USAFamous People of California

California Biographies

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Marcus Allen (1960 -) Football player. 

A six-time Pro Bowler, Allen was also the MVP of Super Bowl XVIII; born in San Diego. In 1997 Allen will start his last season in the National Football League. With the help of Stowers (Sins of the Son, LJ 3/1/95), he has written an account of his life, covering a childhood in San Diego, the four years at University of Southern California that culminated in his winning the Heisman Trophy, his acrimonious relationship with Al Davis during the 11 years Allen was with the Los Angeles Raiders, and the four years with the Kansas City Chiefs. Allen and his coauthor skip lightly over such major football controversies as drug abuse, artificial turf, steroids, racism, management-player conflict, and the lack of black coaches and team executives. The book's last section covers Allen's peripheral involvement with the O.J. Simpson case. Ultimately, the reader learns a lot of facts about Allen but gains few insights into his personal life. Not a necessary purchase. • Marcus Allen Books

Luis Walter Alvarez inventor, San Francisco(June 13, 1911, San Francisco, California – September 1, 1988) was an American experimental physicist and inventor, who spent nearly all of his long professional career on the faculty of the University of California, Berkeley. The American Journal of Physics commented, "Luis Alvarez (1911–1988) was one of the most brilliant and productive experimental physicists of the twentieth century."

He was the author of 168 published papers in scientific journals, mostly in the field of physics, and was elected to the National Academy of Science in 1947 and the National Academy of Engineering in 1969. He was a member of the American Physical Society, a fellow in 1939, and served as President in 1969. He was awarded the Collier Trophy by the National Aeronautics Association in 1946. The trophy was presented by President Truman; and won the Presidential Medal for Merit in 1947. In 1960 he was named California Scientist of the Year; in 1961 he won the Albert Einstein Award. In 1963 he was presented the National Medal of Science by Lyndon B. Johnson; in 1965 the Michelson Award; in 1978 he received the University of Chicago Alumni Medal and was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. In 1987, the US Department of Energy granted him its Enrico Fermi award. • Luis Walter Alvarez Books

Gertrude Atherton author, San Francisco Gertrude Franklin Horn Atherton (October 30, 1857 – June 14, 1948) was an American writer. A native Californian, Atherton was born in San Francisco and died there, but traveled extensively and lived abroad at times in furtherance of her writing career. She eloped with George H.B. Atherton when she was only 19, and had two children. Her husband discouraged her writing; and the serial publication of her first novel, The Randolphs of Redwoods (1882), though unsigned, scandalized her family.

After her husband's death, in 1887, she was free to pursue her writing career as a protégée of Ambrose Bierce, eventually writing 60 books and numerous articles and short stories. Atherton's first signed novel, What Dreams May Come, was published in 1888 under the pseudonym Frank Lin.

She is best remembered for her "California Series," several novels and short stories dealing with the social history of California. • Gertrude Atherton Books

Gavin de Becker (born October 26, 1954) is a specialist in security issues, primarily for governments, large corporations, and celebrities.

He is designer of the MOSAIC Threat Assessment Systems used to screen threats to Justices of the Supreme Court of the United States, members of United States Congress, and senior officials of the Central Intelligence Agency. Along with the United States Marshals Service, he co-designed the MOSAIC system currently used for assessing all threats to Federal Judges and prosecutors.

He was twice appointed to the President's Advisory Board at the United States Department of Justice, and he served two terms on the Governor's Advisory Board at the California Department of Mental Health. de Becker is the author of three best-selling books, The Gift of Fear, Protecting the Gift, and Fear Less.

His latest book, Just 2 Seconds, has been described as the essential guide for protectors of at-risk people and includes 5 lessons for people charged with protecting others. It also includes summaries of incidents and near-incidents from the last several decades for training and analysis. Co-authors of the book are Tom Taylor and Jeff Marquart.  • Gavin de Becker Books

David Belasco  (July 25, 1853 – May 14, 1931) was an American playwright, impresario, director and theatrical producer. Born in San Francisco, California, where his Sephardic Jewish parents had moved from London, England during the Gold Rush, he began working in a San Francisco theatre doing a variety of routine jobs such as call boy and script copier. He eventually was given the opportunity to act and serve as a stage manager, learning the business inside out. A gifted playwright, Belasco went to New York City in 1882 where he worked as stage manager for the Madison Square Theater while writing plays. By 1895, he was so successful that he set himself up as an independent producer.

