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Famous Adoptions

Did you ever wonder if any famous people were adopted, or if anyone famous ever adopted children? Find out about some people whose lives have been touched by adoption!

Babe Ruth

Babe RuthBabe Ruth was the eldest of eight children born to a Baltimore bartender and his wife. They had no time for their son, and when he was seven they placed him in St. Mary's Industrial School for Boys, a combination orphanage and reform school. They even signed over custody to the Brothers who ran the institution. He had been virtually living on the streets already, and was classed as "incorrigible." There were no visits, but he did go back to live with his parents for short periods a couple of times.

Brother Mathais at St. Mary's took an interest in young George, and encouraged his obvious talent for baseball. He was spotted by a talent scout named Jack Dunn when he was 19, and in order to circumvent the custody order, which was supposed to last until he turned 21, Dunn became his legal guardian.

His nickname was given him on an early appearance with the Baltimore Orioles. He was soon sold to the Boston Red Sox, and in 1919 to the New York Yankees, where he remained until 1934. For a few months after that he played for the Boston Braves, before retiring.

He died from throat cancer in 1948. He was married twice. First to Helen Woodford, with whom he adopted a daughter, Dorothy. Helen died in a fire in 1929, and he married again four months later. His new wife, Claire Hodgson, a widow, also had a daughter, Julia, and they each adopted the other's child. Babe Ruth is still known as one of the best baseball players in history, and gave his name to a candy bar.


Darryl Matthews McDaniel

Darryl McDanielsDarryl Matthews McDaniels (birth name Darryl Lovelace), born May 31, 1964 is one of the pioneers of hip hop culture and founding members of the legendary hip hop group Run-D.M.C.

In 1997, hip hop legend Darryl McDaniels should have been riding high. Run-DMC was touring Europe after a remix put them back atop the charts, and money was rolling in. Instead, DMC found himself alone in a hotel room, coping with vocal troubles and creative differences with his group, he found no joy in the spoils of the rap game.

At 35-year-old, McDaniels got a bombshell from his mother - she told him he was adopted. According to his adoptive parents, a 16-year-old named Bernada Lovelace, who hailed from the Dominican Republic, gave him up for adoption in 1964.


Dave Thomas

dave thomasThomas was adopted as a baby but his adoptive mother died when he was five. His father remarried three times and Thomas had an unsettled childhood.

He did not learn he was adopted until he was 13, from his grandmother. He traced his birth parents but they had already died when he located them.

From the age of 12 he worked in the restaurant business. He was a high-school dropout and left home after the 10th grade. He founded the Wendy's franchise restaurant chain in 1969.

He was on the boards of directors of the Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio and the St. Jude Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, and won the Horatio Alger Award in 1979. In 1992 he established the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, to promote adoption law simplification and reduce the costs of adopting in the USA.


Faith Hill

Faith HillAudrey Faith Perry Hill was adopted when a few days old by Ted and Edna Perry, who had two older birth sons and wanted a daughter, and raised in Star, Mississippi. Her birth parents were unmarried, although they married later and had a son. She always has known she was adopted.

She began singing in public when she was seven, but did not debut professionally until 1993, although she had her first band when she was 16 or 17. She went to Nashville when she was 19 and worked at various jobs until her big break with Take Me As I Am in 1993. Her second album was It Matters to Me in 1995 and she participated in The Best of Country Sings The Best of Disney and For Our Children Too, both in 1996. Faith was released in 1999.

She has won a number of country music awards, including singing at the closing ceremonies of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and singing the National Anthem at the 2000 Super Bowl, as well as four 1999 Academy of Country Music awards. She is married to singer Tim McGraw and has two children (her first marriage was to songwriter Dan Hill).

Although she initially had no interest in tracing her birth family, she changed her mind and has a good relationship with her birth mother and birth brother; her birth father had already died in an accident. Her adoptive father's illiteracy has inspired her to fund adult literacy projects.


George Washington Carver

George Washington CarverCarver was born into slavery, to Moses Carver; his mother was the only slave he had ever owned, and she was well-treated. His father, from a neighboring plantation, had been killed in an accident just before his birth. When his mother was stolen by slave raiders, George was still a baby and he and his older brother, Jim, were then raised by their owners as their own children.

When Carver was 10 he left home to find education and was fostered for a time by a childless Black couple, Andy and Mariah Watkins, but at 13 he left once again for more education, this time fostered in Fort Scott, Kansas, and Minneapolis by another childless Black couple, the Seymours.

He was denied admission to Highland University because of his race, but accepted at Simpson College, where he studied art. He then did a degree at Iowa State College of Agriculture and was the first African-American to graduate from there. He became one of the world's top agricultural and industrial chemists, most famous for his many inventions derived from peanuts (his research is the main reason for the importance of the peanut as a US crop), and as an educator at Tuskegee Institute.



Ice-TIce-T was born Tracy Morrow in Newark, New Jersey. While he was a teenager his parents were both killed in an auto accident, and he moved to South Central Los Angeles.

