Bet You Never Knew These Folks Were Greensboro, North Carolina Natives

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John Isner — Photo Credit: AP

Debra Lee headlines a strong list of Greensboro, North Carolina natives who’ve more than put the somewhat clandestine city on the map via their tremendous accomplishments.


Watching the recent BET Music Awards and hearing the channel’s CEO Debra Lee say that she hailed from our very own Greensboro, NC was shocking. We decided to put together a list of other notable peeps from the city that Kubashi calls home. Granted, technically not all were from the city of Greensboro—a few lived in the 20-30 min surrounding area. So, we claim them.

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Photo Credit: Nicholas Hunt/BET/Getty Images

1. Debra L. Lee,  Esq.

Born August 8, 1954 Debra is the (soon to be former) Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of BET, the parent company for Black Entertainment Television. Lee sat on the board of directors for a number of companies/organizations, including the National Cable & Telecommunications Association the Ad Council, and the National Cable Television Association. Debra Lee is named one of the “100 Most Powerful Women in Entertainment” by The Hollywood Reporter due to her many achievements in her 30-plus year career at BET.

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Photo Credit: Justin Lane/EPA

2. Loretta E. Lynch

Born May 21, 1959, Loretta is a lawyer who served as the 83rd Attorney General of the United States. She was appointed in 2015 by our nation’s first black president, Barack Obama. Prior to that, she held the position for United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York under both Bill Clinton (1999–2001) and Barack Obama (2010–15).

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Tennis start John Isner is photographed for Vogue September 2012 — Photo Credit: Prakash Shroff/Vogue

3. John Isner

Born April 26, 1985, Isner is a graduate of Walter Hines Page High School (which happens to be my Alma Mater and also the best high school in Greensboro). John later attended the University of Georgia, where he majored in speech communication and continued his highly decorated tennis career (13 titles, and a 61% win record). He currently resides in Tampa, Florida, where he trains at the Saddlebrook Academy alongside other American tennis pros such as James Blake and Mardy Fish.

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Photo Credit: Heather Marie Photography

4. Nash Grier

Vine-famous social media star, Hamilton Nash Grier was born December 28, 1997 in Greensboro where he was raised by his mother Elizabeth Floyd and father Chad Grier. At the height of Vine, Nash boasted more than 9 million followers, besting celebs like Wiz Khalifa and Harry Styles. Nash is the second-oldest child with an older brother, Will Grier, who is a quarterback for the West Virginia Mountaineers; a younger brother, Hayes, and a younger half-sister, Skylynn.

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Photo Credit: Getty

5. Bob McAdoo

Born September 25, 1951, Bob McAdoo was raised by his mother who taught at his grade school and his father who was a custodian at North Carolina A&T University. He attended Ben L. Smith High School, where he was a  2-sport athlete (basketball and track & field). Bob was also in the school marching band as a saxophone player. B Mac played 14 seasons in the NBA where he was a five-time NBA All-Star and named the NBA’s MVP in 1975. He won two NBA championships with the Los Angeles Lakers during their Showtime era in the 1980s.

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Photo Credit: Erika Goldring/ Getty

6. Isaac Carree

Isaac Carree was born April 28, 1973 to his mother Pastor Nancy Wilson of New Beginnings Community Outreach Church in Greensboro, North Carolina and father Isaac Thompson Carree, Jr. Carree started his music career, in 1996, with the gospel group Men of Standard. He began his solo career in 2011 and has since charted on The Billboard 200 along with chartings on Gospel Albums and Independent Albums charts.

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Photo Credit: Larry Busacca/Getty Images

7. Ken Jeong

Born July 13, 1969, was raised in Greensboro, North Carolina, and attended Walter Hines Page High School, where he was a member of the Quiz Bowl team and played violin. He was also elected to the student council. Jeong is best known for playing Ben Chang on the sitcom Community, and the gangster Leslie Chow in The Hangover Trilogy. Jeong attended both the University of North Carolina and Duke University where he received his bachelors (1990) and M.D (1995), respectively. He is a licensed physician and once famously jumped from the stage in a comedy club to tend to a woman who was having a seizure. Ken has stopped practicing in favor of his acting career. Not a terrible decision.

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Photo Credit: Nelvin C. Cepeda

8. Keenan Allen

Born April 27, 1992, Keenan Allen is a wide receiver for the Los Angeles Chargers. He played college football for the California Golden Bears before leaving after his junior year. He was drafted by the Chargers in the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft. Allen won multiple rookie honors after setting Chargers’ records for receptions and receiving yards by a rookie. In 2017, he was named the Comeback Player of the Year.

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Photo Credit: H. Scott Hoffmann/News & Record

9. Haywood Jeffires

Pronounced “Jeffries”, Haywood Jeffires was born in Greensboro on December 12, 1964 and attended high school at Walter Hines Page High School. He continued his education and his football success at North Carolina State University where from 1983 to 1986, he registered 111 receptions for 1,733 yards and 14 touchdowns. I personally remember seeing his accolades in the trophy cases of both Page High School and NC State while I attended. The Houston Oilers selected Jeffires 20th overall in the 1987 NFL Draft.

