CLOSE
Public Domain // Wikimedia Commons
Public Domain // Wikimedia Commons

12 People You Might Not Know Were Adopted

Public Domain // Wikimedia Commons
Public Domain // Wikimedia Commons

Chances are you know someone whose life has been touched by adoption. Each year, about 135,000 children are adopted by families in the U.S. In honor of World Adoption Day and National Adoption Day both taking place this week, here are 12 people who grew up to become famous figures after finding their permanent homes.

1. GERALD FORD

The 38th President of the United States was born in 1913 and named Leslie Lynch King Jr. after his biological father, but his parents separated soon after his birth. His mother remarried when her son was 2, and legally changed his name to reflect that of his new father: Gerald Rudolph Ford Jr. He was adopted and was a preteen when he found out Ford Sr. wasn’t his birth father. "It didn't make a big impression on me at the time," Ford once said. "I didn't understand exactly what a stepfather was. Dad and I had the closest, most intimate relationship. We acted alike. We had the same interests. I thought we looked alike." He finally met his biological father, who came looking for him when he was in high school, but felt that his true bond was with his stepfather, the only father he actually knew.

2. STEVE JOBS

The Apple visionary was born in 1955 to an unmarried couple from the Midwest. His biological mother's family didn’t approve of their relationship (his biological father was a Syrian Muslim immigrant), so she moved to San Francisco, had her baby in secret, and put him up for adoption. Paul and Clara Jobs adopted Steve, but only after they signed a pledge that his birth mother insisted on—that the child would attend college. Jobs never met his biological father, and he frequently corrected anyone who didn't refer to Paul and Clara as his "real parents." "They were my real parents," he said. "1000 percent."

3. SARAH MCLACHLAN

When Sarah McLachlan—the Canadian singer famous for her hit songs like "Angel" and founding Lilith Fair—was about 9 years old, she was told that she'd been adopted shortly after she was born. She's said it never bothered her because she loved her parents and was too young to fully understand. Her birth mother was a 19-year-old artist in Nova Scotia who would have struggled to raise her child, and though McLachlan did eventually meet her, she's said she is glad that they both had the opportunity to go on and live their dreams.

4. DARRYL MCDANIELS

One of the founding members of hip hop group Run–D.M.C., Darryl McDaniels was adopted as a baby—but he didn’t find out until he was 35. While writing his autobiography, he called his parents to ask them for details about the day he was born. They revealed to him that they had adopted him when he was just 1 month old. (His wife had always teased him that he didn’t look like anyone in his family, and suddenly they knew why.) The revelation deeply affected him; he had already struggled with some depression in his life, had recently lost his dear friend and bandmate Jam Master Jay, and McDaniels was drinking heavily and even considered suicide (he actually credits Sarah McLachlan's song "Angel" with getting him through his darkest days). He worked to get through it, and documented his search for his birth mother in a VH1 documentary, DMC: My Adoption Journey, in 2006. They were reunited when he was 41.

5. DAVE THOMAS

Dave Thomas, the founder of Wendy’s, was adopted as a baby. He was raised mainly by his adoptive father and grandmother after losing his adoptive mother at 5 and two stepmothers before he was 10. In 1990, President George H.W. Bush asked him to spearhead a national campaign to encourage people to adopt or foster children, and to help businesses understand the importance of offering adoption benefits. Two years later he created the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, dedicated to increasing the number of children placed each year. He testified before Congress in support of adoption tax credits and helped in the creation of an adoption postage stamp that was issued by the U.S. Postal Service in 2000.

6. FAITH HILL

The country singer knew she was adopted from a young age but was told she had been given up because her birth mother had an affair with a married man who wouldn’t leave his wife for her. In reality, the couple did get married and had another child whom they kept. Hill learned the truth when she tracked down her birth mom shortly after she moved to Nashville to pursue a career as a singer. She says that despite loving her family and being happy she was adopted, there was a feeling that something was missing from her life. "I was adopted into this incredible home, a loving, positive environment, yet I had this yearning, this kind of darkness that was also inside me," she has said. She was awed by her first meeting with her biological mother, who looked just like her.

7. JAMIE FOXX

The Academy Award-winning actor is actually a second-generation adoptee; his mother was adopted as well. He was officially adopted by his maternal grandparents after his parents decided they couldn’t handle having a child when he was 7 months old. His grandmother was 60 when she took him in, and he publicly thanked her in his 2005 Oscar acceptance speech. In 2003 he appeared on "A Home for the Holidays," a Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption CBS special where he shared his adoption story and encouraged others to adopt or foster as well.

