Who is the most famous North Dakotan?…

Jul 4, 2024
Written by: Marvin Baker

Lately, there have been a number of lists that have surfaced about who the most famous North Dakotan may be. There are several separate lists from Sports Illustrated to Forbes, but one thing is clear, on every list except for one outlier, the No. 1 person is the same – Josh Duhamel.

Duhamel was born in Minot. His ancestry is German, and smaller amounts of Norwegian, French-Canadian, English, Irish, and Austrian (his last name is very common among Francophones in the world). Duhamel is an actor who made his acting debut as Leo du Pres on the ABC daytime soap opera All My Children and later starred as Danny McCoy on NBC’s Las Vegas.
Most recently, he has been doing TV commercials for North Dakota Tourism.

Who do you think is the second-most famous, an athlete, a singer, a journalist, an actor, a politician, an astronaut?
There’s obviously dissent with some of the rest of the people and these lists from various sources don’t necessarily include the Roughrider Award recipients. But rather than presenting each list, the following is a mosaic of lists determining the top 10 famous North Dakotans.

Most of us can agree, as do most of the lists, the second-most famous is Phil Jackson, who grew up in Williston and became a famous basketball player and later coach.

Jackson was a power forward, playing 12 seasons in the National Basketball Association, winning championships with the New York Knicks in 1970 and 1973. Regarded as one of the greatest coaches of all time, Jackson was the head coach of the Chicago Bulls from 1989 to 1998, leading them to six NBA championships.

Despite not being on a number of lists, Lawrence Welk should be regarded as the third-most famous. Whether you liked his show or not, you have to admit, he had a lot of fans for a long time. Some independent TV channels still air his show weekly.
Born in 1903 in Strasburg, Welk was an accordionist, bandleader, and television impresario, who hosted The Lawrence Welk Show from 1951 to 1982. His style came to be known as “champagne music” to his radio, television, and live-performance audiences. He passed away in 1992 at the age of 89.

No. 4 has to be Roger Maris, who grew up in Fargo, played baseball at Fargo Shanley and later became one of the most famous players the New York Yankees have ever had. Maris was most famous for hitting 61 home runs in 1961, a record that stood until 1998.

No. 5 is a tie between singer Peggy Lee and actress Angie Dickinson both touting small towns as home. In Lee’s case, Wimbledon and for Dickinson, it was Kulm. If you stop in Kulm or Edgeley, you’ll still see tributes to Angie Dickinson.
Here’s the rest of a mosaic list of famous North Dakotans. And again, it depends on what list you are looking at, but for the sake of space, we are looking at those who were ranked on most of the lists that were encountered.

Football player Carson Wentz No. 6
Olympic and professional boxer Virgil Hill No. 7
Secretary of State Warren Christopher No. 8
Baseball player Darin Erstad No. 9
Miss America Cara Mund No. 10

Others who didn’t make the top 10 but are still strongly considered include Leslie Bibb, actress; Eric Sevareid, TV news reporter; Travis Hafner, baseballl player; Dale Brown, basketball coach; James Buchli, astronaut; Quentin Burdick, politician; Louis L’Amour, writer; Jonny Lang, jazz musician; Harold Schafer, entrepreneur; Bobby Vee, singer and Shadoe Stevens, radio personality.

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