11 Dads of Famous Juniors

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Their offspring might be more well-known, but these dads gave their sons a giant gift: their names. Here are the Seniors behind a slew of familiar Juniors.

1. MARTIN LUTHER KING SR.

King couldn't have known how famous his name would become when he changed his given name in 1934. The civil rights icon's father was born Michael King in 1899, but after he became a successful Baptist minister, he changed his name to Martin Luther King to honor the leader of the Protestant Reformation. When dad changed his name to honor Martin Luther, so did his 5-year-old son Michael King Jr. Like his son, King Sr. was a tireless civil rights advocate; he even led the Atlanta branch of the NAACP.

2. HARRY CONNICK SR.

This father has been known to tickle the ivories and belt out a tune or two in New Orleans' nightclubs (a skill his namesake clearly picked up as well), but his main claim to fame is his legal prowess. From 1973 to 2003, Harry Connick Sr. served as the District Attorney of Orleans Parish, a tenure that earned him enshrinement in the Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame.

3. WILLIAM F. BUCKLEY SR.

Buckley Sr. was a lawyer and prominent oil developer in Texas, and he was active in the oil business in Mexico during the early 20th century. At one point in 1921, he even found himself expelled from the country as the result of his lobbying to ease restrictions on American ownership of oil wells. Interestingly, William Jr., the author and founder of National Review magazine, was Sr.'s third-born son.

4. MEL KIPER SR.

Kiper Sr. never heard an NFL team call his name on draft day. Instead, the father of the NFL's preeminent draft guru worked a vending machine route, sold real estate, and coached college and high school baseball until his death in 1988. A 1992 Sports Illustrated profile of his son noted that Mel Sr. played a key role in helping get Mel Kiper Enterprises off the ground by helping Mel Jr. track down subscribers and advertisers for his early NFL draft newsletters.

5. CUBA GOODING SR.

He may have an Oscar-winning son, but Cuba Sr. knows a thing or two about showbiz himself. Gooding Sr. sang in the Motown group the Main Ingredient, including lead vocals on the band's hit songs "Everybody Plays the Fool" and "Just Don't Want to Be Lonely."

6. FREDDIE PRINZE SR.

Prinze was born Frederick Karl Pruetzel, but he changed his name to Freddie Prinze when his comedy career started to take off (joking that he'd wanted to be the king of comedy, but Alan King had already taken that surname). Prinze Sr. made appearances on The Tonight Show and The Jack Paar Show, and is probably best remembered for co-starring in the NBC sitcom Chico and the Man for four seasons in the mid-1970s. His son, late-'90s heartthrob Freddie Prinze Jr., was an infant when Prinze Sr. died at age 22.

7. ROBERT DOWNEY SR.

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He hasn't appeared in any mega-blockbusters like Iron Man like his son, Robert Downey Jr., but Sr. has enjoyed a long career as an actor, writer, and filmmaker. In 1972 he wrote and directed the cult film Greaser's Palace, and he had a small role in William Friedkin's 1985 neo-noir To Live and Die in L.A.

8. AL GORE SR. 

This father set a pretty good example for his son when it came to a career in politics. The future vice president's father served as the congressman for Tennessee's 4th district from 1939 until 1953. He then spent 18 years in the Senate, where he was one of the few Southern senators who did not oppose integration. Given his son's outspoken concerns about the climate, it is a bit surprising that Al Sr. worked as a lawyer for a petroleum company and later became chairman of Island Creek Coal Company following the end of his political career.

9. SAMMY DAVIS SR.

Sammy Davis Sr. (left), Sammy Davis Jr. (middle) and Will Mastin (right) performed as the Will Mastin Trio.

Sr. had a lot in common with his candy man son. Sammy Sr. was a successful dancer and vaudeville entertainer along with his wife, Elvera Sanchez, during the 1920s. When the pair split up in 1929, Sammy Sr. took his son on the road as part of a new dance act, the Will Mastin Trio, and the young future Rat Pack member spent the rest of his life in show business.

10. LARRY MULLEN SR.

Larry Sr. was surely proud of his son's success as the drummer for the up-and-coming band U2 during the early 1980s, but his boy's growing fame led to some sticky situations. The Irish revenue service apparently had trouble distinguishing the two men, so Dad kept getting hefty tax bills that were meant for his rock-star son. The drummer decided to clear up any confusion by permanently adding the "Jr." to his stage name.

11. KURT VONNEGUT SR.

The writer's father didn't compose much satirical science fiction, but he had a knack for designing buildings. As an architect working in Indiana during the mid-20th century, Vonnegut drew up plans for a number of Art Deco-inflected Indiana Bell offices and Hook's Drug Stores shops.

A version of this article originally ran in 2010.

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