In March 2016, Jackson pledged to fund projects in Chattanooga’s classrooms as part of a nationwide Donors Choose campaign. | Screenshot/Youtube

By Brianna Williams 

Hollywood may be 2,138 miles away, but our city still manages to keep up the celeb connections. 

Singer, actor, dancer + coach on “The Voice,” Usher is a Chattanooga native who’s known to pop up for a surprise school visit or for pizza on the North Shore.

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And if that’s not cool enough, Samuel L. Jackson hails from Chattanooga and he came back to pay tribute to victims of the July 16, 2015 shootings here. He’s also shared his experiences growing up in a segregated Chattanooga on talk and news shows. 

Check out our list of talented, prominent stars who got their starts in Chattanooga. 

Bonus: Umm…Look who was in NOOGA last week and somehow we missed him. Yeah. It’s “Chasing Amy” director Kevin Smith.

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Bessie SmithBorn in 1894Known for: Singing the blues

Bessie Smith was dubbed the Empress of Blues in the 1920s + ‘30s. When she was younger, Smith and her brother performed on the streets of Chattanooga to earn money.

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Dennis HaskinsBorn in 1950Known for: “Saved by the Bell”

Dennis Haskins, AKA Mr. Belding in “Saved by the Bell,” was born and raised in Chattanooga. He attended Notre Dame High School and played basketball + cheered at UTC. He comes back to Chattanooga pretty often and has been nice enough to take a selfie with our editor, Chloé. 

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Lori PettyBorn in 1963Known for: “A League of Their Own,” “Point Break,” “Free Willy” + “Orange is the New Black”

Lori Petty has played many a role throughout her career, including the surfer who teaches Keanu Reeves to surf in the thriller “Point Break.”

Leslie JordanBorn in 1955Known for: “Will & Grace,” “American Horror Story”

Leslie Jordan moved to Chattanooga as a child. He performed in the UTC Theater and the Dance Theater Workshop before moving to LA

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Samuel L. JacksonBorn in 1948Known for: “Pulp Fiction,” Marvel Cinematic Universe, “A Time to Kill,” his voice + a lot moreJackson, who has appeared in more than 100 films, lived on Lookout Street during his childhood. He attended East Fifth Street School and Riverside High, which is now called Chattanooga School for the Arts & Sciences.

Reggie WhiteBorn in 1961Known For: NFL player 

Reggie White was a two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year who played for the Philadelphia Eagles, Green Bay Packers + Carolina Panthers. He’s one of the most awarded players in NFL history. 

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Terrell OwensBorn in 1973Known For: NFL Player

While Owens wasn’t born in Chattanooga, he did attend UTC, where he ran track and played basketball + football. He went on to become a six-time Pro Bowl selection and shares several NFL records. He also chose to come to Chattanooga to give his NFL Hall of Fame speech. 

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UsherBorn in 1978Known for: Singing, acting + dancing career, “The Voice” 

Usher was technically born in Dallas but raised right here in Chattanooga for the most part. He sang in the choir at St. Elmo missionary, where his grandma discovered he had a knack for it. He’s been known to stop by the city to visit, so keep your eyes peeled. 


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September 24, 2021

Well, I would walk (and bike, and swim) 500 miles


The 144.6-mile Ironman Triathlon takes place on Sunday, but the festivities are already starting with an opening ceremony tonight at Ross’s Landing from 6-7 p.m.

Expect several road closures and parking restrictions this weekend, including Riverfront Pkwy + W. 20 St.