He is the father of gangsta rap, noted for the controversial nature of his lyrics, and has acted in a number of low-budget hip-hop and blaxploitation films, although he has also funded several youth-intervention programs in the Los Angeles ghetto: Hands Across Watts and South Central Love.


Jesse Jackson

Jesse JacksonJackson was born to an unmarried woman. His birth father was her next-door neighbor, but he was married with children and had very little contact with Jesse. His mother married when he was still young, and he was adopted by his step-father in 1956.

Since 1963 he has been one of American's most important civil rights activists, working for Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Operation Breadbasket, Operation PUSH, PUSH/Excel, and The National Rainbow Coalition, the last three of which he himself founded. In 1968 he was ordained as a minister. He was instrumental in obtaining the release of American pilot Robert Goodman from Syria in 1983 and of the foreign hostages of Saddam Hussein in Kuwait in 1991. He ran for president in 1984 and 1988.


John Lennon

John LennonLennon's parents, Alfred (who was orphaned age nine and raised in an orphanage) and Julia Lennon, separated when he was three. From the age of five, after a failed attempt by his father to restart the marriage, and unwanted in the new family of his mother and step-father, he was raised by his Aunt Mimi and Uncle George, who were childless. A younger half-sister, Victoria Williams (born of a liaison between Mrs. Lennon and a soldier), was adopted by another family and raised in Norway, and she did not trace her birth family until 1996.

His Uncle George died suddenly when he was 12 and Lennon's behavior deteriorated. Lennon had a difficult time at school and was often in trouble with the headmaster; he and friends also stole from shops and threw stones at trains.

He formed a skiffle band, The Quarrymen, in 1955. In 1956 he entered Liverpool Art College (he was expelled in 1960) and discovered rock 'n' roll music. He met Paul McCartney in 1957, who introduced him to George Harrison. The band evolved into The Beatles (via Johnny and the Moondogs and The Silver Beetles), Ringo Starr joined the group in 1962, and the rest is musical and cultural history.

He was awarded an MBE but returned it in 1969 in protest at British government policies over Nigeria and Vietnam. He was murdered by a deranged fan on a New York street, outside his apartment house.


Josephine Baker

Josephine BakerBaker (the surname of her second husband) was born Josephine Carson to an unmarried couple in the slums of St. Louis, Missouri. Her father abandoned the family before she was a year old, and at 16 months she was sent to live temporarily with her grandmother, while her mother began a new relationship and had three more children. She returned home but the family was so poor that the children scavenged in garbage cans for food and coal.

Her formal education ended in the fourth grade (age 10 or 11). On the streets she learned to dance, and at 13 she left home for good, to be a waitress. She married twice before she was 15. She had also joined the Jones Family Band, which was to be her entry into the professional stage. She was soon "discovered" in New York and appeared there in the Folies-Bergères, Ziegfeld Follies, and the famed Le Revue Nègre in Paris, all before she turned 19.

She found the stardom in France that was denied to her as a Black woman in the USA, and in the mid-1930s she settled in there permanently, soon married a wealthy French citizen and became naturalized. During World War II she entertained Allied troops and worked in intelligence for the French Resistance which earned her the Légion d'Honneur and the Rosette de la Résistance. She was married for the fourth time in 1947, to band leader Jo Bouillon, although she also had a number lesbian relationships. She and Bouillon adopted 12 or 13 children of different ethnic backgrounds: their Rainbow Tribe. Her final years saw considerable financial problems, including bankruptcy, and she continued to work until only a few days before her death, to earn the money to support her large family (her husband had left her years before for Argentina because of her inability to control her spending)


Langston Hughes

Langston HughesLangston Hughes' father left his family in Missouri shortly after he was born (he was a lawyer, unable to practice his profession, and went to Mexico), and when he was eight his mother sent him to live with his grandmother in Lawrence, Kansas. After she died he was happily fostered by a childless couple until he rejoined his mother, who had remarried.

He was recognized as a promising poet while still in school and was first published in 1921. He worked as a merchant seaman in 1923-24 and was widely traveled in Africa, Europe and America, and was a major figure in the Harlem Renaissance, along with Countée Cullen and Zora Neale Hurston. He graduated from Lincoln University in 1929.

Hughes' awards included a Guggenheim Fellowship (1935) and a Rosenwald Fellowship (1940). He wrote 16 volumes of poetry, two novels, three collections of short stories, four volumes of other fiction, 20 plays, three volumes of autobiography, children's poetry, musical and opera libretti, TV and radio scripts and many magazine articles; he edited seven anthologies. His home in Harlem is a New York City Preservation Commission landmark.


Malcom X

Malcom XMalcolm Little was born in the American South. His father, a Christian minister, was murdered by white racists in 1931. Several years later, because of their great poverty, and her mental illness, he and his siblings were taken from their mother by social workers and put into a children's home. He was later fostered but got into trouble (he was once sent to reform school for putting a thumb tack on a teacher's chair).

