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Jill Silos-Rooney

actor, athlete, singer, and producer, was born in Newark, New Jersey, to Annabelle Patricia West and John Allen Amos Sr., a self-taught diesel auto mechanic and tractor trailer driver. Shortly after his second birthday, the family moved to East Orange, New Jersey, where they lived while John Sr. served in the military during World War II. His father left after the war, and his mother struggled to support her family by working as a domestic and then as a certified dietician. Amos recalled that, “the only time [he] ever saw his mother concede to possible failure was one time when she could not find any food in the cupboards. She had to ask him to go to the next-door neighbor to borrow food” (interview with John Amos by the author, 2010 Amos first joined the Metropolitan Baptist Church in Newark New Jersey at about ...


Richard Sobel

track-and-field athlete, motivational speaker, and activist for youth, was born Robert Alfred Beamon in Jamaica, New York, to Naomi Brown Beamon and a father he never met. After his mother died from tuberculosis before Beamon's first birthday, his stepfather, James, assumed parental responsibility for Robert and his older, disabled brother Andrew. Robert's grandmother, Bessie Beamon, ultimately took over their care as a result of James's inadequate parenting skills. Rarely supervised, Beamon ran away from home when he was fourteen and joined a gang. When he struck a teacher who had attempted to break up one of Beamon's fights, he was expelled and charged with assault and battery.

Beamon's life might have become a tragedy if it weren't for a judge who was “thoughtful, compassionate, and obviously interested in helping kids” (Second Chances 3 The judge took a chance and allowed Beamon to attend an alternative school in ...


Kate Tuttle

By the time Jim Brown retired in 1965 after nine seasons in the National Football League (NFL), many sports writers had described him as the best fullback ever to carry a football. Born on Simmons Island, Georgia, Jim Brown moved with his mother to Long Island, New York, at the age of seven. An all-state athlete in high school in football, basketball, and track, he became a four-sport star in college, adding lacrosse to his arsenal while at Syracuse University.

After graduating in 1957, Brown received job offers from professional baseball and basketball teams as well as invitations to become a boxer, but he chose to sign with the NFL's Cleveland Browns. The NFL named Brown Rookie of the Year in 1957 and chose him as its Most Valuable Player three times in his brief career He played in the Pro Bowl nine times setting records for ...


David F. Smydra

athlete, actor, and activist, was born James Nathaniel Brown on Saint Simons Island, Georgia, to Theresa and Swinton Brown, a onetime boxer, who abandoned Theresa and their son two weeks after his birth. A couple of years later Theresa departed for Long Island, New York, to take a domestic job, leaving Jim to be raised by his great-grandmother and grandmother, the latter an alcoholic. By 1944 Theresa had saved enough money to send for Jim, and they were reunited in Manhasset, Long Island, for the first time in six years. Despite the usual friction of being the new kid—he was once accused by his peers of fighting dirty—Brown eventually distinguished himself athletically. He gained the attention of a local policeman, who lent Brown keys to the high school gym so that the youth could organize Police Boys' Club games whenever he and his friends wanted to play.At Manhasset ...


Julian C. Madison

athlete, actor, civic activist. Jim Brown is generally recognized as the greatest football player and the greatest lacrosse player of all time. At 6 feet 2 inches tall, weighing 228 pounds, and with a 32-inch waist, Brown combined great speed with a powerful running style and fearsome stiff-arm to terrorize National Football League (NFL) defenders for nine years. The only person in history voted into three halls of fame (college football, college lacrosse, and the NFL), Brown is arguably the greatest athlete of the twentieth century.

James Nathaniel Brown was born on Saint Simons Island, Georgia, to Swinton “Sweet Sue” and Theresa Brown Swinton Brown left his family barely two weeks after his son was born and they rarely heard from him afterward When Jim was two his mother left him in the care of his great grandmother and moved to Great Neck Long Island where ...


Donna L. Halper

radio personality and advertising executive, was most likely the first black announcer in the history of broadcasting, on the air as early as 1924. His successful radio career would span four decades and make him a wealthy man. Cooper did not come from an entertainment background. Born in Memphis, Tennessee, he was one of ten children of William and Lavina Cooper. Jack Cooper quit school after the fifth grade to help support his impoverished family. He held a number of low-paying jobs and for a time got interested in boxing, winning more than a hundred bouts as a welterweight fighter. But he found his calling on the vaudeville stage, where he became a singer and dancer, beginning in 1905 and continuing well into the 1920s. He was more than just a performer, writing and producing skits and entire shows, often in collaboration with his first wife Estelle ...


Michael L. Krenn

boxer and businessman, was born George Edward Foreman in Marshall, Texas, the son of J. D. Foreman and Nancy Ree. His father, a railroad employee and a heavy drinker, was absent for much of George's childhood. His mother worked several jobs, including as a waitress, to support George and his six siblings.

As Foreman describes it his childhood was marked by intense want and hunger and an anger that often exploded into fighting Even at a young age he was larger than normal and he used his intimidating size to bully his peers He had little love for school although football in junior high school proved attractive for its violence and aggression Foreman did not last long in high school however By the age of fifteen he was spending most of his time on the streets of Houston where his mother had moved the family when he was ...


