Famous Irish Americans

The Irish who immigrated to America in the mid-19th century could never have imagined the impact they would make on American society.  Despite the fact that Irish immigrants would spend their first few decades in America mired in urban squalor with little opportunity for economic or political advancement, their Irish spirit never wavered.  In time, Irish Americans emerged from abject poverty and political estrangement to excel in nearly every walk of life.

As a result of their unabiding determination, Irish Americans have risen to fame in numerous occupations over the last century and a half.  You will find scores of famous Irish American politicians, Irish American actors, Irish American singers, Irish American athletes, Irish American writers, Irish American clergy, and even – although less proudly – Irish American gangsters.

The following is a list of select famous Irish Americans.  To see more famous Irish Americans, click on one of the categories listed above.

Andrew Jackson
Al Smith | Governor of New York

Alicia Keys | R&B singer/songwriter whose debut album, Songs in A Minor, sold over 12 million copies worldwide

Andrew Jackson | 7th United States President (1829–37)

Andrew Johnson | 17th United States President (1865–69)

Anne Rice | Novelist who authored the bestselling Interview with a Vampire series

Anthony Kennedy | United States Supreme Court Justice

Barack Obama | 44th United States President 2009–)

Ben Affleck | Film actor, screenwriter and director who won an Oscar for Good Will Hunting and is the brother of actor Casey Affleck

Ben Hogan
Ben Hogan | Hall of Fame PGA Golfer

Benjamin Harrison | 23rd United States President (1889–93)

Bernard Francis Casey | Capuchin priest who was the first United States-born man formally to be declared "Venerable" by the Roman Catholic church and is now a candidate for beatification

"Big" Bill Dwyer | New York mobster involved in bootlegging during Prohibition who used his profits to purchase the New York Americans and Pittsburgh Pirates of the National Hockey League and the Brooklyn Dodgers of the National Football League

Bill Clinton | 42nd United States President

Bill Murray
Bill Murray | Actor and comedian best known for his role on Saturday Night Live and in the films Caddyshack (1980), Ghostbusters (1984), and Groundhog Day (1993)

Bill O'Reilly | Political commentator, syndicated columnist, author and host of The O'Reilly Factor on the Fox News Channel

Billy Corgan | Singer and lead guitarist of the grunge rock band, The Smashing Pumpkins

Bing Crosby | Legendary singer and movie star who sold over half a billion records

Bob Costas | Sportscaster who covered numerous sporting events for the NBC network

Bradley Cooper | Film, theater, and TV actor known for his roles in the films The Hangover, The A-Team, and Limitless

Britney Spears | Pop singer and dancer who has sold over 100 million albums worldwide

Bruce Springsteen | Singer, songwriter and rock musician who has sold over 200 million albums worldwide

Bunny Berigan
Bunny Berigan | Jazz trumpeter during the swing era whose 1937 classic jazz recording "I Can't Get Started" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1975

Caroline Kennedy | Daughter of former U.S. President John F. Kennedy and successful author and attorney

Carroll O'Connor | Actor best known for his portrayal of Archie Bunker in the 1970s CBS television sitcom All in the Family

Chester A. Arthur | 21st United States President (1881–85)

Chris Cornell | Lead singer of the Seattle grunge rock band, Soundgarden

Chris Farley | Comedian and actor who was a member of Chicago's Second City Theatre and a cast member of NBC’s Saturday Night Live

Chris Matthews
Chris Matthews | News anchor, political commentator, and host of MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews

Chris O'Donnell | Film and television actor best known for his role in two Batman films and the hit TV show, NCIS: Los Angeles

Christina Aguilera | Grammy Award-winning R&B singer

Colin Quinn | Stand-up comedian, writer and performer who has appeared on NBC's Saturday Night Live and Comedy Central

Conan O'Brien | Television host, comedian, writer, and producer best known for his TV show, Late Night with Conan O’Brien

Connie Mack | Hall of Fame Major League Baseball Player

Dane Cook | Stand-up comedian and film actor whose comedy album, Retaliation, became the highest charting comedy album in 28 years and went platinum

Danica Patrick | Professional Racecar Driver

Daniel P. Coughlin | 59th Chaplain of the United States House of Representatives and the first Roman Catholic priest to serve in that position

Daniel Moynihan
Daniel Patrick Moynihan | United States Senator from New York

Denis Leary | Actor, comedian, writer and director who co-created the television show Rescue Me

Derek Jeter | New York Yankees All-Star Shortstop

Donald O’Connor | Dancer, singer, and actor best known for his role as Gene Kelly's friend and colleague in Singin' in the Rain (1952)

Edward Burns | Film actor, writer, and director best known for his performances in The Brothers McMullen (1995) and Sidewalks of New York (2001).

