Lehigh Valley’s Most Famous Former Residents
Like it or love it, Lehigh Valley is the home to many great businesses, schools, and people. But, did you know that many particularly well-known people got their start in the Valley? The cities that make up the area have helped a surprising number of famous people in all sorts of professions get their start. Who do you know on this list?
Mario Andretti is one of the most skilled–and most famous–racing drivers of the modern era, the only driver to win the Indianapolis 500, Daytona 500, and the Formula One World Championship. While Andretti wasn’t born in Pennsylvania, his family emigrated from Italy when he was in his early teens, and he worked in his uncle’s garage in Nazareth. He and his twin, Aldo, grew up racing cars around a dirt track near Nazareth, a secret they kept from their parents.
Larry Holmes’ nickname, the “Easton Assassin,” says nearly everything that can be said about the boxer. The heavyweight, with a final boxing record of 69 wins (44 by KO) and 6 losses, is only one of five fighters to have knocked out the late, great Muhammad Ali. True to his nickname, Holmes spent his early life in Easton, dropping out of Shull Junior High in the seventh grade and working odd jobs around town until he made a name for himself.
The man known just as well as the CEO of Chrysler as for his business and leadership advice, Lee Iacocca was born and raised in Allentown. During his youth, Iacocca attended and graduated from Allenton High School and Lehigh University, and he also worked at Yocco’s Hot Dogs, which was founded by his uncle. Among Iacocca’s achievements were the design of the Ford Mustang and saving Chrysler from bankruptcy – multiple times. While Iacocca now calls Los Angeles his home, we’ll always remember where he comes from.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
Before he was a blockbuster movie star, and even before he was the most famous face of wrestling, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was a star football player (and wrestler, of course) at Bethlehem’s Freedom High School. Although Johnson spent his prior years all around the world–in California, New Zealand, and Hawaii–and left for the University of Miami after graduation, his time in Pennsylvania, where he flourished as an athlete, was crucial to his career track.
You might not have heard of Sarah Knauss, but she was the talk of the town, as well as the entire world, in the late 1990s. Knauss, who was born in 1880, was for a time the Guinness Book of World Records’ oldest American until her death two days before the turn of the millennium. Born in Hollywood, PA, she was alive for the sinking of the Titanic, seven American wars, and 23 presidential administrations.
In a way, it can be surprising to find that these celebrities called Lehigh Valley their home, but when you think about it, everybody has to call somewhere home. Who knows which of your neighbors will end up on a similar list in the future!