Throughout its colorful history, East Texas has been home to a variety of celebrities, professional athletes and notable characters.

Most Tyler residents are familiar with Earl Campbell, a local legend who steamrolled defenders as a running back for The University of Texas, the Houston Oilers and New Orleans Saints. Years before he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the “Tyler Rose” led John Tyler High School to the 1973 Class 4A state championship.

If you follow the local music scene, you’ve probably heard of Eisley, a Tyler-based indie rock band consisting mostly of four siblings. Eisley’s debut, Room Noises, earned the band the chance to perform with other popular acts, including Hot Hot Heat, Switchfoot and Taking Back Sunday. In 2007, Eisley made their national television debut on Late Night with Conan O’Brien.

While many know the local connection to Eisley and Campbell, there are many other noteworthy individuals you probably didn’t know have ties your neck of the woods.

Here are a few:

Arthur “Dooley” Wilson, better known as Sam from Casablanca

About 56 years after he was born in Tyler, Dooley Wilson landed a supporting role in the 1942 classic Casablanca. The charming pianist and singer warmed the hearts of audiences across America as he repeatedly fulfilled Humphrey Bogart’s request to play “As Time Goes By.”

Wilson’s character is referenced in the famous quote, “Play it again, Sam.” As it turns out, that line is never said in the film.

Patrick “McDreamy” Dempsey

Dempsey has appeared in many popular films, including Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Enchanted and Sweet Home Alabama. However, he is undoubtedly most known for his role as Dr. Derek Shepherd – or the character’s more common name, McDreamy – on the award-winning TV series, Grey’s Anatomy.

Dempsey bought a home on Lake Jacksonville several years ago, to much fanfare from curious neighbors. He reportedly splits his time between East Texas and Malibu. Every now and then he'll be spotted in a local store -- you can tell when it happens because the women are all on the floor.

Matthew McConaughey

Before landing lead roles in A Time to Kill, We Are Marshall, The Lincoln Lawyer and a slew of chick flicks, McConaughey attended Longview High School. He recently starred alongside Jack Black and Shirley MacLaine in the film Bernie, which was set in Carthage.

An avid Texas Longhorns fan, McConaughey currently lives in Austin, Texas.

Freddie King

King was one of the most influential blues guitarists of his time, inspiring the likes of Stevie Ray Vaughn and Eric Clapton. He was born in Gilmer in 1934 amid the pre-war era of blues music. He eventually became a prominent figure on the Chicago blues scene, alongside legends including Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters and Sonny Boy Williamson.

King was named No. 25 25 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time. In 1993, Texas Governor Ann Richards declared Sept. 3, 1993 to be named Freddie King Day.

Sandy Duncan

Born in Henderson in 1946, Duncan went on to appear in many popular TV shows in the 70s and 80s. She landed a starring role on Funny Face in 1971, which appeared on the CBS primetime lineup with All in the Family and The Mary Tyler Moore Show. When the show ended, Duncan’s character was repurposed for The Sandy Duncan Show.

From 1987-1991, Duncan was a regular character on Valerie’s Family, which starred Jason Bateman. She voiced the character Vixey in Disney’s The Fox and the Hound and has appeared on Law and Order and The Love Boat.


And those are only a few. Who's your favorite East Texan?

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