Ethel Barrymore | Actress who won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role in the 1944 film None but the Lonely Heart

Eugene McCarthy | United States Senator from Minnesota

Eugene O'Neill | Playwright who won the 1936 Nobel Prize for Literature and won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama four times

F. Scott Fitzgerald
F. Scott Fitzgerald | Novelist who authored The Great Gatsby

Fergie | R&B singer and lead vocalist in the pop band, The Black Eyed Peas

Flannery O'Connor | Prolific novelist and short story writer

Francis Makemie | Considered to be the founder of Presbyterianism in the United States

Francis Patrick Duffy | Catholic priest, Lieutenant Colonel and chaplain of the 69th Infantry Regiment of the U.S. Army who became the most highly decorated cleric in the history of the U.S. Army and is honored with Duffy Square in New York City

Francis Xavier Ford | Roman Catholic bishop and Maryknoll missionary in China who is considered a martyr due to his torture and murder by the Communist Chinese in 1952 and whose cause for canonization is pending

Frank McCourt | Memoirist who won the 1997 Pulitzer Prize for Angela's Ashes

Fulton John Sheen | Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Church who won an Emmy for his work on television for such shows as Life Is Worth Living and The Fulton Sheen Program

George Kennedy | Movie actor who appeared in over 200 film and television productions and won an Academy Award for his role in Cool Hand Luke (1967)

George M. Cohan | Singer/songwriter of vaudeville and Broadway whose life was portrayed in the 1942 film, Yankee Doodle Dandy

Grace Kelly
Grace Kelly | Famous 1950s actress who became The Princess of Monaco when she married Rainier III, Prince of Monaco

Grover Cleveland | 22nd and 24th United States President (1885–89 and 1893–97)

Harrison Ford | Film actor and producer best known for his role as Han Solo in the original Star Wars trilogy and as the title character of the Indiana Jones film series

Helen O'Connell | Singer, actress, and dancer who sang with the Jimmy Dorsey band and achieved bestselling records in the early 1940s

Henry Hill | New York mobster, Lucchese crime family associate, and FBI informant depicted in the book Wiseguy and in the Martin Scorsese film, Goodfellas, in which Hill was played by Ray Liotta

Jack Dempsey | World Boxing Heavyweight Champion

Jack Welch | Chemical engineer, business executive, and author who served as Chairman and CEO of General Electric

Jackie Gleason | Actor & comedian best known for his portrayal of Ralph Kramden on the hit television show, The Honeymooners and the films The Hustler (1961) and Smokey and the Bandit (1977)

James Augustine Healy | Mixed-race prelate of the Roman Catholic Church who became the first African American Roman Catholic priest and the first African American Roman Catholic bishop in the United States

James Buchanan | 15th United States President (1857–61)

James Cagney
James Cagney | Stage and film actor famous for his tough guy roles, although best known for his portrayal of George M. Cohan in Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)

James Hetfield | Lead singer and guitarist for the hard rock band, Metallica

James J. "Whitey" Bulger | Boston mobster and former leader of the Winter Hill Gang who masterminded a protection racket targeting drug kingpins and illegal gambling operations and was indicted for nineteen murders

James Knox Polk | 11th United States President (1845–49)

James Patrick "Big Jim" O'Leary | Chicago mobster and saloon owner involved in illegal gambling who was the son of Patrick and Catherine O'Leary, in whose barn the Great Chicago Fire is believed to have begun

Jason Kidd | NBA Champion Point Guard

Jay McInerney | Novelist and screenwriter who wrote Bright Lights, Big City

Jeanette MacDonald
Jeanette MacDonald | Singer and actress of 1930s musical films who sold numerous gold records and appeared in several Oscar-nominated movies

Jefferson Davis | President of the Confederate States of America

Jennifer Connelly | Academy Award-winning actress and model best known for her roles in Requiem for a Dream and A Beautiful Mind

Jenny McCarthy | Model, comedian, and actress who was named Playboy Playmate of the Year and went on to become an activist against childhood vaccines

Jim Morrison | Singer/songwriter for the 1960s rock band, The Doors

Jimmy Carter | 39th United States President (1977–1981)

Jimmy Connors | Hall of Fame Tennis Player

Jimmy Dorsey
Jimmy Dorsey | 1940s jazz musician, composer, and big band leader

Jimmy McHugh | One of the most prolific songwriters from the 1920s to the 1950s whose songs were recorded by some of the top singers of his era