Although a brilliant student he drifted into a life of petty crime. While in prison he became converted to the Nation of Islam (the Black Muslims) and when released he became one of their most effective evangelists and leaders.

After a pilgrimage to Mecca he left the Nation of Islam and became a "mainstream" Muslim, but he was assassinated by members of the Nation of Islam in 1965, leaving three daughters and a widow pregnant with twins.

He is known as one of the most influential of all the civil rights activists of the 1950s and 1960s.


Melissa Gilbert

Melissa GilbertMelissa Gilbert was adopted as a new-born baby by a well-known Hollywood family. Her parents were actors and her grandfather was a television writer. Her parents divorced when she was eight and her adoptive father died when she was 11

became one of the principal actors, playing Laura Ingalls, in the long-running television series Little House on the Prairie, whose male lead, Michael Landon, became a surrogate father-figure to her. She has a large number of other acting credits to her name.

The family also includes an adopted brother, Jonathan, now a New York stockbroker, who as a child also acted in Little House on the Prairie, playing the part of Willie Oleson; he also later acted with Melissa in The Miracle Worker. Their half-sister, Sara, who played Darlene in the sitcom Roseanne, is not adopted.


Nancy Reagan

Nancy ReaganNancy Reagan was adopted aged six by her step-father, Loyal Davis, after her parents' divorce and mother's remarriage. She was a successful Hollywood actress from 1949 to 1956, but she gave up her career after she married the actor and future governor of California and president of the US in 1952.

Her influence on President Reagan was profound, especially in his later years. Her own interests as first lady included the Foster Grandparents Program and anti-drug campaigning.


Nelson Mandela

MandelaMandela was born into the Thembu sub-tribe nobility of the Xhosa people in Mveso, South Africa, initially raised by his parents there and in Qunu. He was early marked for great things, and was the first in his family to attend school. Soon after his father died, when young Nelson was nine, he was taken to the larger village of Mqhekewenzi, the Thembu provincial capital, where he became the ward of the chief-regent, Jongintaba, for the next 10 years, although he continued to see his mother on visits.

He attended university, became a lawyer and African National Congress activist, went into exile, but was eventually arrested and imprisoned for 27 years, mostly on Robben Island. He was released in 1990 and then elected to be the first president of the new South Africa, retiring in 1999.


Pierce Brosnan

pierce brosnonBrosnan's parents separated when he was a baby and he was raised by relatives in Ireland while his mother went to London to train as a nurse. In 1964 he joined her in London.

As a young man he began acting on the stage (Changing Rooms was his first major play), then in 1980 he began in films (The Long Good Friday, For Your Eyes Only, Goldeneye, Nomads, Mrs. Doubtfire, Dante's Peak, The English Patient, etc.), and his television work includes The Mansions of America and Remington Steele. He is a supporter of environmental causes. Brosnan is also an adoptive father: his son Chris Brosnan is a film producer.


Steve Jobs

Steve JobsSteve Jobs was orphaned and adopted as a baby. He showed remarkable electronics aptitude early in life and attended lectures at Hewlett-Packard, where he also had a summer job and met Stephen Wozniac. He went to Reed College in Portland, Oregon (class of 1976), but dropped out after one term, although he continued to attend classes for a year, also experimenting with drugs and eastern religions.

He along with Wozniac, co-founded Apple Computers, after developing their first machine in a garage. Jobs' company was also the brains behind the first computer-animated film Toy Story.


Ted Danson

Danson was the star of the long-running TV sitcom Cheers, playing Sam Malone, for which he won two Emmys and two Golden Globes. His film credits include Jerry and Tom, Gulliver's Travels, Getting Even with Dad, Made in America, Three Men and a Little Lady, and Three Men and a Baby.

According to the Internet lists of famous adoptees and adoptive parents published by the NAIC, Danson is both an adoptee and an adoptive parent. But the North American Council on Adoptable Children's defunct list at included him only under their heading of famous adopters. He is not listed under either heading at from The Adoption Option Committee of Minnesota. I have been unable to find independent confirmation of him as an adoptee, but does confirm him as the adoptive parent, with his second wife, Casey Coates, of a daughter.


Tim Green

Green, an adoptee, became his high-school class co-valedictorian, and went on to qualify as a lawyer and first-round draft choice of the Atlanta Falcons football team.

After retiring from playing he became a sports commentator and author, writing three novels, an exposé of professional football (The Dark Side of the Game) and the story of his search for his birth parents. He was moved to search after breaking up with a girlfriend whose own mother was a birth mother. The search took seven years and temporarily alienated him from his adoptive parents.


Willie Nelson

Willie NelsonNelson was abandoned by his mother when he was six months old. His father ran a pool hall in Austin, Texas, and he was raised by his grandparents in the village of Abbott, Texas. His grandfather taught him to play the guitar. He began performing in public when he was four years old.

Since he came to prominence in the 1970s he has made numerous best-selling albums, won three Grammy awards, and was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1993

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