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 can also be seen on the Netflix original series "Bloodline."
Palestine native Gene Watson has had numerous country 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. He also starred in the movie "Beer For My Horses" based on the country song by Toby Keith.
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”.
Will Jennings was raised in Chapel Hill and attended college at SFA. You have never heard his voice but know many of his songs. He had a hand in writing Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On”, which was featured in the movie Titanic and Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven.” He has also written songs for music mainstays Steve Winwood, B.B. King, Rodney Crowell, Mariah Carey, Jimmy Buffett, Barry Manilow, Roy Orbison and many more. 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 also appeared in the movies “Good Morning, Vietnam,” “City Slickers," "Norma Rae" and "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective" and co-starred in 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 "The Rocketeer." She won an Emmy for her role on FX's “Justified" and 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."