Joe Biden | 47th Vice President of the United States

John C. Reilly | Film and theater actor, singer, and comedian who was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Chicago

John Courtney Murray | Jesuit priest and theologian who played a key role during the Second Vatican Council in persuading the assembly of the Catholic bishops to adopt the Council's ground-breaking Declaration on Religious Liberty, Dignitatis Humanae

John Cusack | Film actor and screenwriter best known for his roles in Say Anything, Grosse Point Blank, and High Fidelity

John Daly | PGA Golfer

John Elway | Hall of Fame NFL Quarterback

John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy | 35th United States President (1961–63)

John Fogerty | Singer/songwriter for the 1960s/70s rock band, Creedence Clearwater Revival

John J. Cavanaugh | Priest of the Congregation of Holy Cross and 14th president of the University of Notre Dame who was the personal priest of the Kennedy family and one of the three priests serving at J.F.K.'s funeral

John Kennedy Toole | Novelist who was posthumously awarded the 1981 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for A Confederacy of Dunces

John M. Corridan | Jesuit priest who fought against corruption and organized crime on the New York City waterfront and became the inspiration for the character of "Father Barry" in the classic film, On the Waterfront (1954)

John McCloskey | Archbishop of New York from 1864 until his death in 1885 who became the first American cardinal in 1875

John McCormack | World-famous early 20th century Irish tenor singer

John McEnroe | Hall of Fame Professional Tennis Player

Jonas Brothers | Grammy Award-winning boy band who gained fame on The Disney Channel

Joseph Timothy O'Callahan | Jesuit priest and World War II United States Navy chaplain who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions during an attack on his aircraft carrier, the USS Franklin

Judy Garland
Judy Garland | Legendary singer and actress who came to fame as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz

Kelly Clarkson | Grammy award-winning pop singer and inaugural winner of American Idol

Kelly Slater | Professional Surfer

Kevin Bacon | Oscar- and Emmy-nominated film and theater actor whose notable roles include Footloose, A Few Good Men, and Mystic River

Kevin McHale | Hall of Fame NBA Forward

Kim Delaney | Actress best known for her starring role on the ABC drama television series, NYPD Blue

Kurt Cobain | Lead singer of Seattle grunge band, Nirvana

Lionel Barrymore
Lionel Barrymore | Actor of stage, screen and radio best known for his Oscar-winning performance in A Free Soul (1931) and his villainous role in Frank Capra's film, It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

Margaret Mitchell | Novelist who won the 1937 Pulitzer Prize for Gone With The Wind

Mariah Carey | Grammy Award-winning R&B singer

Mark McGwire | Major League Baseball Player

Mark Wahlberg | Actor, producer, and rapper best known for his rap band Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch and his film riles in Boogie Nights (1997), The Departed (2006), and The Fighter (2010)

Mary Tyler Moore | Film and TV actress known for her roles in The Dick Van Dyke Show and The Mary Tyler Moore Show and who won an Academy Award for her performance in Ordinary People

Matt Damon | Film actor and screenwriter best known for his roles in Good Will Hunting, Saving Private Ryan, and The Bourne Identity and who won an Oscar for co-writing Good Will Hunting

Matthew Broderick | Stage and film actor known for his film role in Ferris Bueller's Day Off and stage role in The Producers

Michael Flatley | Hosted the Irish dance shows Riverdance, Lord of the Dance, Feet of Flames, and Celtic Tiger

Michael J. McGivney | Roman Catholic priest and founder of the Knights of Columbus

Michael Phelps | Olympic Champion Swimmer

Mickey Spillane
Mickey Spillane | Novelist who wrote the bestselling Mike Hammer detective novels

Mickey Ward | Champion Junior Welterweight Boxer

Mike Douglas | Big Band era singer, entertainer, and television talk show host best known for The Mike Douglas Show

Morton Downey | Famous pop singer of the 1930s and 1940s who was known as "The Irish Nightingale"

Mychal F. Judge | Catholic priest and Chaplain of the Fire Department of New York who became the first certified fatality of the September 11, 2001 attacks

Natalie Merchant | Singer/songwriter and former lead vocalist for the rock band, 10,000 Maniacs

Nolan Ryan | Hall of Fame Major League Baseball Player

Norman James O'Connor | Roman Catholic priest known as "The Jazz Priest" because of his involvement in jazz music; hosted a syndicated radio show and local TV show "Dial M for Music" on WCBS-TV in New York

Pat Conroy | Novelist and memoirist who wrote The Great Santini and The Prince of Tides

