As one of the oldest states in the nation, it’s not surprising that a number of famous people are from Massachusetts. The state is home to theater, TV, and movie celebrities, famous sports figures, musicians, authors, artists, business leaders, historic figures, and politicians.
While some of these famous people were born in Massachusetts, others moved to the state later in life, either to serve the state politically, participate in sports, or to simply reside in the state.
The following are 73 of the most famous people from Massachusetts:
Theater, TV, and Movie Celebrities
In addition to Massachusetts being a prominent location for filming movies and TV shows, it’s also home to a number of actors and actresses.
Mark Wahlberg is an actor, producer, and former rapper who has appeared in many popular films, including Boogie Nights, The Fighter, and Ted. He was born in the Boston neighborhood of Dorchester. Wahlberg is also a co-owner of Wahlburgers, a restaurant focused on casual American cuisine, along with his brothers Donnie and Paul.
Ben Affleck is an actor, director, and screenwriter who is best known for his role as Batman in the DC Extended Universe, as well as his Academy Award-winning film Good Will Hunting. He directed the movies Gone Baby Gone, the crime drama, The Town, and the political thriller, Argo. Although he was born in California, Affleck moved to Massachusetts when he was three, first living in Falmouth and then Cambridge.
Matt Damon is an actor, writer, and producer who is best known for his roles in the Bourne film series, as well as Good Will Hunting, and The Martian. Damon was born in Cambridge, spent two years living in Newton, and then moved back to Cambridge for the rest of his childhood.
Born in Cambridge but residing in Acton during his childhood, Steve Carell is an actor, comedian, and writer who is best known for his role as Michael Scott on the US version of The Office. He has also appeared in numerous popular films, including The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Little Miss Sunshine, Crazy, Stupid, Love, Despicable Me, and The Big Short. Carell is also the owner of the Marshfield Hills General Store in Marshfield, MA.
Amy Poehler is an actress, comedian, and writer who is best known for her role as Leslie Knope on the television show Parks and Recreation and as a former cast member on Saturday Night Live. In addition to her work on television, she has appeared in several films, including Baby Mama, Mean Girls, and Inside Out. Poehler was born and raised in Newton.
John Krasinski is an actor and director who was born in Newton, Massachusetts. He is best known for his role as Jim Halpert on the sitcom The Office. Krasinski has also starred in several films such as A Quiet Place, Jack Ryan and 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi.
Conan O’Brien is a television host and comedian best known for hosting several late-night talk shows. He rose to fame as the host of Late Night with Conan O’Brien which aired on NBC from 1993 to 2009. He then went on to host The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien from 2009 to 2010 and Conan on TBS from 2010 to 2018. O’Brien was born and grew up in Brookline.
Actress Uma Thurman was born in Boston but mainly grew up in Amherst. She’s best known for her role in the Kill Bill movie series, directed by Quentin Tarantino. She’s also known for her performances in Pulp Fiction, Gattaca, Batman & Robin, and The Producers.
Michael Chiklis is an actor, producer, and musician. He’s best known for his role as Detective Vic Mackey in the FX television series The Shield. Chiklis is also known for his performances in The Commish and No Ordinary Family, as well as in films such as Fantastic Four and American Hustle. While born in Lowell, Chiklis spent his childhood in Andover.
Actor Chris Evans was born in Boston but grew up in Sudbury. He’s best known for his role as Captain America in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In addition to his work in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Chris Evans has also appeared in several other movies, such as Snowpiercer, Gifted, and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.
A number of famous people from Massachusetts are connected to sports. Here are a few of the most well-known:
One of the most famous names in football, Tom Brady is a quarterback who spent 20 seasons with the New England Patriots, where he won seven Super Bowl championships. While playing for the Patriots, Brady and his family lived in Brookline.
Babe Ruth, born George Herman Ruth Jr., is one of the most famous and legendary players in the history of Major League Baseball. He began his career with the Boston Red Sox and later played for the New York Yankees. Ruth was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1936, its inaugural year.