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Photo Credit: Andy Lyons/Getty Images North America

10. DeMario Pressley

NFL Player and also a fellow Wolfpacker, DeMario was born Nov 3, 1985 and attended Dudley High School before going on to play collegiate football at North Carolina State University. He was a member of championship New Orleans Saints (2008–2010), Houston Texans (2010), Indianapolis Colts (2011), Denver Broncos (2011), Carolina Panthers (2011), and my own Chicago Bears (2012).

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Photo Credit: Raider Nation

11. David Amerson

Born December 8, 1991, is an NFL cornerback for the Kansas City Chiefs. He was drafted by the Washington Redskins in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft. He also played college football at North Carolina State University.

Close Calls

These two were close enough, so we’ll claim ’em.

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Photo Credit: Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

1. Torry Holt (Gibsonville)

Though technically not from Greensboro, Torry Holt was raised 20 mins outside of Greensboro in the small town of Gibsonville. Holt was born June 5, 1976 and attended Eastern Guilford High School. He played 11 seasons in the NFL as a highly-decorated wide receiver. He’s a seven-time Pro-Bowler who retired with the 10th most receiving yards all-time, including a record six consecutive seasons with 1,300 yards. They called him “Big Game” for reason! He played his college ball at North Carolina State University and earned consensus All-American honors. He was drafted by the St. Louis Rams in the first round of the 1999 NFL Draft, and spent the next ten years with the Rams and is one of the members of the “Greatest Show on Turf.”

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Photo Credit: Fox

2. Chris Daughtry (McLeansville)

Born December 26, 1979, Chris Daughtry was technically born in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina but relocated to McLeansville, North Carolina, right outside of Greensboro. Chris was the fourth-place contestant on the fifth season of American Idol. He was given a record deal by RCA Records and formed a band called Daughtry and put out a self-titled album that would later become the fastest selling debut rock album in Nielsen Soundscan history, reaching number one on the Billboard chart in just it’s 9th week. Chris Daughtry is now the third most successful American Idol contestant, behind only Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood, who both were winners in their respective seasons.

Updates & Honorable Mentions

These are recommendations made by our readers.

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1. Orson Scott Card

Card is a novelist who wrote the esteemed Ender’s Game and its sequel Speaker for the Dead. Though not a true native of the city, Card asserts Greensboro as having a significant role in his work. Card won both a Hugo and a Nebula Award for the novels, making him the only sci-fi writer to win both top prizes in consecutive years. Ender’s Game, was later adapted into a feature film which Card co-produced. The film was released in 2013. Card is a current resident of Greensboro, NC.

Credit: John Bradley Nosek

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2. Charlie Sanders

Charles Alvin Sanders, born August 25, 1946, passed in 2015. He was a Hall of Fame tight end (2007) for the Detroit Lions and was chosen to the All-Decade Team. Sanders was born in 1946 in Richlands, North Carolina but later attended James B. Dudley High School in Greensboro where he was a 3-sport athlete (football, baseball, and basketball).

Credit: Eric Ryan Sr.

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3. Frank Lucas

Lucas was technically born in La Grange, North Carolina, but was later raised in Greensboro, North Carolina. A tidbit made famous in Steven Zaillian’s 2007 film American Gangster. Frank was a notorious drug trafficker who operated in Harlem during the late 60s and early 70s and was known for cutting out “middlemen” and buying heroin directly from the source.

Credit: Eric Ryan Sr.

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4. Brendan Haywood

Brendan Todd Haywood is a retired professional basketball player who played for the Washington Wizards (2001–2010), Dallas Mavericks (2010–2012), Charlotte Bobcats (2012–2014), and Cleveland Cavaliers (2014–2015). He attended James B. Dudley High School where he won North Carolina’s Gatorade Basketball Player of the Year and selected to the ’97 McDonalds All-American Team. More notably, Haywood finished his college career as the ACC’s all-time leader in field goal percentage (63.7%). He’s also the school’s all-time leader in blocked shots (304). Haywood now announces for CBS Sports.

Credit: Eric Ryan Sr.

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5. Joey Cheek

Born June 22, 1979, William “Joey” Cheek is a former speed skater and inline speed skater who received gold and silver at the 2006 Olympic Games and bronze at the 2002 games in Salt Lake City. Joey attended  James B. Dudley High School and attended Princeton University.

Credit: Eric Ryan Sr.

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6. Caroline Lind

Born October 11, 1982 in Greensboro, Caroline is a world-class rower winning golds in both the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games, and a slew of World Championship golds—6 to be exact. At the end of 2014 she was ranked the #1 female rower by World Rowing.

Credit: Eric Ryan Sr.

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7. Whitney Way Thore

Whitney Way Thore, born April 14, 1984, is a television personality best known for her appearances on the television show My Big Fat Fabulous Life. Thore received recognition on a national level for her positive body image campaign for promoting positive body image, No Body Shame.

Credit: David Mehler

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8. Phonte “Phontigallo” Lyshod Coleman

Talented rapper Phonte of the now-defunct North Carolina trio Little Brother was born December 28, 1978 and attended Walter Hines Page High School. He continued his education at North Carolina Central University where he also met member Big Pooh and legendary producer 9th Wonder. Phonte is highly regarded as one of the best lyricists who never got the accolade by his peers and fans.

Credit: David Rogers Jr.

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