Wichita was either the birthplace or hometown for many talented people from actors and musicians to athletes and artists. Being situated in the middle of the country, the city is the perfect hub for creativity, allowing people to branch out while not forgetting their homegrown roots.
Hattie McDaniel was an Oscar-winning actress who played Mammy in the classic movie Gone With the Wind. She was the first African-American woman to win an Academy Award, and also the first black woman in the country to sing on the radio. This multi-talented artist has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her roles on the silver screen and her work in radio. McDaniel was also honored as the first African-American Oscar-winner to be commemorated on a U.S. postage stamp. She was born in Wichita, but moved to Fort Collins, CO at the age of 5. Her sister, Etta McDaniel, and brother, Sam McDaniel, were both actors from Wichita. You can learn more about Hattie McDaniel’s life at The Kansas African-American Museum.
While Barbara Sinatra was not born in Wichita, she did spend her adolescent years here and graduated from North High School. Known best for her marriages to Zeppo Marx and Frank Sinatra, this model and socialite spent her time as a philanthropist. After her death in 2017, her family set up a facility in her honor, providing services for abuse victims in California.
Kirstie Alley is most well-known for her role in the late-80s sitcom, Cheers, where she played Rebecca Howe, the girlfriend of millionaire Robin Colcord (Roger Rees). Alley got her start as Lt. GJ Saavik on the sci-fi film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. She was born in Wichita and graduated from Southeast High School. This Emmy and Golden Globe Award-winning actor transformed her former Wichita home into the Church of Scientology Centre on E. Douglas Avenue.
Yes, the one and only Nash Bridges hails from Wichita. He moved here when he was 6-years-old and graduated from Wichita South High School. He won a Golden Globe for his role as Sonny Crockett on the hit TV series Miami Vice, and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. His daughter, Dakota Johnson, has made a name for herself in the movie industry, playing the lead female role in the 50 Shades of Grey series.
Downtown Wichita was one of the first places to be graced with the comedy of Sinbad, as he was stationed at McConnell Air Force Base during his time in the U.S. Air Force. Sinbad was a boom operator on KC-135 Stratotankers. He was almost kicked out of the military for numerous instances of going AWOL. He said he was eventually discharged for parking his car the wrong way.
One of the most popular reality television shows on TV has Kansas roots; Survivor host, Jeff Probst, was born right here in Wichita. The Emmy Award-winning host also was the front man of many game shows and has developed quite the resume as an executive producer in Hollywood.
Best known for his role as Kendall Knight on the smash hit Big Time Rush on Nickelodeon, Kendall Schmidt is a Wichita native, actor and musician. Playing in a band of the same name (Big Time Rush), he quickly rose to fame. Schmidt has also had roles in A.I.: Artificial Intelligence, Gilmore Girls and CSI: Miami.
With a career spanning more than four decades, Joe Walsh made a name for himself as a musician and songwriter. Most well-known for his time spent with the rock band, The Eagles, Walsh was inducted into the Rock ‘N Roll Hall of Fame and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame. He also played with numerous other successful bands including The Party Boys, Ring Starr & His All Starr Band, James Gang and Barnstorm. He also spent time as a solo artist.
Rich Mullins was a Friends University student and popular Christian artist known best for his original songs, “Awesome God” and “Step by Step.” Mullins’ music has been used in churches around the world. He died in a tragic car crash on his way from Illinois to a benefit concert at Wichita State University. The feature film, “Ragamuffin,” tells about his life and legacy.
Andrew Lloyd Webber, the creator of the classic opera, The Phantom of the Opera, hand-picked Chris Mann to play the Phantom for the performance’s North American Tour. Mann is most well-known for his run on NBC’s The Voice, where he came in fourth place as part of Team Christina. He graduated from Wichita Southeast and attended Vanderbilt University. Upon college graduation, Mann scored a spot in an European opera.
Olympic Silver Medal-winner Jim Ryun was the first high school student athlete to run a mile in less than four minutes. He attended Wichita East High School where he set the record for the fastest time that held for nearly 40 years. Ryun was born in Wichita and currently lives in Lawrence. He spent time in the United States House of Representatives after former Rep. Todd Tiahrt suggested he make a bid for office.
Two-time NFL Offensive Player of the Year, Barry Sanders, is a homegrown Wichita athlete who graduated from Wichita North High School. As a former running back for the Detroit Lyons, Sanders is known as one of the best NFL players to never get a chance to play in the Super Bowl. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame during his time as an Oklahoma State Cowboy, and later into the Professional Football Hall of Fame upon retirement.
Gale Sayers is known for being one of the most difficult players to tackle during the seven seasons he played for the Chicago Bears. After being plague by injuries, the KU alumnus won the NFL honor of Comeback Player of the Year. He was originally drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs and the Chicago Bears, and chose to play with Chicago despite the Chiefs offering a larger salary. His first season ended in success, as Sayers racked up 22 touchdowns and an NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award. Gale Sayers was known as “The Kansas Comet,” and was the youngest person to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame at the age of 34 in 1977.
Dave Stallworth is not a Wichita native, but he is one of the most revered players in WSU Shocker history, helping the Shocks enter the 1964 NCAA Division I Basketball Tournament. “Dave the Rave” was soon picked in round one by the New York Knicks and began his professional career. Stallworth played eight seasons for the Knicks contributing to the team’s 1969-70 championship title.
Though he was born in Oklahoma City, OK, Antoine Carr moved to Wichita and played basketball at Wichita Heights High School along with fellow future-NBA player, Darnell Valentine. Carr won a scholarship to play at Wichita State University, where he played all four years before being selected by the Detroit Pistons in the first round. Instead, he went to Italy to play with Simac Milano. Carr went on to play for NBA teams like the Atlanta Hawks, Sacramento Kings, San Antonio Spurs and the Utah Jazz before retiring after the 1999-00 season. Antoine Carr scored 9.176 total points in his NBA stint and was known for his bright-colored goggles after sustaining an eye injury.
This Portland Trail Blazer was born in Chicago, but played high school ball with Antoine Carr at Wichita Heights. Valentine went to KU where he was part of the All-American team, as well as a member of the 1980 Summer Olympics men’s basketball team. Due to a boycott, he and his teammates were not able to play, but they did get Congressional Gold Medals. Valentine played for several NBA teams including the Los Angeles Clippers and Cleveland Cavaliers.
This Wichita North graduate-turned-WBNA-superstar was also the first woman who played for the Harlem Globetrotters. Woodard and the U.S. Women’s Basketball Team won a gold medal in the 1984 Olympic games. In 1990, Lynette Woodard was inducted into the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame. She is now the head coach at Winthrop University.
The mother of the 44th President of the United States spent her childhood in Wichita, but her adventures and career would had her moving around a lot. Ann Dunham was an anthropologist who focused on the rural development of Indonesia. She spent her teen years throughout the Midwest, but eventually settled down in Hawaii, making numerous trips to Indonesia to continue her work. Dr. Dunham’s first name is Stanley, she said, because she was named after her father, who always wanted a son.