8. DEBBIE HARRY

The Blondie singer was born in 1945 and adopted when she was 3 months old. Her parents told her when she was 4 and she says that they did it in a way that made her feel "quite special." When she was a teenager she used to fantasize that her birth mother was Marilyn Monroe. Harry says that she thinks her being adopted might be why she is so adventurous, since she felt it didn’t give her any limitations. "I sometimes attribute my, uh, adventurous nature to that... I have an open mind about things," Harry has said. "It didn't present me with any borders."

9. GEORGE WASHINGTON CARVER

The famous African-American scientist was born into slavery in Missouri shortly before the end of the Civil War, although the exact year and date are unknown. He was one of many children born to the only two slaves owned by the Carver family, who were farmers. Almost immediately after his birth, he, his mother, and a sister were kidnapped by raiders. But the Carvers sent someone to look for them and only the infant George was recovered. Once slavery was abolished, they raised him and one of his brothers, James, as their own.

10. RAY LIOTTA

The Goodfellas actor was born in 1954, and given up for adoption at 6 months old, after his unmarried birth parents realized they couldn’t afford to raise him. His adoptive parents told him about it when he was very young, and he even did a presentation on being adopted as a kindergartner. But when Liotta got older and was going to have a child of his own, he worried about what genetic traits they might inherit, so he sought to find his birth mother. "I found my birth mother and found out I have, not an identical twin, but a half brother, five half sisters and a full sister that I didn’t know about until 15 years ago," he said in 2014. When his biological mom found out the son she gave up was now a famous actor he said she had "a whole different bounce to her voice." But Liotta remains grateful that he was adopted, though he admits that he struggled with feelings of being given up at times.

11. FRANCES MCDORMAND

McDormand, the Oscar-winning Fargo actress, was adopted by a minister and his wife as an infant. She doesn’t know who her biological mother was, though she was given the opportunity to meet her when she was 18; ultimately she did correspond with her, but decided not to pursue a relationship. McDormand has discussed her adoption and how angry the knowledge of her abandonment makes her feel, but she has also said, "It’s subjective, and every adopted person comes to it differently." And that also includes her own son—she and husband Joel Coen chose to adopt their child, Pedro, from Paraguay. "And my son will deal with it in his own way," she said.

12. KEEGAN-MICHAEL KEY

The actor and comedian—and one-half of comedy duo Key & Peele—was born to a white woman and her married black co-worker; he was adopted as a baby by another biracial couple. In 1996, at age 25, he found his birth mother. He calls it one of "the most unexpected and crucial and significant and foundational things" that happened in his life. He also says it is the reason he now has such a strong faith. When he met her, he listened to her life story and how she came to give him up for adoption, and then he says he suddenly found himself crying and accepting Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. "So, that was pretty unexpected," he said. "It's one of the touchstones in both my spiritual and personal life."

All images via Getty unless otherwise noted.
nextArticle.image_alt|e
Joe Raedle, Getty Images
arrow
quiz
States Bordering the Mississippi River
Joe Raedle, Getty Images
Joe Raedle, Getty Images
nextArticle.image_alt|e
Keystone/Getty Images
arrow
entertainment
10 Fab Facts About George Harrison
Keystone/Getty Images
Keystone/Getty Images

You probably know George Harrison as a Beatle, the lead guitarist of the most famous band in the world. We’re guessing that there’s a lot you don’t know about the youngest of The Fab Four, who was born on this day in 1943.

1. HE WAS ONLY 27 WHEN THE BEATLES BROKE UP.


Fox Photos/Getty Images

George Harrison turned 27 on February 25, 1970, less than two months before Paul McCartney told the world he had no future plans to work with the Beatles. It had been 12 years since Harrison had joined John Lennon’s band, The Quarrymen—shortly after McCartney, his Liverpool schoolmate—in 1958.

2. HE INVENTED THE MEGASTAR ROCK BENEFIT CONCERT.

Before Harrison organized the 1971 Concert for Bangladesh, there were performances for charity, of course. But when his friend, the great Indian sitar player Ravi Shankar, told him about the plight of Bangladeshi refugees, victims of both war and a devastating cyclone who now faced starvation, Harrison felt compelled to devote himself to the cause. He recruited stars like Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Ringo Starr, Billy Preston, Badfinger, and Leon Russell, and together they played two sold-out shows at Madison Square Garden on August 1, 1971. Harrison then arranged for the release of a concert album and film. The ventures had raised more than $12 million by 1985, and profits from sales of the movie and soundtrack continue to benefit the George Harrison Fund for UNICEF.