During his long career between 1884 and 1930, Belasco either wrote, directed, or produced more than 100 Broadway plays including Hearts of Oak, The Heart of Maryland, and Du Barry, making him the most powerful personality on the New York city theater scene. Although he is perhaps most famous for having penned Madame Butterfly and The Girl of the Golden West for the stage, both of which were adapted as operas by Giacomo Puccini, more than forty motion pictures have been made from the many plays he authored, including Buster Keaton's Seven Chances. • David Belasco Books • David Belasco Films

Shirley Temple Black (1928 - ) 1930s child actress and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations; born in Santa Monica. Chronicling Shirley Temple Black's various careers, this work spans the years from her childhood at the studio and at home through her waning success during adolescence, to her diplomatic and political pursuits. An anomaly among child stars, Shirley Temple Black's successful adaptation to life outside the traditional Hollywood social life is explored against the backdrop of the child-star phenomenon in American entertainment. Facts about her childhood, her parental influences, and her political beliefs present Shirley Temple Black as a unique individual rather than as a child star icon. • Shirley Temple Black Books • Shirley Temple Black Movies
Robert Bower -  Dr. Robert W. Bower (June 12, 1936) was born in Santa Monica, CA and is an applied physicist. Immediately after receiving his Ph.D. from The California Institute of Technology in 1973, he worked for over 25 years in many different professions: Engineer, Scientist, Department Head at University of California, Davis, and as president and CEO of Device Concept Inc. He also served as the President of Integrated Vertical Modules, which focused on three dimensional, high density structures. His most notable contribution, however, is his field-effect device with insulated gates—also known as a Self-Aligned Gate MOSFET (metal oxide semiconductor field effect transistor). Dr. Robert W. Bower patented this design in 1969 while working at the Hughes Research Laboratories in Malibu, California. He has also published over 80 journals and articles, patented over 28 inventions, and authored chapters in 3 different books. • Robert Bower Books
Dave Brubeck musician, Concord Pianist and composer Dave Brubeck led a jazz quartet that produced the pop hit "Take Five" and achieved acclaim during the 1950s and 1960s. Hall, a veteran radio broadcaster, writes a fan's account of Brubeck's personal journey from boyhood up through international celebrity. Through interviews with Brubeck and others, we hear tales of "life on the road," meet Bru's peers, and learn something about his music, mostly about his later orchestral works. Questions about Brubeck's entire musical corpus and its place in jazz are better answered in Ilse Storb's Dave Brubeck: Improvisations and Compositions (Peter Lang, 1994). Hall's discography lists American-issued recordings but excludes the many European releases and reissues. Appropriate for general audiences.?Paul Baker, Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. • Dave Brubeck Website • Dave Brubeck Discography • Dave Brubeck Books
Julia Child  (August 15, 1912 – August 13, 2004) was an American chef, author and television personality. She introduced French cuisine and cooking techniques to the American mainstream through her many cookbooks and television programs, notably The French Chef which premiered in 1963. Her best-known cookbook is Mastering the Art of French Cooking, published in 1961.

Child was born Julia Carolyn McWilliams to John and Julia Carolyn ("Caro") McWilliams in Pasadena, California. The eldest  of three children, she had a brother, John III, (1914–2002), and a sister Dorothy D. (1917–2006). Child was raised in a well-to-do family where she ate traditional New England food prepared by the family cook. She attended Westridge School, Polytechnic School from fourth grade to ninth grade and then The Branson School in Ross, California, which was at the time a boarding school. At six feet, two inches (1.88 m) tall, Child played tennis, golf, and basketball as a child and continued to play sports while attending Smith College, where she graduated in 1934 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in History. Following her graduation from college, Child moved to New York City, where she worked as a copywriter for the advertising department of upscale home-furnishing firm W. & J. Sloane. Returning to California in 1937, she spent the next four years writing for local publications and working in advertising. • Julia Child Books • Julia Child Films & TV

Coolio rap artist, Los Angeles Artis Leon Ivey, Jr. (born August 1, 1963), better known by the stage name Coolio, is a Grammy Award-winning American rapper and actor. He rose to fame in 1994 with his debut single "Fantastic Voyage", and later in 1995 with the hit single "Gangsta's Paradise", which appeared on the soundtrack for the film Dangerous Minds.

Coolio was born in Compton, California the son of Jackie Slater, a factory worker, and Artis Leon Ivey Sr., a carpenter. His parents divorced. Coolio got into trouble outside home as he spent time with Mona Park Compton Crips gang members, although he was never formally inducted nor accepted into the gang, and therefore was not considered as a member of a gang. Coolio spent several months in jail for larceny. 

Coolio was a regular guest on the Los Angeles radio station KDAY. The beginning of Coolio's musical career was derailed as he began selling crack cocaine. After rehab, Coolio worked various odd jobs, including as a California Conservation Corps member at the Pomona site,  and as a firefighter in the forests of northern California in the 1980s. • Coolio Books • Coolio Discography

Leonardo DiCaprio actor Hollywood Leonardo Wilhelm DiCaprio (born November 11, 1974) is an American actor and film producer whose career rose with his role in the television sit-com Growing Pains. His critically acclaimed breakthrough film performance came in This Boy's Life, and was quickly followed by What's Eating Gilbert Grape. His performance as the mentally handicapped brother of Gilbert (Johnny Depp), in the title role, brought him nominations for the Golden Globe and Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

He gained fame for his role as Jack Dawson in Titanic, and has starred in many other successful films including Romeo + Juliet, Catch Me If You Can, and Blood Diamond, for which he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor. Another Academy Award nomination came for his role as Howard Hughes in The Aviator, directed by Martin Scorsese. He has also worked with Scorsese in films such as Gangs of New York and The Departed. This working partnership brought comparison to the earlier working relationship between Scorsese and actor Robert De Niro, who also benefited from roles in Scorsese films early in his career.

DiCaprio has also been nominated two times for BAFTA, three times for SAG, and seven Golden Globe Awards. He is a Golden Globe and a Silver Bear Award winner. • Leonardo DiCaprio Books • Leonardo DiCaprio Movies

Joe DiMaggio (1914 - 1999) Famous baseball player who won two batting championships and three MVP awards; born in Martinez. Listening to Cramer read his biography of Joe DiMaggio feels as though you are sitting in a bar talking baseball with a friend, only to have a grizzled regular overhear your conversation and interject pejoratively, "DiMaggio, eh? I'll tell you about DiMaggio." With a tough, throaty accent and straightforward manner, Cramer sounds as if he's telling the whole tale with his arms crossed over the back of a turned-around chair and a toothpick dangling from the corner of his mouth. And for a story about a kid rising from a large Italian family in San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf to wealth and fame as a superstar for the New York Yankees, the style fits perfectly. Cramer (What It Takes) balances the Hall of Fame outfielder's well-documented highlights--his 10 World Series titles in 13 major-league seasons, astounding 56-game hitting streak and marriage to Marilyn Monroe--with attributes the public never saw: seedy connections, loose morals and a tight fist. Cramer has ably taken his controversial text and pared it down to provide a strong audio performance that will keep his audience engaged right up until closing time. Simultaneous release with Simon & Schuster hardcover (Forecasts, Oct. 16, 2000). • Joe DiMaggio Books
Walt Disney (1901 - 1966) Creator of Mickey Mouse and founder of the Disneyland® and Walt Disney World® Theme Parks; lived in Hollywood. Neal Gabler's meticulously researched biography, Walt Disney offers the full story (Gabler is the first writer to gain complete access to the Disney archives) of the American icon. Readers will discover the whole story, witnessing Disney's invention of a "synergistic empire that combined film, television, theme parks, music, book publishing, and merchandise." What fans don't know could fill a book (this book in fact), and we asked Gabler to point out a few of the juicy bits. Read our interview with him, and his "10 Things That May Surprise You"  --Daphne Durham • Walt Disney books • Walt Disney Films
James H. Doolittle (1896 - 1993) Air force general who led the first carrier-based bomber attack on mainland Japan in 1942; born in Alameda Pilot, scholar, daredevil, general . . . James ""Jimmy"" Doolittle was one of America's greatest heroes. In a life filled with adventure and achievement, Doolittle did it all. As a stunt pilot, he thrilled the world with his aerial acrobatics. As a scientist, he pioneered the development of modern aviation technology. During World War II, he served his country as a fearless and innovative air warrior, organizing and leading the devastating raid against Japan. Now, for the first time, here is his life story - modest, revealing, and candid as only Doolittle himself can tell it. Doolittle tells a story of the sucesses and adventures, the triumphs and tragedies of a true American hero - a far-seeing leader whose courage, devotion, and daring changed the course of modern history . . . and continues to make its influence felt to this day. • James H. Doolittle Books
Isadora Duncan dancer, San Francisco (May 26, 1877 – September 14, 1927) was an American dancer. She was born Angela Isadora Duncan in San Francisco, California. Isadora Duncan is considered by many to be the mother of modern dance. Although popular in the United States only in New York later in her life, she performed to acclaim throughout Europe.

Duncan was the youngest of the four children of Joseph Charles Duncan (1819–1898), a banker, mining engineer and connoisseur of the arts, and Mary Isadora Gray (1849–1922), youngest daughter of Thomas Gray, a California state senator, and his wife Mary Gorman. The other children were Elizabeth, Augustin, and Raymond. Her father was the son of Joseph Moulder Duncan and Harriett Bioren. Soon after Isadora's birth, Joseph Duncan lost the bank and was publicly disgraced. Her parents were divorced by 1880 (the papers were lost in the San Francisco earthquake), and her mother Dora moved with her family to Oakland. She worked there as a pianist and music teacher. In her early years, Duncan did attend school, but finding it to be constricting to her individuality, she dropped out. As her family was very poor, both she and her sister gave dance classes to local children to earn extra money.  • Isadora Duncan Books

John Frémont explorer, San Francisco (January 21, 1813 – July 13, 1890), was an American military officer, explorer, the first candidate of the Republican Party for the office of President of the United States, and the first presidential candidate of a major party to run on a platform opposing slavery. During the 1840s, that era's penny press accorded Frémont the sobriquet The Pathfinder. It remains in use, and he is sometimes called "The Great Pathfinder".

Frémont's mother, Anne Beverley Whiting, was the youngest daughter of socially prominent Virginia planter Colonel Thomas Whiting and his wife. The colonel died when Anne was less than a year old. Her mother married Samuel Cary, who soon exhausted most of the Whiting estate. To enable Anne to escape the family’s financial problems, her mother placed Anne with an older married sister. In 1796 the sister arranged for the 17-year-old Anne to marry local Revolutionary War veteran Major John Pryor, a wealthy Richmond resident in his early 60s. (The difference in age was not so unusual when widowers often married younger women.) In 1810 Pryor hired Charles Fremon, a French immigrant who had fought with the Royalists during the French Revolution, to tutor his wife. In July 1811, Pryor learned that Whiting and Fremon were having an affair. Confronted by Pryor, the couple left Richmond together on July 10, 1811, creating a scandal that shook city society • John Frémont Books  • Stockton History

Robert Frost (1874 - 1963) One of America's leading 20th-century poets and a four-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize; born in San Francisco. March 26 marks the 125th anniversary of Frost's birth, and there could be no better tribute for a poet so often underrated, maligned and misunderstood than this sympathetic and balanced portrayal. Frost has been depicted as selfish and vindictive in biographies by Lawrance Thompson and Jeffrey Meyers, but Parini, himself a poet and novelist, sees Frost as a man who "struggled throughout his long life with depression, anxiety, self-doubt, and confusion." Rarely has Frost's story been told this dexterously, or with a better understanding of the relation of Frost's personal crises to his accomplishment as a poet. The Yankee farmer-poet actually lived his first 11 years in San Francisco, was thoroughly schooled in Latin (was, in fact, "more of a classicist by training than either Eliot or Pound"), and nursed an early ambition to pitch in the major leagues. He was competitive, funny, smart about his own career and reputation, and throughout the height of his fame was plagued by horrible family tragedies. His father, sister and several of his children suffered from deep depression, suicide and early death, and Frost was often blamed for tragedies he was helpless to prevent. • Robert Frost Books
Jerry Garcia guitarist, singer, San Francisco Jerome John "Jerry" Garcia (August 1, 1942 – August 9, 1995) was an American musician best known for his work with the band the Grateful Dead. Though he vehemently disavowed the role, Garcia was viewed by many as the leader or "spokesman" of the group. He is also the disputed King of Rock and Roll.

One of its original founders, Garcia performed with The Grateful Dead for their entire three-decade career (1965-1995). Garcia also founded and participated in a variety of side projects, including the Saunders-Garcia Band with longtime friend Merl Saunders, Jerry Garcia Band, Old and in the Way, the Garcia/Grisman acoustic duo, and Legion of Mary. Garcia co-founded the New Riders of the Purple Sage with John Dawson and David Nelson. He also released several solo albums, and contributed to a number of albums by other artists over the years as a session musician. He was well known by many for his distinctive guitar playing and was ranked 13th in Rolling Stone's "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time" cover story. Later in life, Garcia was sometimes ill because of his unstable weight, and in 1986 went into a diabetic coma that nearly cost him his life. Although his overall health improved somewhat after that, he also struggled with heroin addiction, and was staying in a California drug rehabilitation facility when he died of a heart attack in August 1995  • Grateful Dead Website • Grateful Dead Discography • Jerry Garcia Books

Charles P. Ginsburg inventor, San Francisco (1920-1992) was an engineer and the leader of a research team at Ampex which developed one of the first practical videotape recorders.

Born in San Francisco, California, Ginsburg earned a bachelor's degree from San José State University in 1948. He worked as an engineer at AM-radio station KQW (now KCBS). He joined Ampex in 1951, and remained there until his retirement in 1986, holding the title Vice President of Advanced Technology. Ginsburg was elected a member of the National Academy of Engineering in 1973, being cited for invention and pioneering development of video magnetic tape recording for instant playback. • Charles P. Ginsburg Books

Richard Pancho Gonzales, Los Angeles Ricardo Alonso González or Richard Gonzalez, (May 9, 1928 – July 3, 1995), who was generally known as Pancho Gonzales or, less often, as Pancho Gonzalez, was the World No. 1 tennis player for an unequalled 8 years in the 1950s and early 1960s. During that period, he played as a professional. Mostly self-taught with some coaching, he was a successful amateur player in the late-1940s, twice winning the United States Championships. Gonzales is still widely considered to be one of the greatest players in the history of the game. A 1999 Sports Illustrated article about the magazine's 20 "favorite athletes" of the 20th century said about Gonzales (their number 15 pick): "If earth was on the line in a tennis match, the man you want serving to save humankind would be Ricardo Alonso Gonzalez." The noted tennis commentator Bud Collins echoed this in an August 2006 article for "If I had to choose someone to play for my life, it would be Pancho Gonzalez." • Richard Pancho Gonzales Books
Jeff Gordon car racer, Vallejo Jeffery Michael Gordon (born August 4, 1971) is a professional American race car driver. He was born in Vallejo, California, raised in Pittsboro, Indiana, and currently lives in Charlotte, North Carolina. He is a four-time NASCAR Winston Cup (now Sprint Cup) Series champion, three-time Daytona 500 winner, and driver of the #24 DuPont/Pepsi/United States National Guard Chevrolet Impala. He, along with Rick Hendrick, are the co-owners of the #48 Lowe's sponsored team, driven by Jimmie Johnson, who won the 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009 Sprint Cup series championships. Gordon also has an equity stake in his own # 24 team. He also became the first driver to reach $100 Million in winnings for the Cup series in 2009.

Gordon began racing at the age of five, racing quarter midgets. The Roy Hayer Memorial Race Track (Previously the CrackerJack Track) in Rio Linda, California is noted as the first track Gordon ever competed on. By the Age of 6 Gordon had won 35 main events and set 5 track records. By the age of 13 Gordon took an interest in the 650 horsepower (480 kW) sprint cars. Gordon and his family had to overcome an insurance hurtle. The minimum age for driving the sprint cars was 16. His persistence paid off with an all Florida speed weeks. Supporting his career choice, Gordon's family moved from Vallejo, California to Pittsboro, Indiana, where there were more opportunities for younger racers. • Jeff Gordon Books

William Randolph Hearst publisher, San Francisco (April 29, 1863 – August 14, 1951) was an American newspaper magnate and leading newspaper publisher.

Hearst was born in San Francisco, California, to millionaire mining engineer George Hearst and Phoebe Apperson Hearst. Following preparation at St. Paul's School in Concord, New Hampshire, he enrolled in the Harvard College class of 1885, where he was a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity (Alpha chapter), the A.D. Club (a prestigious Harvard Final club), and of the Harvard Lampoon prior to his expulsion from Harvard for giving several of his professors expensive chamber pots with their names elaborately painted on the inside.

Hearst entered the publishing business in 1887 after taking control of The San Francisco Examiner from his father. Moving to New York City, he acquired The New York Journal and engaged in a bitter circulation war with Joseph Pulitzer's New York World which led to the creation of yellow journalism — sensationalized stories of dubious veracity. Acquiring more newspapers, Hearst created a chain that numbered nearly 30 papers in major American cities at its peak. He later expanded to magazines, creating the largest newspaper and magazine business in the world. • William Randolph Hearst Books

Mariel Hemingway actress, Mill Valley Mariel Hadley Hemingway (born November 22, 1961) is an American actress and writer.

Hemingway was born in Mill Valley, California, the third daughter of Byra Louise (née Whittlesey) Hemingway and John 'Jack' Hadley Nicanor Hemingway, a writer. Her sisters are Joan Hemingway (born 1950) and Margaux Louise Hemingway (born 1955). Margaux, who became an actress and model, died of a barbituate overdose in 1996 at age 41. Her paternal grandfather was writer Ernest Hemingway; She never met her grandfather as he committed suicide several months before she was born.

She was named after the Cuban port of Mariel—a village that her father and grandfather visited regularly as sportsmen to fish. Her middle name was after her paternal grandmother, Ernest's first wife Hadley Richardson.

Hemingway grew up primarily in Ketchum, Idaho, where her father lived, and where her paternal grandfather had also spent a great deal of time as a sportsman and writer. Mariel also spent part of her adolescence growing up in New York City, New York, and Los Angeles, California. • Mariel Hemingway Books • Mariel Hemingway Movies

Sidney Howard playwright, Oakland (26 June 1891 – 23 August 1939) was an American playwright and screenwriter. He received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1925 and a posthumous Academy Award in 1940 for the screenplay for Gone with the Wind.

Howard was born in Oakland, California, the son of Helen Louise Coe and John Lawrence Howard. He graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in 1915 and went on to Harvard University to study the art of playwriting under George Pierce Baker in his "47 workshop." Along with other students of Harvard professor A. Piatt Andrew, Sidney Howard volunteered with Andrew's American Field Service, serving in France and the Balkans during World War I. After the War, Howard, competent at foreign languages, translated a number of literary works from French, Spanish, Hungarian and German. • Sidney Howard Books

Anthony M. Kennedy jurist, Sacramento (born July 23, 1936) is an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, having been appointed by Republican President Ronald Reagan in 1988. Since the retirement of Sandra Day O'Connor, Kennedy is often considered the swing vote on many of the Court's politically charged 5–4 decisions, although he reaches conservative results more often than not.

Kennedy was born and raised in Sacramento, California as the son of a prominent attorney. He is not a member of the Kennedy political family. As a boy he came into contact with prominent attorneys such as Earl Warren. He served as a page in the California State Senate as a young man.

Kennedy graduated from C. K. McClatchy High School in 1954. He was an undergraduate student at Stanford University from 1954-58, graduating with a B.A. in Political Science, after spending his senior year at the London School of Economics. He earned an LL.B from Harvard Law School in 1961. • Anthony M. Kennedy Books

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