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15 Famous People From Wichita

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Barry Sanders

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Kirstie Alley

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Jim Ryun

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Joe Walsh

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Lynette Woodard

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Don Johnson

Wichita may not be known for being known, but you might be surprised by some of the famous Wichitans out there. Here’s a list of 15 famous people who were either born in Wichita or attended school here. 

Many of our picks are celebrities you've seen on TV, others have made great accomplishments to gain their fame. 


1. Joe Walsh

The Eagles singer and guitarist was born in Wichita on November 20, 1947 but grew up in Columbus, Ohio.

2. Kirstie Alley

The former “Cheers” star was born in Wichita on January 12, 1951. She graduated from Southeast High in Wichita and also went to Kansas State University. Kirstie currently owns a home in Wichita’s College Hill neighborhood.

3. Don Johnson

An actor best known for playing Sonny Crockett on the ‘80s TV series “Miami Vice”, Johnson lived in Wichita off and on during his elementary and junior high years. He graduated from Wichita’s South High School and the University of Kansas.

4. Barry Sanders

Sanders is a former professional football player who was born in Wichita on July 16, 1968 and graduated from Wichita North High. He won the Heisman Trophy as a college running back. He also won several awards as a pro with the Detroit Lions, including Rookie of the Year. In 1997, he set a record for rushing more than 2000 yards that season.

5. Lynette Woodard

The first female member of the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team was born in Wichita on August 12, 1959. She was a standout on the University of Kansas women’s basketball team, setting several NCCAA records. In 1984, she was the captain of the women’s Olympic basketball team, which won gold. Woodard has also played professional basketball overseas and with the WNBA.

6. Gregg Marshall

Gregg Marshall, Head basketball coach at Wichita State University, is nationally known for leading his team to success.

7. Hattie McDaniel

The first African-American to win an academy award, McDaniel was born in Wichita on June 10, 1895. She won the award for playing Mammy in “Gone With the Wind”, and she was also the first African-American to attend the Oscars.

8. Colton Haynes

Born in 1988 right here in Wichita. Colton Haynes is an actor, Known for his roles in MTV's Teen Wolf, as well as The CW's Arrow.

9. Karla Burns

An actress known for playing Queenie in “Showboat” on Broadway, Burns grew up in Wichita and graduated from Wichita State University. She was nominated for a Tony Award in 1983, and won a Laurence Olivier Theatre Award in 1991. She was the first black person to win the prestigious British theatre award.

10. Vernon L. Smith

Born in Wichita on January 1, 1927, the economics professor won the 2002 Nobel Prize for Economics with Daniel Kahneman. He won the award for developing experiments for the study of economic behavior.

11. Stan Kenton

Kenton was a pianist, composer and band leader who was born December 15, 1911, in Wichita. He considered Wichita his hometown even though he didn’t grow up here. He founded one of the most influential and progressive jazz bands of the Big Band Era in the late 30s and early 40s.

12. Jeff Probst

The host of TVs “Survivor” reality show was born in Wichita on November 4, 1961. He’s won several Emmy Awards for being a reality show host and producer. According to CBS, the station that airs “Survivor”, Probst has said his first job was bussing tables in Wichita at an Elks Lodge.

13. Jim Lehrer

An author and TV news reporter, Lehrer was born in Wichita on May 19, 1934. He’s a former news anchor for PBS NewsHour, and he has been a moderator for several presidential candidate debates. Lehrer has also won two Emmy Awards.

14. Ann Dunham

United States President Barack Obama’s mother, Ann Dunham, was born at St. Francis Hospital in Wichita on November 29, 1942. Her full name was Stanley Ann Dunham, after her father.

15. Jim Ryun

While he was a student at Wichita East High, Ryun became the first high-school athlete to run a mile in under 4 minutes. He was born in Wichita on April 29, 1947, and by 1966, he held several world records for running: the mile, half mile, and 1500 meters. He was a 3-time Olympian, and won silver in the 1500 meters at the 1968 Olympic Games. ESPN named him the Best High School Athlete Ever in 2007.

Who Would You Add?

Of course, this isn’t every famous Wichitan. Who else would you add to this list?

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