Even though it’s the smallest state, there are many famous people from Rhode Island. Some of them remain in Rhode Island, while others have moved on. Many have become influential leaders in their fields, from media and the military to sports and the performing arts. You may be surprised to learn who they are and what they’ve done!
Are you ready to find out more about famous people from Rhode Island? Let’s go!
What’s Special About Rhode Island?
Rhode Island’s name evokes an image of a place surrounded by water, and the truth isn’t too far off. Though it’s not an island, this historic “Ocean State” has more than 400 miles of shoreline. That’s quite a lot for an area that’s only about 1,220 square miles.
There are cities in the United States that cover more ground than Rhode Island. They say you can ride a bike around the entire state throughout the weekend.
As one of America’s original 13 colonies, there’s much history to explore. Inland and along its scenic shores, you can check out some of the oldest surviving buildings in America. Many have modern lives as shops, restaurants, tap rooms, and galleries.
Traveler’s Tip: Make sure to visit Colt State Park while in Rhode Island.
Is Rhode Island Worth Visiting?
Many travelers dismiss Rhode Island because they think it is small and insignificant. We urge you to consider Rhode Island more than a place to pass through on your way elsewhere.
In addition to the attributes we’ve already mentioned, much of Rhode Island is less congested than other parts of the Northeast. So please slow down and enjoy all of the fantastic things it has to offer.
Don’t forget that all of that water means abundant fresh seafood to enjoy! As a result of Rhode Island’s diverse, melting-pot heritage, there are also many fabulous Italian and Portuguese restaurants.
Famous People From Rhode Island
How many of these famous folks from Rhode Island have you heard of before? They may not all be household names, but many give their fellow Rhode Islanders reasons to be proud. These people started in the smallest state and have impacted the larger world.
There’s a good chance you know this first person from television. A native of Providence, Meredith Vieira is probably best known as one of the hosts of the wildly popular talk show “The View.” She also hosts the game show “25 Words or Less” and is a former anchor of “Today.”
Vieira graduated from Tufts University in Massachusetts. She and her husband, journalist Richard Cohen, have three children.
Also from Providence, this likable entertainer gained fame as a lively cast member of the 2011 reality show “Jersey Shore.” Also known as DJ Pauly D, he started life in Rhode Island as Paul Michael DelVechhio Jr.
The DJ, singer, and dancer capitalized on his TV exposure by releasing a series of albums and going on tour. To answer an often-asked question: he and Nikky are still together. They have a daughter, Amabella Sophia.
This former television personality grew up in Cranston, Rhode Island’s second-largest city. Elizabeth Hasselbeck was a co-host of “The View” for ten years, starting in 2003.
She developed a reputation as perhaps the most outspoken conservative voice on the panel and later co-hosted “Fox & Friends.” She and her husband, former NFL quarterback Tim Hasselbeck, have a daughter and two sons.
Sam Berns died at just 17, but he looked much older. An attention-getting documentary called “Life According to Sam” chronicled his tragically short life. The film brought awareness of progeria, a rare genetic disorder that causes rapid aging and early death.
Berns was born in Providence but spent most of his years in Foxborough, Massachusetts, home of his beloved New England Patriots. He died in 2014.
Michael Flynn attended the University of Rhode Island before reaching the top ranks in the U.S. Army and federal government. After 33 years in the Army, he retired as a lieutenant general.
He served as National Security Advisor in the Trump administration before resigning in early 2017. Flynn grew up among nine siblings in Middletown, on Aquidneck Island. He and his wife, Lori, live in Washington, D.C.
Ed Cooley was a hometown basketball star in Providence before becoming a famous college coach. His impressive winning percentage makes him one of the most successful sports figures in Rhode Island’s history.
He has led Providence College to the NCAA Tournament six times over 11 seasons. After losing only six games in 2002, his team won the Big East Conference title, and he earned numerous Coach of the Year honors.
George M. Cohan
Are you familiar with the classic musical “Yankee Doodle Dandy?” It’s on the extraordinary life of another Providence native, George M. Cohan. He was a famous stage performer since the Vaudeville days and was a talented playwright, actor, and songwriter.
His many immortal tunes include “You’re a Grand Old Flag” and “Give My Regards to Broadway.” Cohan passed away in 1942 at his apartment in Manhattan.
Famous People From Rhode Island
Not all these famous sons and daughters still reside in their home state. Once you visit, you may wonder why anyone would ever leave Rhode Island. Maybe it’s because there are so many roads, rails, and airport runways leading to other places. No matter where you are in Rhode Island, you’re only a few hours away from many of the nation’s major cities.
Regardless of where they ended up, we’d bet many of these famous people from Rhode Island loved returning home. For all of them, this is where they started small before making a bigger name for themselves.
Did you recognize any of the names on our list?
Let’s make friends!
Sign up for our newsletter and get notified of the best travel destinations for your next trip.