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Born and Raised: Famous People Who Came From Louisville (You Might Be Surprised!)

The dating site Cupid.com recently found, in a survey of 2000 people, that the twang of the southern drawl is thought to be the sexiest accent in America. It's no wonder then that Louisville, smack in the heart of the Ohio River valley, boasts more than its fair share of charismatic celebrities. Check out this list of literary, scientific, and popular culture heroes with a Louisville connection, all of whom were shaped by their early Louisville experiences.

Writers and Company

In the world of journalism, there are few as famous as standout Louisville gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson. The author of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas got his start writing about the Kentucky Derby in Rolling Stone magazine in the early 1970s, and went on to notoriety as a member of the counterculture and left-wing political commentator. Another media celebrity, 60 Minutes' Diane Sawyer, was born in Glasgow but moved to Kentucky as a child. Sawyer was the first female correspondent on the show, exhibiting a combination of warmth and toughness that landed her interviews with Fidel Castro and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

No Business Like Show Business

Some of Hollywood's finest talents have a Kentucky pedigree, including Tom Cruise and director Gus Van Sant. But it's not only the movies that can catapult the talented to stardom: Muhammad Ali, the Sportsman of the Century, was raised in a middle class family in Louisville.  Born Cassius Clay, Ali chose the name Mohammad out of his affiliation with the Nation of Islam, popularized by Malcolm X.  The boxer who "floated like a butterfly, and stung like a bee" went on to become multiple winner of the Heavyweight Champion of the World title.

Dian Fossey and John James Audubon: A Connection With Nature

The rugged beauty of Kentucky instills in many of its native sons and daughters a lifelong connection to the land. Most people associate primatologist Dian Fossey with Africa, where she gained fame, and lost her life defending the mountain gorillas of Uganda. Yet Fossey spent her early career as an occupational therapist at Kosair Crippled Children's Hospital in Louisville, traveling to Africa to work with famed anthropologist Louis Leakey before returning to write about her experiences in the Courier-Journal.

Nearly two centuries before Fossey's remarkable career, the French-American naturalist and painter John James Audubon set up a trading post and general store along the Ohio River, where the panoramic views allowed him to study the abundant bird life of the region. Audubon hunted, trapped, and fished alongside the Native American inhabitants of the Ohio River Valley. He eventually published Birds of America, which features his original paintings of the Kentucky Warbler and the iconic wild turkey.

Whether they chose to disguise their roots by ironing out their vowels like Tom Cruise, or held on to their southern roots with fierce pride, like Hunter S. Thompson, Louisville's most famous residents have made their mark in the arts, sports, and sciences. The charm and charisma of the quintessential southern gentleman or southern belle wasn't always the red carpet upon which Louisville's achievers trod: rather, the link between these hometown carriers of proud Kentucky traditions seems to be grit, forbearance, and a healthy sense of adventure.

About the Author:  Joe Hayden is the Team Owner and Manager of the Joe Hayden Real Estate Team - !

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