Famous East Texans You May Not Have Known About
We all know how Lindale's Miranda Lambert has vaulted to country music stardom. Longview native Matthew McConaughey is a huge movie star. There's Neal McCoy and Lee Ann Womack but who else from East Texas has become famous?
Here are ten you may not have known about.
Carl Gardner was born and raised in Tyler. His claim to fame is as lead singer of The Coasters. The group had huge hits in the 50's and 60's with songs like “Yakety Yak,” “Charlie Brown” and “Poison Ivy.” Carl passed away in 2011.
Tex is known as the "Signing Cowboy" and appeared in numerous signing cowboy films in the '30s and 40's and many TV shows. Ritter was born in 1905 in Panola County. He went to grade school in Carthage before graduating high school in Beaumont. At UT Austin, he studied pre-law and majored in government, political science, and economics. He was named to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1964.
Sandy Duncan was born in Henderson, raised in Tyler, and perhaps best known for starring on Broadway in “Peter Pan.” She also starred on TV's “The Hogan Family” and "The Sandy Duncan Show." Her movie roles include Disney's “The Cat from Outer Space” and has voiced characters in the "Fox and the Hound" and "My Little Pony."
Sissy Spacek was born in Quitman. She is most famous for her performance as Loretta Lynn in “The Coal Miner’s Daughter,” which she won an Academy Award for, and playing Carrie White in the Brian De Palma-directed horror classic “Carrie.” In all, she is a six time Academy Award nominee and three time Golden Globe winner. She currently is starring in the Netflix series "Bloodline."
Palestine native Gene Watson is likely well known to any country music fan. He's had numerous hits including “Love in the Hot Afternoon,” “14 Carat Mind,” “Should I Come Home (Or Should I Go Crazy)” and his signature tune “Farewell Party.” Watson was inducted into the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame in 2002 and the Houston Music Hall of Fame in 2013.
Stand-up comedian Rodney Carrington was born in Longview. His brand of raunchy comedy has produced several tours and numerous comedy albums. He had his own sitcom "Rodney" on ABC (which was cancelled midway through its second season). He also starred in the movie "Beer For My Horses" based on the country song by Toby Keith. He is currently on his "Here Comes The Truth Tour".
Oscar-winning actor Forest Whitaker was born in Longview. His movie roles are extensive including "Platoon," "Good Morning, Vietnam," "Bloodsport" and "Fast Times at Ridgemont High." He won an Oscar for “The Last King of Scotland” where he played Ugandan dictator Idi Amin. He also had a regular part on the TV show “The Shield”. He did have a part in what is considered the worst movie ever made, "Battlefield Earth." He can be seen this December in "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story."
Will Jennings was raised in Chapil Hill and attended college at SFA. He has become a very successful songwriter writing for artists like Steve Winwood, B.B. King, Rodney Crowell, Mariah Carey, Jimmy Buffett, Barry Manilow Roy Orbison and many more. He had a hand in writing Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” for the movie Titanic and Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven.” For his work, he has won three Grammy Awards, two Golden Globe Awards, two Academy Awards and has been inducted into the Songwriter's Hall of Fame.
Noble Willingham was born in Mineola. He is best known for playing Chuck Norris' partner, C.D. Parker, on “Walker, Texas Ranger.” He has appeared in numerous films including “Good Morning, Vietnam,” “City Slickers," "Norma Rae" and "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective". He co-starred in episodes of the TV shows "Murder She Wrote", "Star Trek: The Next Generation", "Northern Exposure" and "The Rockford Files."
Margo Martindale was born in Jacksonville and starred in films such as "The Hours," "Million Dollar Baby," "The Firm," "Lorenzo's Oil," and made her silver screen debut in "The Rocketeer." She won an Emmy for her role on FX's “Justified" the crime family matriarch Mags Bennett. She is currently starring another FX series “The Americans.” Her acting experience also expands to Broadway where she starred in and received a Tony Award nomination for her performance in "Cat On a Hot Tin Roof."