3. HE WROTE “CRACKERBOX PALACE” ABOUT HIS QUIRKY MANSION.

Harrison nicknamed his 120-room Friar Park mansion “Crackerbox Palace” after a friend’s description of Lord Buckley’s tiny Los Angeles home. The 66-acre property, about 37 miles west of London, was first owned by Sir Frank Crisp, a lawyer who lived there from 1889 to 1919. Harrison bought the estate in 1970—and quickly penned “The Ballad Of Sir Frankie Crisp,” which appeared on his first solo album, All Things Must Pass, also in 1970.

Friar Park was a strange place, with gnomes, grottos, a miniature Matterhorn, and lavish gardens, which Harrison loved to tend. According to the Victoria County History website, the house itself “is an architectural fantasy in red brick, stone, and terracotta, mixing English, French and Flemish motifs in lavish, undisciplined profusion.”

4. HE LOVED HANGING OUT WITH BOB DYLAN AND THE BAND.

All four Beatles were Dylan fans, and first met him in 1964. But Harrison felt a special bond with him, and spent weeks at Dylan’s Woodstock, New York home in the fall of 1968. The Band was there, too, and Harrison loved the collaborative atmosphere. During this time Dylan and Harrison co-wrote “I’d Have You Anytime,” which appeared on 1970's All Things Must Pass. The two would become bandmates in the Traveling Wilburys, and maintained a close, lifelong friendship.

5. THE "QUIET BEATLE" WASN’T SO QUIET.

"He never shut up," friend and fellow Traveling Wilbury Tom Petty once said of Harrison. "He was the best hang you could imagine."

6. WHEN HE LOST HIS VIRGINITY, THE OTHER BEATLES CHEERED.

The Beatles at the EMI studios in Abbey Road, as they prepare for 'Our World', a world-wide live television show broadcasting to 24 countries with a potential audience of 400 million.
BIPs/Getty Images

During the band’s early years, they had extended runs as a house band in Hamburg, Germany, and were paid so poorly (and had to be on stage for so many hours) that they shared a small room in the club’s basement. Hence the witnesses to George’s deflowering, at age 17. "We were in bunkbeds," Harrison recalled. "They couldn't really see anything because I was under the covers, but after I'd finished they all applauded and cheered. At least they kept quiet whilst I was doing it."

7. WITHOUT HIM, THERE MAY NOT HAVE BEEN A MONTY PYTHON'S LIFE OF BRIAN.

EMI Films, Life of Brian’s original backer, withdrew funding for the Monty Python comedy classic just before filming began, scared that the religious subject matter would be too controversial. Harrison, a big fan and friend of the Pythons, set up his own production company—Handmade Films—to fund the project. Why? "Because I liked the script and I wanted to see the movie,” he explained. Harrison not only saw the film, he appeared in it, as Mr. Papadopolous, "owner of the Mount.” Monty Python’s Life of Brian, released in 1979, was a huge hit in both the UK and U.S., and was ranked as the 10th best comedy film of all time in 2010 by The Guardian.

8. HE WAS THE FIRST EX-BEATLE TO SIMULTANEOUSLY TOP BOTH THE SINGLES AND ALBUMS CHARTS.

Harrison began recording the songs that would comprise All Things Must Pass at Abbey Road on May 26, 1970, just weeks after the Beatles broke up. The triple album was released in late November, along with “My Sweet Lord,” the first single from the album. Both the record and the single spent weeks at the top of the Billboard and Melody Maker charts in early 1971, while receiving rave reviews.

9. THE FIRST SONG HE WROTE WAS INSPIRED BY A DESIRE TO TELL PEOPLE TO GET LOST.

Harrison wrote “Don’t Bother Me,” his first first solo composition, while sick in bed at the Palace Court Hotel in Bournemouth, England, in the summer of 1963. It “was an exercise to see if I could write a song,” Harrison said. “I don't think it's a particularly good song ... It mightn't even be a song at all, but at least it showed me that all I needed to do was keep on writing, and then maybe eventually I would write something good." “Don’t Bother Me” appeared on With The Beatles, their second studio album.

10. HE WAS THE FIRST BEATLE TO VISIT, AND PLAY IN, THE U.S.

In the fall of 1963, Harrison traveled to Benton, Illinois to visit his sister, Louise, and her husband, George Caldwell. During his 18-day stay, Harrison also became the first Beatle to play in the U.S.—appearing on stage with The Four Vests at the VFW Hall in Eldorado. He played the second set with the band, taking over lead guitar and singing "Roll Over Beethoven" and "Your Cheatin' Heart."

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios