USA Famous People of West Virginia

West Virginia Biographies

George Brett (born May 15, 1953 in Glen Dale, West Virginia) Former major league baseball player with the Kansas City Royals; born in Glen Dale. George Howard Brett  is a former Major League Baseball player, a third baseman for the Kansas City Royals. Brett's 3,154 career hits are the most by any third baseman in major league history, and 15th all-time. Brett is one of four players in MLB history to accumulate 3,000 hits, 300 home runs, and a career .300 batting average with the others being Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, and Stan Musial. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1999. Brett was the youngest of four sons of a sports-minded family which included his oldest brother Ken, a major-league pitcher who had pitched in the World Series in 1967 at 19 years old. Brothers John and Bobby had brief careers in the minor leagues. Although George was born in the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia, the Brett family moved to the Midwest and later to El Segundo, a suburb of Los Angeles, just south of Los Angeles International Airport. George grew up hoping to follow in the footsteps of his three older brothers. He graduated from El Segundo High School in 1971 and was drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the second round (29th overall) of the 1971 baseball draft. His high school teammate was pitcher Scott McGregor. • George Brett Books
Pearl Buck (June 26, 1892 — March 6, 1973) Author best known for her novel The Good Earth; born in Hillsboro. Pearl Sydenstricker Buck also known as Sai Zhen Zhu (Simplified Chinese: 赛珍珠; Pinyin: Sài Zhēnzhū; Traditional Chinese: 賽珍珠), was a Pulitzer Prize-winning American writer who spent the majority of her life in China. In 1938, she became the first American woman to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, "for her rich and truly epic descriptions of peasant life in China and for her biographical masterpieces."

With no irony, she has been described in China as a Chinese writer Pearl was born in Hillsboro, West Virginia to Caroline Stulting (1857-1921) and Absalom Sydenstricker. Her parents, Southern Presbyterian missionaries, traveled to China soon after their marriage on July 8, 1880, but returned to the United States for Pearl's birth. When Pearl was three months old, the family returned to China, to be stationed first in T'sinkiang-p'u and then in Zhenjiang. Pearl grew up bilingual, tutored in English by her mother and in classical Chinese by Mr. Kung • Pearl Buck Books

Phyllis Curtin soprano, Clarksburg (née Smith, on December 3, 1921) is an American classical soprano who had an active career in operas and concerts from the early 1950s through the 1980s. She was known for her creation of new roles such as the title role in the Carlisle Floyd opera Susannah, Catherine Earnshaw in Floyd's Wuthering Heights, and in other works by this composer. She was a dedicated song recitalist and retired from singing in 1984.

Born Phyllis Smith in Clarksburg, West Virginia, Curtin studied singing with Olga Averino at Wellesley College where she earned a bachelors degree in international relations. She pursued graduate studies in vocal performance under Boris Goldovsky at the New England Conservatory. In 1946 she made her professional opera debut with Goldovsky's opera company, the New England Opera Theater, as Tatyana in Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin. She sang several more roles with the company over the next seven years, including a much admired portrayal of Countess Almaviva in Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro (1947). • Phyllis Curtin Books • Phyllis Curtin Discography

John S. Knight publisher, Bluefield • John S. Knight Books
Don Knotts Jesse Donald "Don" Knotts (July 21, 1924 – February 24, 2006) Actor best known for appearances in movies like The Incredible Mr. Limpet and The Apple Dumpling Gang and the television series The Andy Griffith Show; he was an American comedic actor best known for his portrayal of Barney Fife on the 1960s television sitcom The Andy Griffith Show, a role which earned him five Emmy Awards. He also played landlord Ralph Furley on the 1980s television sitcom Three’s Company. Knotts was born in Morgantown, West Virginia, a son of William Jesse Knotts and his wife, the former Elsie L. Moore. Knotts' paternal ancestors had emigrated from England to America in the 17th century, originally settling in Queen Anne’s County, Maryland. Knotts' father was a farmer, but suffered a nervous breakdown and lost his land. Afflicted with both schizophrenia and alcoholism, he died when Knotts was thirteen years old. Knotts and his two brothers were then raised by their mother, who ran a boarding house in Morgantown.

