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Famous Jehovah's Witnesses
People listed here come from a Jehovah's Witness background, or are converts who became Jehovah's Witnesses. A range of participation is represented by these individuals, from full activity to disaffiliation.Politics:
- Dwight D. Eisenhower - U.S. President (raised JW)
- Evelyn Mandela - first wife of South African president Nelson Mandela (convert to JWs)
- Lieby Piliso - Nelson Mandela's younger sister
- Venus Williams and Serena Williams - world chamption/Olympic gold medalist tennis players
- Lou Whitaker - professional baseball player (Detroit Tigers)
- Chet Lemon - professional baseball player (Detroit Tigers)
- Shont'e Peoples - professional football player (Saskatchewan Roughriders); convert to JWs
- Kid Gavilan - welterweight champion boxer; elected to boxing Hall of Fame in 1990 (convert to JWs)
- Dave Pear - NFL professional football player for Colts, Buccaneers, and Raiders (convert)
- Mark McCumber - professional golfer
- Dave Meyers - professional basketball player (Los Angeles Lakers in 1970s)
- Danny Granger - professional basketball player (Indiana Pacers)
- Travis Scott - NFL football player for Rams (raised JW)
- Willie Wise - NBA professional basketball player for Seattle Super Sonics and Denver Nuggets
- Prince - pop singer (convert to JWs)
- Selena - Tejano singer (Selena Quintanilla)
- Hank Marvin - famous guitarist with the Shadows (convert to JWs)
- George Benson - singer, guitarist
- Larry Graham - singer; member of Sly And The Family Stone between 1967 and 1972, founder of Graham Central Station
- David Thomas - songwriter/vocalist for Pere Ubu (convert to JWs)
- Herman Pizzanelli - leading Uruguayan concert guitarist in the 1960s (convert to JWs)
- Dave Hill - musician, Lead Guitarist and back vocals for Slade (convert)
- Rebbie Jackson - singer
- Michael Jackson - singer, pop superstar (lapsed)
- Janet Jackson - singer (lapsed)
- Katherine Jackson - matriarch of the Jacksons musical dynasty and the mother of pop music legends The Jackson 5, Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson
- La Toya Jackson - singer (lapsed)
- Jackson Five - musical group (lapsed)
- Ja Rule - rap singer, film actor (raised)
- Patti Smith - punk rock star
- Geri Halliwell - singer (Spice Girls)
- Jill Scott - R&B/neo-soul singer-poet
- Roy Harper - songwriter, musician (raised)
- La Lupe - Cuban salsa singer (convert)
Actors and Actresses:
- Terrence Howard - actor; Ray, Hustle & Flow, etc.
- Teresa Graves - actress, star of TV movie and TV series "Get Christie Love!" (convert to JWs)
- Lark Voorhies - TV/movie actress
- Michelle Rodriguez - actress, movie star (lapsed)
- Wayans Brothers - and sisters: Damon Wayans, Dwayne Wayans, Keenen Ivory Wayans, Kim Wayans, Nadia Wayans, Marlon Wayans, Shawn Wayans; comedians, actors, filmmakers
- Rustom Padilla - Filipino movie star
- Carmina Villarroel - Filipino actress
- Naomi Campbell - supermodel
- Kim Holland - Dutch porn star (former JW)
- Mickey Spillane - best-selling crime novelist (convert to JWs)
- Gloria Naylor - novelist, author of The Women of Brewster Place (1982, American Book Award)
- Charles Taze Russell - founder and first president of Jehovah's Witnesses and Watchtower Society; died in 1916
- Joseph Franklin Rutherford - second president of Jehovah's Witnesses, from 1916 until his death in 1942
- Nathan H. Knorr - third leading figure in the history of the Jehovah's Witnesses, president of Watchtower Bible and Tract Society from 1942 until he died in 1977
- Frederick W. Franz - president of Watchtower Society from 1977 until his death in 1992
- Milton G. Henschel - president of Watchtower Society from 1992 to 2000
- Don A. Adams - current president of the Watchtower Society, since late 2000
- Margaret Keane - artist famous for her "Big Eye" paintings (convert)
- Carol M. Swain - political scientist; professor at Vanderbilt University; author of Black Faces, Black Interests and The New White Nationalism in America: Its Challenge to Integration; left the Witnesses at the age of 20, in 1975
- Viv Nicholson - famous London lottery winner in 1961. She then became a devout JW. The musical Spend, Spend, Spend was based on her story.
- Rene Montes de Oca Martija - dissident human-rights activist in Cuba (son of JW)
- Hayden Covington - leading attorney for the Jehovah's Witnesses, Watchtower Society; won multiple U.S. Supreme Court cases; represented Muhammad Ali in court
- Firpo Carr - historian, author of Germany's Black Holocaust: 1890-1945; Wicked Words: Poisoned Minds - Racism in the Dictionary; founder: Scholar Technological Institute of Research, Inc. (STIR)
- Angelo Palego - leader of team searching for Noah's Ark
This list is not meant to imply that fame or being a celebrity are positive or negative, or that these individuals are typical of all Jehovah's Witnesses.
