20, 1950 in Gainesville, Florida, he was interested in rock and roll since an early age of 10. He happened to meet Elvis Presley whom he began to admire. On seeing the Beatles, he rediscovered his love for music and found that he wanted to be in a band. He started a band called Epics which would later be called Mudcrutch. The band split up and Petty decided to start a solo career. Soon after, he teamed with Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench to release Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, which became popular, especially in Britain. The albums thereafter also gained popularity. In 1989, Petty signed a contract with Warner Bros. Records. His album Wildflowers sold more than three million copies in the US. In 1999, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers released Echo which was a huge hit. In 2007, Mudcrutch was formed again. Petty embarked upon a brief acting career in 1978. This musician, singer, songwriter, multiple instrument player, and record producer has been inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He has sold over 80 million records the world over.
Wallace Amos
Wallace Amos, better known as Wally Amos, was born on July 1, 1936 and spent his childhood in Tallahassee, Florida. Later he moved to Manhattan where he joined the Food Trades Vocational High School. Since his young age, he was keenly interested in cooking, especially in improving his aunt's chocolate cookie recipe. After graduation, he took up a clerical job in the William Morris Agency and later became the first African-American talent agent serving that agency. His chocolate cookies were an attraction among his friends as also his clients. On one of his friends' suggestion, Wallace Amos opened a cookie store in Los Angeles. The store was called 'Famous Amos' and it soon became popular throughout the United States. In 1994, he founded the 'Uncle Noname Gourmet Muffins Company', which focused on the production of fat-free muffins. The muffins made a huge sale across the nation. Wally Amos, currently a resident of New York, is truly a self-made man.
This was a list of only a few of the famous people from Florida. They are some of the most celebrated names from this state and shall be remembered for years to come.