Famous people from Owensboro

For most visitors, it comes as a huge shock when we tell them Johnny Depp is from Owensboro. In fact, Depp still visits Owensboro from time to time to see family members who live here! 

But Depp isn’t the only famous face with Owensboro roots. There are tons of athletes, politicians, NASCAR celebrities and even Pulitzer Prize winners who spent many of their years in Owensboro and the surrounding area. 

Here, we take a look at some of Owensboro’s most famous residents from the past and present. 

Wendell H. Ford


Ford, who served as a state senator, lieutenant governor and Kentucky’s 49th governor, graduated from Daviess County High School. He also served 24 years in the United States Senate as both the Democratic Senate majority and minority whips.

Johnny Depp

B. 1963

Depp is arguably Owensboro’s most famous native to date, especially in the entertainment industry. This popular, award-winning actor has starred in movies such as Edward Scissorhands, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?, Nightmare on Elm Street, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Pirates of the Caribbean and Sweeney Todd. Just last week, Depp won a high-profile defamation case against an opinion piece published in the Washington Post by his ex-wife, Amber Heard.

Kevin Olusola

B. 1988

Olusola graduated from Owensboro High School before going on to become world famous as part of the a cappella group Pentatonix. As the beatboxer for the group, Olusola and his group won NBC’s The Sing-Off in 2011, released 11 albums (all of which charted in the top 5 of the Billboard’s 200 charts), sold over two million records and have garnered over two billion hits on their YouTube channel. 

Nicky Hayden


“The Kentucky Kid” was a motorcycle racer who became world famous after winning the 2006 MotoGP World Championships. Hayden went on to become the Grand National Championship in 1999–the same year he earned two Rookie of the Year awards and was named AMA’s Athlete of the Year. 

The Everly Brothers

B. 1937 (Don)

B. 1939 (Phil) 

Born less than an hour away from Owensboro in Brownie, Kentucky, The Everly Brothers achieved fame with popular hits such as “Bye Bye Love,” “Wake Up Little Susie,” “All I Have To Do Is Dream” and “Bird Dog.” They toured the US and appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show during their successful tenure. 

Tom Ewell


An actor who appeared in movies, TV shows and Broadway, Ewell graduated from Owensboro High School before going on to win a Tony Award for his role in The Seven Year Itch, as well as a Golden Globe for his role in the film version alongside co-star Marilyn Monroe. Ewell also won an Emmy for his performance in the TV series Baretta. 

Florence Henderson


A graduate of Owensboro’s St. Frances Academy, Henderson garnered worldwide fame for her role as Carol Brady in The Brady Bunch. She was also the first woman to guest host The Tonight Show and had a successful Broadway career as well. 

Julius Maddox

B. 1987

Maddox is an American powerlifter who is the current world record holder in the bench press. In March 2020, Maddox set the American and world bench press record at 770 pounds at the Arnold Sports Classic in Columbus, Ohio, besting his own previous record of 744 pounds that he set in 2019. Maddox also holds the world record for most times bench pressing 700 pounds in official powerlifting competitions, with 10 times. 

Rex Chapman

B. 1967

Chapman was a star basketball player at Apollo High School and the University of Kentucky. He was the first player selected by the Charlotte Hornets in the 1988 NBA draft and, during his career with the Phoenix Suns, went on to become known for his dramatic and unorthodox shooting. 

Cliff Hagan

B. 1931

A two-time All American, Hagan graduated from Owensboro High School before playing in the NBA. He was a member of the NBA All-Star team four times. The Cliff Hagan Boys and Girls Club and Cliff Hagan Baseball Stadium at UK are named in his honor. 

Moneta Sleet, Jr. 


Sleet was born and raised in Owensboro before going on to obtain a master’s degree in journalism from New York University. He won the Pulitzer Prize in feature photography in 1969 for a photo of grief-stricken Coretta Scott King at Martin Luther King, Jr.’s funeral. Sleet has been named to the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame and won the 1995 Mayor’s Award for Excellence in Owensboro. 

Darrell and Michael Waltrip 

The Waltrip brothers were prominent NASCAR competitors. Darrell is a three-time NASCAR Winston Cup Series Champion and a three-time American Driver of the Year award winner. He is the only five-time winner of the Coca-Cola 500. Michael, meanwhile, won the Daytona 500 in 2001 and 2003 and has seven NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division victories. 

Jeremy Mayfield 

B. 1969

Mayfield was named Kentucky Motor Speedway Rookie of the Year, Auto Racing Club of America Rookie of the Year and went on to win NASCAR’s Pocono 500 in 1998 and the GFS Marketplace 400 in 2005.

*Portrait of Moneta Sleet, Jr. painted by K.O. Lewis.