Ted Williams is known for being one of the greatest hitters in Major League Baseball history. He played as a left fielder for the Boston Red Sox for 19 seasons (1939-1960) and is widely considered one of the greatest players of all time. He won two American League Most Valuable Player Awards and was a 19-time All-Star. After retiring from baseball, he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1966.
Larry Bird is a retired basketball player who played his entire 13-year career with the Boston Celtics from 1979 to 1992 and is considered one of the greatest basketball players of all time. He led the Celtics to three NBA championships in 1981, 1984, and 1986. He was also a 12-time All-Star and was named the league’s Most Valuable Player three times (1984, 1985, 1986).
Paul Pierce is a retired basketball player who is best known for his career with the Boston Celtics. He spent 15 of his 19 NBA seasons with the Celtics and was one of the most iconic players in the franchise’s history. Pierce is a 10-time NBA All-Star and was named to the All-NBA team three times. He was also the NBA Finals MVP in 2008, when he helped lead the Celtics to their 17th championship in team history.
Carl Yastrzemski is a former baseball player who spent his entire 23-season playing career with the Red Sox. He was a seven-time American League (AL) batting champion and won the AL Most Valuable Player (MVP) award in 1967, when he led the Red Sox to the AL pennant. He was also a 17-time All-Star and won multiple Gold Gloves for his defensive play in left field.
Russell won a remarkable 11 NBA championships in 13 seasons with the Celtics, making him one of the most successful athletes in the history of professional sports. He was also a five-time NBA Most Valuable Player and was selected to the All-Star team 12 times. Russell was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1975 and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in 2011.
Jim Rice is a former baseball player who played his entire 16-year career with the Boston Red Sox from 1974 to 1989. He is widely regarded as one of the best hitters of his generation and is known for his power-hitting ability and his clutch hitting in big moments.
Tedy Bruschi is a former football player who spent his entire 13-year career with the New England Patriots, where he won three Super Bowl championships and was a five-time Pro Bowler.
Tim Thomas is a former NHL player who played for the Boston Bruins from 2005-2012, where he won the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s best goaltender in 2009. Thomas is most famous for his outstanding performance during the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs, where he led the Bruins to their first Stanley Cup championship in 39 years and was named the Most Valuable Player of the postseason.
Aly Raisman grew up in Needham and is an American gymnast best known for her successful career as a member of the “Fierce Five” U.S. Olympic team that won the gold medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London and the “Final Five” team that won the gold medal at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. In addition to her team success, Raisman also won individual medals, including a bronze medal on the floor exercise in 2012 and a gold medal on the floor exercise in 2016.
Nancy Kerrigan is a retired Olympic figure skater who was born in Stoneham. She won a bronze medal at the 1992 Winter Olympics and a silver medal at the 1994 Winter Olympics, where she was famously attacked by Tonya Harding’s associate prior to the competition.
A number of famous people from Massachusetts are musicians. Here are a few:
Born in Lawrence, Leonard Bernstein was a composer, conductor, pianist, and educator who is best known for his achievements in classical music and his contributions to the world of musical theater. He was one of the most prominent and influential figures in American classical music during the 20th century and is widely credited with helping to make classical music more accessible and appealing to new generations of listeners.
Jonathan Richman is a singer-songwriter who was born in Boston but grew up in Natick. He’s a founding member of the influential proto-punk band The Modern Lovers.
Born in Boston, LaDonna Adrian Gaines known professionally as Donna Summer, was a singer and songwriter. She gained prominence during the disco era of the 1970s and became known as the “Queen of Disco”, while her music gained popularity worldwide.
Formed in the 1970s in Boston, Aerosmith consists of members Steven Tyler, Joe Perry, Tom Hamilton, Joey Kramer, and Brad Whitford. Their style is considered to be blues-based hard rock. Some of the band’s biggest hits, include Dream On, Sweet Emotion, Walk This Way, Crazy, and Janie’s Got a Gun. Lead singer Tyler is inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
New Kids on the Block
Boy band New Kids on the Block originated in Dorchester and consists of brothers Jonathan and Jordan Knight, Joey McIntyre, Donnie Wahlberg, and Danny Wood. The band enjoyed success in the late 1980s and 1990s, selling more than 80 million records worldwide, and is considered the first modern boy band.
Among famous people from Massachusetts are certainly its authors. The state has a long history of renowned authors of a wide range of genres.
Nathaniel Hawthorne was a 19th-century novelist and short story writer born in Salem but who also lived in The Berkshires and Concord. His works often focus on history, morality, and religion. He is best known for his novel The Scarlet Letter.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson was an essayist, lecturer, philosopher, abolitionist, and poet who led the transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century. He espoused individualism and was a critic of the countervailing pressures of society. He spread his ideology through dozens of published essays and more than 1,500 public lectures across the United States. Emerson was born in Boston but spent much of his life in Concord.
Henry David Thoreau
Henry David Thoreau was born in Concord and lived much of his life there. He was an American naturalist, essayist, poet, philosopher, and leading Transcendentalism. He is best known for his book Walden, a reflection on simple living, which was inspired by Thoreau’s experience living in a one-room cabin next to Walden Pond.
Louisa May Alcott
Although born in Pennsylvania, Louisa May Alcott moved to Concord with her family when she was two years old. She is best known as the author of the novel Little Women, published in 1868, and its sequels Little Men and Jo’s Boys. Alcott’s parents were transcendentalists and she grew up among many other intellectuals and authors such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Nathaniel Hawthorne.
Sarah Margaret Fuller, also referred to as Margaret Fuller Ossoli or just Margaret Fuller, was and early 19th century journalist, critic, translator, editor, author, and women’s rights advocated associated with the Transcendentalism movement. She was the first American woman to become a war correspondent and she was also a full-time book reviewer. Fuller published Women in the Nineteenth Century, which is considered the first major feminist work in the U.S.
Born in Amherst, Emily Dickinson was a 19th-century poet who was little-known during her life. Only ten poems and a letter were published during her lifetime. After her death, Dickinson’s younger sister discovered the collection of nearly 1,800 poems, and the first volume of her poems was published. Later, in 1955, Thomas H. Johnson published Dickinson’s Complete Poems.
Mary Baker Eddy
Mary Baker Eddy was a 19th-century author and religious leader who founded the Church of Christ, Scientist. She is most well-known for her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures which has sold over 10 million copies worldwide. She is also the author of numerous other books and articles and founded the publications The Christian Science Sentinel, The Christian Science Journal, and The Herald of Christian Science as well as the secular newspaper The Christian Science Monitor. Eddy was born in New Hampshire but spent much of her life in the Boston area.
Although born in San Francisco, poet Robert Frost moved to Massachusetts when he was eleven and lived there and in New Hampshire throughout the rest of his life. Frost’s poetry is known for its depictions of New England rural life in the 20th century which also examined social a philosophical themes. He was Frost was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature 31 times.
A poet and novelist, Sylvia Plath is known for her highly personal and confessional style and is regarded as one of the most influential poets of the 20th century. She was born in Boston but after college moved to London, England. In 1982, Plath was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in poetry, the fourth person to receive this honor posthumously.
Robert Traill Spence Lowell IV was a 20th-century poet known for his introspective, confessional style and his influence on modern American poetry. He was born and grew up in Boston and was a member of a influential Boston Brahim family whose roots traced back to the Mayflower. He is best known for his work Life Studies, which won the 1960 National Book Award.
Born and raised in Springfield but later moved to England and New York, author Theodor Seuss Geisel wrote more than 60 of popular children’s books written in a rhyming fashion and illustrated with cartoon characters. Over 600 million copies of his books sold worldwide by the time of his death in 1991 and had been translated into more than 20 languages.
Author Jack Kerouac, whose original name is Jean-Louis Lebris de Kerouac, was born and grew up in Lowell. His parents were French-Canadian and Jack spoke French at home and learned English in school. Kerouac was a novelist, poet and a leader of the Beat movement. He is most well-known for his book On the Road, published in 1957.
Doris Kearns Goodwin
Doris Helen Kearns Goodwin best known as a biographer and historian but she has also been a former sports journalist and political commentator. She has written best-selling biographies of several U.S. presidents and won a Pulitzer Price for History in 1995 for her book No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II. Although born in New York City, Goodwin has spent much of her life in Massachusetts, mainly in the town of Concord.
Massachusetts is known for a number of famous artists. Here are a few:
John Singleton Copley
A 18th-century artist, John Singleton Copley was a painter of portraits, mainly wealthy families, and historical subjects and was believed to be the finest artist of the colonial United States. He is believed to be born in Boston although moved to London at age 36 never to return to the U.S. His most notable paintings include Watson and the Shark, Paul Revere, Mrs. James Warren (Mercy Otis), Portrait of Daniel Denison Rogers, and Portrait of Governor Thomas Hutchinson.
Norman Rockwell was a 20th-century illustrator and painter, best known for his nostalgic and whimsical depictions of American life. He produced more than 4,000 paintings and illustrations in his lifetime, many of which appeared on the covers of The Saturday Evening Post. Rockwell spent the last twenty-five years of his life in Stockbridge where the Norman Rockwell Museum now stands, honoring his work.
Newell Convers Wyeth, known as N.C. Wyeth, was born and spent his childhood in Needham . He was a 20th-century illustrator and muralist who contributed illustrations to more than 100 books including a famous series of children’s classics, including Treasure Island, Kidnapped, King Arthur, Robin Hood, and The Black Arrow. He was the teacher of his son, the painter Andrew Wyeth. His grandson, Jamie Wyeth, is also an active and well-regarded artist.
Among the famous people from Massachusetts are a number of politicians starting with founding fathers, to more present-day presidents and presidential candidates.
John F. Kennedy
John Fitzgerald Kennedy, also known as John F. Kennedy or J.F.K. was the 35th President of the United States, serving from 1961 until his assassination in 1963. He was born in Brookline to the prominent Kennedy family, of which many are among the most famous people from Massachusetts. Kennedy’s presidential library is located in Boston.
Paul Revere was an 18th-century silversmith, engraver, industrialist and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. He’s best known for his midnight ride from Boston to Lexington and Concord to alert colonial minutemen to the approach of British forces. He was born in Boston before the founding of the United States and lived his entire life there. Visitors can tour Paul Revere’s house in the North End of Boston.
John Adams was the second president of the United States, proceeded by George Washington, to which he was vice president. He was born in what is now Quincy and returned there after serving in office. Adams is also known as an attorney, diplomat, writer, and was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States.
Born in Boston, Benjamin Franklin was a writer, scientist, inventor, statesman, diplomat, printer, publisher, political philosopher, and the first U.S. Postmaster General. He was also one of the Founding Fathers of the United States and a drafter and signer of the U.S. Declaration of Independence.
Robert Francis Kennedy, also known simply as Robert Kennedy, R.F.K or the nickname Bobby, was born in Brookline and was the brother of John and Edward Kennedy. He was a lawyer and politician who was the 64th U.S. Attorney General and served as a U.S. Senator from New York. While running for the office of president, Kennedy was assassinated in June 1968.
Edward (Ted) Kennedy
Edward Moore Kennedy, more commonly known as Ted Kennedy, was a lawyer and politician who served in the U.S. Senate for Massachusetts for almost 47 years. He was in office when he died in 2009 and at the time was the second most senior member of the Senate. He was born in Boston and was the younger brother of John and Robert Kennedy.
Elizabeth Warren is a politician and former law professor who serves as the senior U.S. Senator for Massachusetts. A democratic progressive, she was a candidate for the party’s presidential primary in 2020.
Mitt Romney, a native to Utah, served as the 70th governor of Massachusetts from 2003-2007. He was also the Republican nominee for president of the United States in 2012.
Michael Dukakis is a retired lawyer and politician who served as governor of Massachusetts from 1975 and 1979 and again from 1983 to 1991. He was also the Democratic nominee for president of the United States in 1988. He was born in Brookline and continues to reside there.
John Kerry is a former US Senator from Massachusetts and the Democratic nominee for President of the United States in 2004. He later served as the Secretary of State under President Barack Obama and is currently serving as the U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate for President Biden.
Deval Patrick is a former Governor of Massachusetts and was the first African American to hold the office. Patrick’s time in Massachusetts began when he attended Milton Academy, followed by Harvard College. Patrick also ran for the nomination in the 2020 Democratic Party presidential primaries.
Barney Frank is a former U.S. Representative from Massachusetts and was the first openly gay member of the US House of Representatives. His time in Massachusetts began when he attended Harvard College in the early 1960s.
A number of famous business leaders are from Massachusetts. Here are a few:
Michael Bloomberg was born in Boston but also lived in Allston, Brookline, and Medford. He is most well-known for starting a string of companies including Bloomberg L.P., Bloomberg News, Bloomberg Radio, Bloomberg Message, and Bloomberg Tradebook. Bloomberg was also the mayor of New York City from 2002-2013 and ran for the the 2020 Democratic nomination for President of the United States.
John Francis Welch Jr., more commonly known as Jack Welch, was the Chairman and CEO of General Electric (GE) between 1981 and 2001. He was born in Peabody and resided in Massachusetts through college.
Although born in New York, Theo Epstein was raised in Brookline. He is best known for his work as the general manager of two Major League Baseball teams: the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs.
Born in Brookline, Robert Kraft is best known as the owner of the New England Patriots football team. He has led the team to six Super Bowl championships, and his leadership has helped establish the Patriots as one of the top NFL franchises.
Amar Bose is best known as the founder of Bose Corporation, a producer of high-end audio equipment. He attended The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) and lived in Massachusetts until his death in 2013.
James Drummond Dole was the founder of the Dole Food Company which is known for its distribution of pineapples. Dole was born in Jamaica Plain, which is now a part of Boston.
Famous Figures in History
The following famous people from Massachusetts played a role in United States history:
Abigail Adams was the second first lady of the United States, wife of President John Adams, and mother of the fourth president of the U.S., John Quincy Adams. She was born in Weymouth, British America and lived with John in Quincy until her death in 1818. She was considered one of the most well-educated women of her time and was a strong advocate for women’s rights. She is also known for her letters to her husband, in which she expressed her views on politics, women’s rights, and the American Revolution.
Susan B. Anthony
Born in Adams, Susan B. Anthony was a women’s rights activist who played a key role in the women’s suffrage movement. She is best known for her tireless efforts to secure the right for women to vote in the United States.
Frederick Douglass was an escaped slave who became a prominent abolitionist, orator, and writer. After escaping slavery in Maryland, Douglass settled in Massachusetts where he became active in the abolitionist movement. He delivered speeches throughout New England and was also an active member of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery society.
Horace Mann was an American educator and political leader who was known for his efforts to reform the American public school system in the 19th century. He was born in Franklin. Due to Mann’s efforts public schools became widely available in the United States and many of the reforms Mann advocated for, such as mandatory attendance and the use of standardized curricula, were implemented.
About Kerry Flatley
Kerry Flatley has lived in New England for the past 26 years. She has roots in Maine & Massachusetts, family in New Hampshire, and grew up close to the Connecticut border. She loves all that this region has to offer – the ocean, mountains, islands, history, villages, and cities. When she’s not writing about New England, she’s relaxing at home in the Boston suburbs with her two teenage daughters and husband.