Famous People Who Were Adopted

Babe Ruth learned to play baseball while growing up in orphanages.

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The image of the typical or "normal" American family -- with a father, mother, 2.5 kids, and a dog -- has become less and less familiar over time. These days, families are "blended" and "progressive" and more than a little creative in terms of structure. Below are a few well-known celebrities that were ahead of the curve. Each famous figure listed below was orphaned, fostered, or adopted at a young age and clearly didn't let that set them back.




1: Babe Ruth

George Herman Ruth, Jr., born in 1895 in Maryland, lost six of his seven siblings in childhood due to disease and poverty. Babe's tavern-owning parents placed him and his sister in orphanages, sending Babe to St. Mary's Industrial School for Boys. It was there that Babe met Brother Matthias, who taught him how to play baseball. The rest is history -- Babe Ruth is one of the greatest and most beloved players to ever set foot on a baseball field.


    2: Bo Diddley

    In 1928, one of America's most influential blues musicians, Ellas Bates -- better known as Bo Diddley -- was born to a desperately poor couple in rural Mississippi. At a young age, he was adopted, along with three cousins, by his mother's cousin, who moved the family to Chicago in the mid-1930s. Diddley, nicknamed "The Originator," would go on to record nearly 40 records and be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.


    3: Dave Thomas

    Wendy's founder Dave Thomas was given up for adoption at birth.

    Joe Raedle/Getty Images

    Dave Thomas, the founder of fast-food restaurant giant Wendy's, was given up for adoption at birth. Sadly, his adoptive mother died when he was five. Thomas left high school in the tenth grade to work full-time at a restaurant. After a stint in the army, Thomas moved to Columbus, Ohio, where he opened his first Wendy's restaurant in 1969. He would later found the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption to promote adoption law simplification and reduce adoption costs in the United States.



    4: Deborah Harry

    Best known as the lead singer of Blondie, the '80s pop sensation who produced hits such as "Call Me" and "Heart of Glass," Deborah Harry was given up at three months and adopted by a couple from New Jersey. Harry led the typical rock-star lifestyle, but she has lived to tell the tale. Blondie was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006, and Harry continues to tour and act.

    On the next page, you will find the continuation of our list of celebrities who were adopted with a civil rights activist and an Olympic gold medalist.


      5: Malcolm X

      Malcom X was put into an orphanage after his father died and his mother was admitted to a mental hospital.

      Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

      The childhood of the man who would become "black power" leader Malcolm X was not a happy one. His father, Earl Little, was a Christian minister who was killed in 1931 when Malcolm was a small boy. Following his father's death, his mother had a nervous breakdown and was committed to a mental hospital. Malcolm and his siblings were put into an orphanage and later fostered by various families. Malcolm X would later convert to the Nation of Islam and emerge as one of the most influential civil rights activists of the modern era.


      6: Steve Jobs

      Apple CEO and co-founder Steve Jobs holds up a Mac Book Air.

      David Paul Morris/Stringer/Getty Images North America

      The eventual cofounder of Apple Computers and the brain behind the iPod, Steven Paul was adopted as an infant by Paul and Clara Jobs in February 1955. Jobs held an internship with Hewlett-Packard and did a stint at Atari, Inc., before he and Stephen Wozniak developed the first Apple computer. These days, the white cord of the iPod is ubiquitous, and Macintosh computers are synonymous with style and technical savvy.



      7: Scott Hamilton

      U.S. Olympic Figure Skating Champions Scott Hamilton and Peggy Fleming during the opening ceremony of the 2002 Winter Olympics.

      Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

      Dorothy and Ernest Hamilton adopted Scott in 1958 when he was just six weeks old. In 1984, Hamilton won an Olympic gold medal in men's figure skating, making him the first American male to medal in the sport since 1960. These days, Hamilton produces Stars on Ice, a professional ice show that tours cities around the world.



        8: Marilyn Monroe

        Marilyn Monroe spent two years in an orphanage.

        Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

        Born in 1926 to a single mother with a less than stable mental state, legendary screen siren Marilyn Monroe lived in many foster homes as a young girl and spent two years in an orphanage. When she was barely 16, she had the option of another orphanage or marriage. Monroe chose marriage to merchant marine James Dougherty, whom she remained married to for four years. In the years following her rocky beginnings, the blonde bombshell would nab a place in American culture unparalleled before or since.

        Keep reading to find the final five celebrities on our list of famous people who were adopted.


        9: Melissa Gilbert

        Best known for her portrayal of Laura Ingalls on Little House on the Prairie, Melissa Gilbert was adopted at birth by Ed Gilbert and Barbara Crane, both Hollywood actors. Ed Gilbert died when Melissa was 11, and Michael Landon, who played her father on television, became a surrogate father to her. Melissa's siblings include adopted brother Jonathan Gilbert, who portrayed Willie Oleson on Little House, and her sister Sara (who is not adopted) played Darlene on Roseanne. Melissa continues to act, mostly in made-for-TV movies, and she served as president of the Screen Actors Guild from 2001 to 2005.


        10: Dr. Ruth Westheimer

        Dr. Ruth was sent away as a child to be protected from the Nazis.

        Photo by Stephen Lovekin/FilmMagic/Getty Images

        Everyone's favorite sex therapist was born Karola Ruth Siegel in Frankfurt, Germany, in 1928. Siegel was put on a train when she was ten years old and sent away from home to avoid Hitler's Nazis. Her mother and grandmother told her she was going off to school, but in reality Siegel was sent to an orphanage where she remained for many years. Dr. Ruth would go on to study at the Sorbonne in Paris and reached household name status with her radio program, Sexually Speaking, which aired during the 1980s.



          11: Harry Caray

          During his decades-long career, baseball announcer Harry Caray called the shots for the St. Louis Cardinals, Chicago White Sox, and Chicago Cubs. Harry Christopher Carabina was born in 1914 in one of the poorest sections of St. Louis and was still an infant when his father died. By the time he was ten, his mother had died, too, so an aunt raised him from that point. In 1989, Caray was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame as a broadcaster, and, in 1990, he joined the Radio Hall of Fame. A statue of him stands outside legendary Wrigley Field on Chicago's north side.


          12: Faith Hill

          Singer Faith Hill was adopted.

          Photo by Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic/Getty Images

          Adopted when only a few days old, Audrey Faith Perry was raised in Star, Mississippi, by Ted and Edna Perry. The country music superstar was the only adopted kid in the family and formed a good relationship with her biological mother later in life. Faith always knew she was adopted and refers to her childhood as "amazing."



          13: Jamie Foxx

          Actor and comedian Jamie Foxx was born Eric Bishop in 1967. His parents separated shortly thereafter, and his mother didn't feel capable of raising him on her own, so he was adopted at seven months by his maternal grandmother. Years later, during his Academy Award acceptance speech for his role in the critically-acclaimed biopic Ray, Foxx thanked his grandmother for her hard work and unconditional love. He has also hosted holiday specials concerning adoption and often mentions the cause in interviews.


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