Relevant excerpts from biographies and interviews are included for many of the individuals on the pages linked to from the list above. This page is not intended as a detailed source of information about the religious histories and beliefs of these individuals. For some of these individuals (e.g., Michael Jackson), participation with the Jehovah's Witnesses is so frequently described in widely available media interviews and books, that it is hardly necessary to collect references here, although in many cases we have still done so.
- Was Van Morrison raised as a JW?
Further Discussion about This Page
Some readers of this page have questioned whether all of the people listed are, in a technical sense, actually "Jehovah's Witnesses." Typically, people who disagree with some of these listings are thinking of the term "Jehovah's Witnesses" from a "Jehovah's Witnesses" perspective, which for the most part is a theological perspective. This list of "Famous Jehovah's Witnesses" was compiled, however, from a purely sociological perspective, without regard to theological considerations.
This list of "Famous Jehovah's Witnesses" is part of a much larger collection of "famous adherents" of many different faith groups. As such, it has been compiled based on a broader, standardized definition of an adherent, and not based on any definition peculiar to a particular group.
This list does indeed include people who were raised in Jehovah's Witnesses homes or are no longer active in the faith, as well as people who are full-fledged, active, baptized church members in good standing. Many faithful Jehovah's Witnesses simply reject the notion that a person can be called a "Jehovah's Witness" if they do not meet certain criteria. They are correct (from a Jehovah's Witness theological perspective).
But as a practical matter, people who are not Jehovah's Witnesses will look at somebody being raised in a Jehovah's Witness home or actively attending Jehovah's Witness religious services, and think that such a person is indeed a "Jehovah's Witness" (regardless of whether they are or not, according to official guidelines of the faith).
This is not a unique situation. Every group has its own internal criteria for membership or inclusion, criteria which are not necessarily observed by outsiders. This is true whether a group is highly organized (such as Jehovah's Witnesses) or relatively unorganized (such as atheists).
Many of the people listed on our page are full-fledged, active Jehovah's Witnesses and are even profiled in issues of the official Watchtower (Jehovah's Witnesses) publications Watchtower or Awake!
Some people have wondered if we have listed people who simply studied briefly with Jehovah's Witnesses. As far as we know, this is not the case. Anybody can sit down and meet with Jehovah's Witnesses to study their beliefs. In no way would we consider that grounds for identifying somebody as a Jehovah's Witness. All of the people listed on our page have actually been considered Jehovah's Witnesses or considered themselves adherents of the faith, either by way of having been raised in the faith or because they were an active convert to the faith.
Of course no insult is meant to Jehovah's Witnesses or anybody else by hosting this list. Personally, reading the biographies and faith statements of many famous Jehovah's Witnesses has helped tear down some stereotypes for me. It simply isn't true, for example, that this faith necessarily stifles creativity or achievement. Clearly, many adherents to the faith (including people raised in it as well as converts who chose to become Witnesses as adults) have been very famous creative people or have been very successful, as measured by worldly standards.
Regardless of the obvious tensions between the pressures of worldly fame, versus remaining active in a religious faith which expects all of its members to live according to the highest Biblical standards of ethics and morality, there are indeed many "famous" adherents who have strived to remain faithful. Even for those who have failed to balance fame and success with the demands of their faith, the teachings and values they were raised with or embraced at some point as an adult remain forever an influence in their lives. Were this not true, these individuals would not be listed here at all. This list is based on what famous people themselves have said to interviewers and to the public. We have no access to actual Jehovah's Witness membership or attendance records. If a celebrity or famous person doesn't talk publicly about their experiences as a Jehovah's Witness, we would have no way of knowing about this part of their lives.
The actions of a single individual should never be used to judge an entire group of people, and I believe most people realize this. Anybody who does try to condemn Jehovah's Witnesses by the behavior of their "worst" lapsed members or former members will stand instantly condemned themselves. This is because the cumulative behavior of the famous (and infamous) members of the group the accuser belongs to is far worse than anything they will be able to dig up relating to people who have been Jehovah's Witnesses. This is true of essentially any sufficiently large religious group. It is true also of anti-religious people, who are nearly always wise enough to avoid condemning entire groups by the actions of individuals, lest they be asked to answer for the hundreds of millions of murders perpetrated by Lenin, Pol Pot, Stalin, Adolph Hitler, Mao, Mussolini, Nicolae Ceausescu, Joseph Goebbels, Maximillien Robespierre, etc.
Copyright © 2005 by Adherents.com.
Web page created 2 November 2000. Last modified 16 January 2006.
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