An urban legend claims that Knotts served in the United States Marine Corps during World War II, serving as a drill instructor at Parris Island. In reality, Knotts enlisted in the United States Army after graduating from Morgantown High School and spent most of his service entertaining troops. • Don Knotts Books • Don Knotts Movies

Thomas Stonewall Jackson (1824 - 1863) Confederate general; born in Clarksburg. • Thomas Stonewall Jackson Books
Peter Marshall TV host, Huntington • Peter Marshall Books  
Kathy Mattea - born Kathleen Alice (Kathy) Mattea (June 21, 1959 in South Charleston, West Virginia) is an American female country music and bluegrass performer who often brings Celtic sounds to her music. Active since 1983 as a singer, she has recorded seventeen albums and has charted more than thirty singles on the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks charts. This total includes the Number One hits "Goin' Gone", "Eighteen Wheels and a Dozen Roses", "Come from the Heart" and "Burnin' Old Memories", as well as twelve additional Top Ten singles.

Mattea was born in South Charleston, West Virginia because it had the nearest hospital to her parents' home in Cross Lanes, where she grew up, graduating from nearby Nitro High School. She discovered her love of singing at Girl Scout camp. In 1976, while attending West Virginia University, she joined the bluegrass band Pennsboro, and two years later dropped out of school to move to Nashville. She worked as a tour guide at the Country Music Hall of Fame, did backup vocal work for Bobby Goldsboro, and sang demos for several Nashville songwriters and publishers including Nashville songwriter/producer Byron Hill who brought her to the attention of Frank Jones (then head of Mercury Records), who signed her to her first record deal in 1983. • Kathy Mattea Books • Kathy Mattea Discography

Alfred Moore jurist, Molinosville • Alfred Moore Books
Mary Lou Retton (1968 - ) Olympic gold medallist of gymnastics; born in Fairmont. • Mary Lou Retton Books
Walter Reuther (1907 - 1970) One of the most influential labor leaders of the 20th Century; born in Wheeling. • Walter Reuther Books
Eleanor Steber soprano, Wheeling (July 17, 1914 – October3,  1990) was an American operatic soprano. Steber is noted as one of the first major opera stars to have achieved the highest success with training and a career based in the United States.

Eleanor Steber was born in Wheeling, West Virginia, in 1914. She made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera in 1940 and was one of its leading artists through 1961. She was known for her large, flexible silvery voice, particularly in the high-lying soprano roles of Richard Strauss. She was equally well-known for her lyrical portrayals of Mozart's heroines, many in collaboration with conductor Bruno Walter. Beyond Mozart and Strauss her repertoire was quite varied. She was noted for success in the music of Wagner, Alban Berg, Giacomo Puccini and also in French opera. Steber sang the lead in the world premiere of the American opera Vanessa by Samuel Barber. She was also featured in a number of Metropolitan Opera premieres, including Strauss's Arabella, Mozart's Die Entführung aus dem Serail, and Berg's Wozzeck. • Eleanor Steber Books • Eleanor Steber Discography

Lewis L. Strauss naval officer and scientist, Charleston • Lewis L. Strauss Books
Cyrus Vance government official, Clarksburg • Cyrus Vance Books
Harold Tucker Webster (1885 - 1952) Cartoonist and creator of Caspar Milquetoast; born in Parkersburg. • Harold Tucker Webster Books
Jerry West (1938 - ) Basketball Hall of Famer that played for the Los Angeles Lakers; born in Cabin Creek. • Jerry West Books
Chuck Yeager (1923 - ) First pilot to fly faster than the speed of sound; born in Myra. • Chuck Yeager Books
Steve Yeager (1948 - ) Baseball player; born in Huntington. • Steve Yeager Books