Patrick Francis Healy | First American with African ancestry to earn a PhD, the first to become a Jesuit priest; and the first to be president of a predominantly white college when he became the 29th President of Georgetown following the American Civil War

Pete Hamill | Columnist and editor for the New York Post and The New York Daily News, as well as novelist and short story writer

Peter Boyle | Actor best known for his roles in the sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond and the Mel Brooks' film Young Frankenstein (1974)

Philip Barry | Playwright who wrote The Philadelphia Story

Raymond Chandler | Novelist and short story writer who wrote the Philip Marlowe detective series

Regis Philbin
Regis Philbin | Media personality, actor and singer known for TV shows Live with Regis, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and America's Got Talent

Richard J. Daley | Democratic Boss of Chicago

Richard Mulligan | Award-winning film and TV actor best known for his roles in Soap and Empty Nest

Richard Nixon | 37th United States President (1969–74)

Robert F. Kennedy | United States Senator from New York

Robert Fitzgerald | Poet and critic who served as Poet Laureate of the United States

Robert McNamara | United States Secretary of Defense

Roger Ebert | Film critic and longtime co-host of At the Movies who became the first film critic to win a Pulitzer Prize for Criticism

Ronald Reagan | 40th United States President (1981–89)

Rosemary Clooney
Rosemary Clooney | Singer and actress who came to prominence in the early 1950s with the hit "Come On-a My House"

Rosie O'Donnell | Film and TV actress and comedian best known for her roles in A League of Their Own (1992), Sleepless in Seattle (1993), and The Rosie O'Donnell Show on TV

Sam Houston | President of Texas

Sam Snead | Hall of Fame PGA Golfer

Samuel Barber | Pulitzer Prize-winning composer of orchestral, opera, choral, and piano music best known for his Adagio for Strings, his opera Vanessa, and his Concerto for Piano and Orchestra

Sandra Day O'Connor | United States Supreme Court Justice

Shania Twain | Grammy Award-winning country singer

Taylor Swift | Grammy Award-winning country singer

Ted Kennedy | United States Senator from Massachusetts

Terry "Machine Gun" Druggan | Chicago bootlegger and boss of the Valley Gang who was known for his diminutive stature, short temper and lisp

The Clancy Brothers
The Clancy Brothers | Irish folk music singing group during the 1960s who are widely credited with popularizing Irish traditional music in the United States

The McGuire Sisters | Biggest selling female vocal group of the 1950's

Theodore Roosevelt | 26th United States President (1901–09)

Tim McGraw | Country music singer who has sold over 40 million albums

Tip O'Neill | United States Speaker of the House

Tom Brady | Super Bowl Champion NFL Quarterback

Tom Clancy | Novelist who wrote many bestselling novels, including The Hunt for Red October and Clear and Present Danger

Tommy Dorsey
Tommy Dorsey | 1940s jazz musician, composer, and big band leader

Tori Amos | Singer, songwriter and musician who has been nominated for numerous Grammy Awards

Ulysses S. Grant | 18th United States President (1869–77)

Victor Herbert | Composer, cellist and conductor who composed many successful operettas that premiered on Broadway from the 1890s to World War I

Vince Vaughn | Film actor, screenwriter, producer and comedian best known for his roles in Swingers, Old School, and Wedding Crashers

Vincent "Mad Dog" Coll | New York mobster and mob hitman during Prohibition who gained notoriety for the accidental killing of a young child during a mob kidnap attempt

Virginia O'Brien
Virginia O'Brien | Actress, singer, and radio personality known for her comedic roles in 1940s MGM musicals

W. C. Fields | Comedian, actor, and writer best known for his 1930s films in which he played a misanthropic and hard-drinking egotist

Walt Disney | Film producer, director, screenwriter, and animator who cofounded The Walt Disney Company with his older brother, Roy Disney

Walter Brennan | Actor who won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor on three separate occasions, which is currently the record for most wins

Walter O'Malley | Owner of Major League Baseball's Brooklyn Dodgers who moved the franchise from Brooklyn to Los Angeles in 1958

Whitey Ford | Hall of Fame Major League Baseball Pitcher and Manager

William McKinley
William Corby | Priest of the Congregation of Holy Cross best known for his giving general absolution to the Irish Brigade on the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg, and later became President of the University of Notre Dame

William F. Buckley Jr. | Writer and editor of the conservative magazine National Review and host of the television show Firing Line

William McKinley | 25th United States President (1897–1901)

William O'Malley | Jesuit priest, author, and actor best known for his portrayal of Father Dyer in film, The Exorcist (1973)