Eight Famous People From Rocky Mount, North Carolina

8 famous people from Rocky Mount ncNorth Carolina has produced its share of famous individuals. But did you know that several of them have come from our very own Rocky Mount? These men and women have made significant contributions to American culture and education. 

Earle Hyman, who played Russell Huxtable on The Cosby Show, was born in Rocky Mount. Hyman is a distinguished African American actor with a 46-year-long career on Broadway. He was only eleven years older than Bill Cosby, despite playing Cosby’s television father.

Although Entertainment Tonight host, Terrance J., was not born in Rocky Mount, he did spend his early years here. He attended Northern Nash High and worked at Soul 92 Jams. 

Buck Leonard, one of the greatest baseball players of all time, was born in Rocky Mount. Leonard played with the Homestead Grays of Negro Baseball League, where he earned a reputation as the "Black Lou Gehrig."

A lesser known, but highly influential contributor to the state of North Carolina is Elias Carr, who was born in Edgecombe County in 1839. Carr was instrumental in creating NC State University and was elected Governor of North Carolina in 1892. A building on the UNC Chapel Hill campus is named after him.

Allan Gurganus was born in Rocky Mount. This award-winning novelist, short story writer and essayist has been deemed the “Mark Twain of our time.” He still lives in North Carolina, and his is work is often influenced by and set in the state.

American actress, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, was born in Rocky Mount. She is probably best known for her roles in horror films: Final Destination 3, Black Christmas, The Ring 2, and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. But prior to launching her film career, Mary attended the Joffrey Academy of Dance at the age of 11.  She later performed opposite of Donny Osmond on Broadway. She’s also a distant cousin of Ava Gardner.

Thelonius Monk, a renowned jazz pianist and composer, was born in Rocky Mount and spent the first five years of his life here. His parents later moved the family to Manhattan.  He is the second-most recorded jazz composer after Duke Ellington and one of only five jazz musicians to have been featured on the cover of Time Magazine. Monk was posthumously awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

Professional boxer, Sugar Ray Leonard, was born in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. He won the gold medal in boxing at the 1976 Olympic Games and turned pro the following year. His well-known defeat of "Marvelous" Marvin Hagler is considered one of the greatest professional boxing matches of all time. He retired in 1997 and was inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame.
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