Patrick Stearns

professional boxer, actor, product spokesperson, and minister. George Edward Foreman was born in Marshall, Texas, to J. D. Foreman and Nancy Foreman. By the seventh grade he had dropped out of school, engaging in petty crimes, such as muggings. At age sixteen he enrolled in a Job Corps training program in Oregon. While working at a conservation camp affiliated with the program, Foreman found that he had a talent for boxing, and he won the Corps Diamond Belt Boxing Tournament.

In 1968 Foreman made the U.S. Olympic boxing team and won the gold medal in the Olympic Games in Mexico City. Vietnam War protests, the rise of black nationalism, and episodes of civil unrest in U.S. cities after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination earlier in the year were a sign of the times. The 1968 Olympics in Mexico City were also the scene ...


Alonford James Robinson

Marvin Hagler, the eldest of seven children, was born in Newark, New Jersey. Boxing as an amateur, he won 57 bouts, winning the Amateur Athletic Union middleweight title in 1973. At 5 ft 9 ½ in (176 cm) tall, Hagler was a powerful 160-lb (70-kg) left-hander. He turned professional in 1973, winning his first 26 fights by knockout. He legally changed his name to Marvelous Marvin Hagler so that he could be announced that way in the ring. He defeated Alan Minter in 1980 to become middleweight champion of the world. Hagler defended this title 12 times before he was defeated by Sugar Ray Leonard in 1987. He retired in June 1988. He later moved to Italy, where he enjoyed a second career as an action movie star.


Michael L. Krenn

boxer, was born in Newark, New Jersey, the son of Ida Mae Hagler and Robert Sims. Most of his youth, however, was spent in Brockton, Massachusetts, where his mother and father moved with Marvin and his five siblings just a few years after Marvin's birth. Sims left the family when Marvin was a child. Like so many young men who turn to boxing, Hagler had found little to interest him in school. He dropped out during his first year in high school to pursue amateur fighting. The home of the former undefeated heavyweight king Rocky Marciano, Brockton had a history of producing champions. Hagler became acquainted with the Petronelli brothers, Goody, who served as his trainer, and Pat, who became his manager for most of his career.

Just shy of sixty amateur fights to his credit Hagler quickly established himself as one of the best amateur ...


Canada Lee was born in New York City. Originally a boxer, Canada Lee entered the theater after a fight in 1933 left him blind in one eye. He began his acting career in the role of Banquo in a black production of Shakespeare's Macbeth, funded by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) Negro Federal Theatre Project, in 1936. The play was directed by Orson Welles and marked the beginning of Lee's portrayal of nontraditional roles, at a time when most black actors and actresses were relegated to demeaning roles.

Although Macbeth received some negative reviews (due more to the fact that a black cast was performing Shakespeare than to the quality of the acting), it gave Lee the needed exposure to continue in such roles. Through the WPA Negro Federal Theatre Project, he continued to experiment with the nontraditional, performing in Eugene O'Neill's One Act Plays ...


Christopher Caines

actor, bandleader, and boxer, was born Leonard Lionel Cornelius Canegata in New York City, the son of James Cornelius Canegata, a clerk, and Lydia Whaley. Lee's father came from a wealthy and politically prominent family in St. Croix, Virgin Islands, whose ancestors had adopted a Danish surname. Lee's grandfather owned a fleet of merchant ships; the family also raced horses. James Canegata shipped out as a cabin boy at eighteen, settled in Manhattan, married, and worked for National Fuel and Gas for thirty-one years. Lee grew up in the San Juan Hill section of Manhattan's West Sixties and attended P.S. 5 in Harlem. An indifferent student, he devoted more energy to fisticuffs than to schoolwork. Lee studied violin from age seven with the composer J. Rosamond Johnson and at age eleven he was favorably reviewed at a student concert in Aeolian Hall his parents ...


Ana Luiza Libânio

was born Adriana Vitor Lessa on 1 February 1971 in São Paulo, Brazil. Her father, a blue-collar worker, and her mother, a schoolteacher, provided her and her only brother with the best education and opportunities they could afford, including athletic activities. The two children spent their adolescent years dedicated to sports, going to the ACM (the Brazilian YMCA); hence, an artistic career was not in Lessa’s plans for the future. Her ambition was to be a volleyball player as well as a track and field star. For a brief time, Lessa was a professional volleyball player with the Sport Club Corinthians Paulista based in the city of Guarulhos, São Paulo.

In 1986 a friend who worked as an actor invited Lessa to audition for a role in a play by Brazilian stage director Antunes Filho At first she turned down the invitation but ultimately auditioned on stage and was ...


Mr. T  

Jason Philip Miller

actor, performer, and minister, was born Laurence Tureaud in the rough and tumble Robert Taylor housing projects in Chicago, Illinois. He was the youngest of twelve children. His father, Nathaniel, a minister, abandoned the family when Laurence was five years old, leaving the young boy's mother to raise her large family on a meager welfare check. Tureaud attended Dunbar Vocational School and won a football scholarship to Prairie View A&M in Texas. He matriculated in 1971 but was expelled after just a year (presumably for academic indifference, though the official reasons are unclear).

His academic career apparently at an end, Tureaud enlisted in the U.S. Army, where he served as a military policeman, but that too turned out to be a brief association. In 1971 he married Phyllis Clark The couple would have three children but later divorced Two years later he tried out for ...


professional boxer and actor, was born in Jacksonville, Illinois, to George Florence, a World War II veteran, and Ruth Norton, an activities director at a hospital, who would later marry John Norton a fireman and police dispatcher From an early age Norton excelled in sports which he claimed protected him from much of the racism that pervaded his hometown In high school Norton became a star in football baseball and track and field Although gifted intellectually Norton did only the work required of him and as a result did not do well in school However his athletic achievements led to scholarship offers from over ninety institutions Fearful of venturing too far from home Norton accepted a football scholarship from Northeast Missouri State University later Truman State University a teacher s college where he played basketball and football During his sophomore year Norton got into an argument ...


Jonathan B. Fenderson

basketball player, actor, rapper, and entrepreneur. Born to Lucille OЙNeal and christened with the name Shaquille Rashaun, meaning “little warrior,” OЙNeal, who now stands 7 feet, 1 inch and weighs 325 pounds, outgrew the “little” aspect of his name and became known worldwide simply as “Shaq.”

OЙNeal first played basketball at Fulda American High School in West Germany, where his military stepfather, Philip Harrison was stationed After the family s relocation OЙNeal became a star at Robert G Cole Junior Senior High School in San Antonio Texas In his junior and senior years OЙNeal led his team to a 68 1 record and a state championship After graduation OЙNeal attended Louisiana State University where he garnered two First Team All American Awards and a John Wooden Award for NCAA Player of the Year After his junior year OЙNeal ended his college career to enter ...


Born in Newark, New Jersey, Shaquille O'Neal attended high school in San Antonio, Texas, where he led the school Basket Ball team to the state championship. O'Neal then entered Louisiana State University (LSU) in 1989. He quickly became a dominating player in college basketball, and he averaged 21.6 points and 13.5 rebounds per game over three seasons. In his last year at LSU he led the nation in blocked shots and was second in rebounding.

In 1992 O'Neal entered the National Basketball Association (NBA) draft and was the first player chosen, by the Orlando Magic, then a recent expansion team. Although his inexperience was evident in his first professional year, O'Neal's high level of play made him a nearly unanimous choice as rookie of the year for the 1992–1993 season That year he led the season s rookies in points 23 4 rebounds 13 9 and blocked ...


Daniel Donaghy

basketball player, actor, and rapper, was born in Newark, New Jersey, to Lucille O'Neal and Joseph Tooney. Within six months of O'Neal's birth, Tooney left Lucille O'Neal. Shaquille and his three half-siblings were raised by Lucille and army sergeant Philip Harrison. O'Neal grew up as an “army brat,” relocating with his family to military bases in New Jersey, Georgia, Germany, and San Antonio, Texas. By the time he was thirteen, O'Neal had already grown to six-feet-five. His lack of coordination and recurring status as the “new kid” led him to feel like an outcast without many close friends.

O Neal s life changed dramatically once he began to participate in sports Although athletic success did not come immediately he failed to make his high school basketball team as a freshman O Neal eventually became a dominant athlete leading San Antonio s Robert G Cole Senior ...


Joel Gordon

Egyptian movie star and bridge master, was born Michel Dimitry Chalhoub in Alexandria on 10 April 1932 to parents of Lebanese Catholic origin. Joseph Chalhoub, his father, a successful lumber merchant, moved the family to Cairo when Michel was four. During World War II his business expanded. The family moved into an upscale apartment in the exclusive Garden City neighborhood. As a teen, Michel attended the Cairo branch of the prestigious English-language Victoria College. His parents frequented the fashionable clubs and casinos with the glitterati of Egyptian society. His mother, Claire, became a frequent gambling partner—Sharif has called her a “mascot”—of the notorious King Faruq, who would summon her at all hours to play by his side and who regularly visited the family flat.

Young Michel showed little aptitude for academics He was drawn to sports Via an uncle he developed an attraction to French culture and language He also ...


Robert Fay

Born in Alexandria, Egypt, then under British Colonial rule, Michel Shalhoub was the son of a successful timber merchant. He attended private English schools in Egypt and then graduated from Cairo’s Victoria College. He converted to Islam, changed his name to Omar Sharif, and embarked on an acting career. Sharif achieved stardom in Egypt with Sina Fil Wadi (The Blazing Sun, 1954), which also starred Faten Hamama, whom he married. They had one child, a son named Tarek.

Sharif’s work caught the notice of English director David Lean, who cast him as Sherif Ali ibn el Kharish in Lawrence of Arabia (1962). The role earned him an Academy Award nomination, and catapulted him into international stardom. His smoldering romantic presence captivated audiences and made him one of the most successful stars of the 1960s. In 1965 Sharif again teamed up with Lean this ...