KENTUCKY (FOX 56) — When you think of famous Kentuckians, who immediately comes to mind?

Some may think of Owensboro native Johnny Depp, Lexington-born George Clooney, or Josh Hutcherson, who was born in northern Kentucky and rose to fame in the “Bridge to Terabithia” and “Hunger Games” movies.

Fame is not exclusively limited to the big screen, as there are notable Kentuckians who’ve made their mark as historical figures, musicians, and even Nobel Prize winners.

Here are five famous Kentuckians you may not know:

1. John Carpenter (1948–present)

John Carpenter is known for his work as an American horror, action, and science fiction filmmaker.

According to IMDB, he was born in Carthage, New York, but his family relocated to Bowling Green when he was a young boy. He attended Western Kentucky University, where his interest in film continued to blossom, but he made short horror films before starting high school.

Some of his earliest works include the 1978 horror/slasher “Halloween” and the 80s hits “The Fog” and “Escape from New York.”

CHICAGO, IL – AUGUST 23: John Carpenter attends Wizard World Chicago Comic Con 2014 at Donald E. Stephens Convention Center on August 23, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Gabriel Grams/FilmMagic)

His first major film, “Dark Star,” was a science-fiction comedy he co-wrote, and he also wrote the musical score for the movie along with producing and directing.

Carpenter returned to the “Halloween” franchise as a composer and executive producer for the 2018 sequel “Halloween,” along with “Halloween Kills” and “Halloween Ends.”

His cinematic compositions have inspired other film composers like Hans Zimmer, known for his works on “The Lion King,” the 2021 remake of “Dune,” the “Pirates of the Caribbean” film series, and “The Dark Knight” trilogy.

2. Kit Carson (1809–1868)

Christopher Houston “Kit” Carson was born on Dec. 24 in Madison County and was the son of American Revolution veteran Lindsey Carson.

According to Legends of America, Carson made a name for himself as a fur trapper and was a key figure in the U.S.’s westward expansion.

He fought in the Mexican-American War and was integral to the conquest of California, which ended with California becoming the 31st state in 1850.

His reputation as a Western frontiersman grew to mythic status. Henry Nash Smith, a professor and scholar of American literature and culture, detailed the creation of “mythic Kit” as a “national hero, daredevil horseman, slayer of grizzly bears, and the ancestor of hundreds of two-gun men.”

Kit Carson (Mark Gulezian courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian)

Carson died as a result of an abdominal aortic aneurysm on May 23, 1868, at the age of 58.

His story continued to be told after his death, starting with the 1928 silent film “Kit Carson” and the television show “The Adventures of Kit Carson,” which ran from 1951–1955.

3. Laura Bell Bundy (1981–present)

Laura Ashley Bell Bundy was born in Euclid, Ohio, in 1981 but was raised in Lexington. She is known not only as a film and television actress but also for her work on stage and as a singer.

She graduated from Lexington Catholic High School but began acting and performing at a younger age.

In 1993, Bundy appeared in “The Adventures of Huck Finn” and, when she was 14, she starred in the 1995 movie “Jumanji“.

Bundy had a recurring role as Becky in the CBS sitcom “How I Met Your Mother” and reprised her role in the recent spinoff “How I Met Your Father.” Bundy was also a regular on “Hart of Dixie” as Shelby.

NASHVILLE, TN – JUNE 08: Laura Bell Bundy performs during the 2014 CMA Festival at LP Field on June 8, 2014, in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by C Flanigan/FilmMagic)

She released her debut country music album “For a Place Already Gone” in 2007 and her second album “Achin’ and Shakin’,” which reached fifth on the Billboard Top Country Albums.

4. Thomas Hunt Morgan (1866–1945)

Thomas Hunt Morgan was born in Lexington and was the great-grandson of Francis Scott Key.

As a child, he showed a keen interest in natural history and began collecting birds, birds’ eggs, and fossils when he was 10 years old.

He graduated from the University of Kentucky in 1886 before beginning his postgraduate work at Johns Hopkins University. After completing his education, Morgan continued his research into the fields of genetics, regeneration, and embryo-related experimentation.

(Original Caption) Portrait of Thomas Hunt Morgan (1866-1945), American Nobel Prize Laureate in Medicine (1933). Undated photograph.

His work studying the fruit fly led to the establishment of a model organism for genetic linkage and how DNA sequences tend to be inherited together during sexual reproduction.

His impacts in the field of biology, including establishing the role the chromosome played in heredity, led to a Nobel Prize in 1933.

Morgan died at the age of 78 in Pasadena, California, after a severe heart attack caused one of his arteries to rupture.

5. William Smith “Bill” Monroe (1911–1996)

The “Father of Bluegrass,” William “Bill” Monroe, was born on Sept. 13, 1911, in Rosine.

Both of Monroe’s parents were musically gifted, and he grew up playing the mandolin while some of his brothers played the guitar and the fiddle. The family would sing and play music at home a lot of the time.

Monroe lost both of his parents by age 16, and he lived with aunts and uncles until he came of age.

In 1929, he moved to Indiana to work at an oil refinery with his older brothers, Birch and Charlie. It was there that the three brothers and a couple of friends formed the “Monroe Brothers,” and they began playing at area dances and house parties.

In 1939, Monroe would form the “Blue Grass Boys,” which would become the “Original Bluegrass Band” around 1945.

The group would record 28 songs in 1946 and 1947, including classics like “Toy Heart,” “My Rose of Old Kentucky,” and “Blue Moon of Kentucky.” In 1954, Elvis Presley recorded “Blue Moon of Kentucky” as a rock ’n’ roll cover.

In 1988, Kentucky named “Blue Moon of Kentucky” the official state bluegrass song.

Monroe’s legacy led him to become a Kentucky Colonel in 1966 and be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1970, as well as the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1971.


In 1997, Monroe was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, joining the likes of Johnny Cash, Hank Williams Sr., Bob Wills, and Jimmie Rodgers as the only individuals to be honored in all three.

His last performance took place on March 15, 1996, as a stroke brought his touring career to an end. He died on Sept. 9, 1996, just days before his 85th birthday.