The term ‘Welsh Americans’ is used for people who are citizens of the United States of America, but have ancestral roots which lead back to Wales. According to a survey conducted in 2008, about 2 million U.S citizens have Welsh backgrounds, which is a huge number, considering it is two-third of the entire population of Wales, which is just 3 million. The contribution that these Welsh Americans have towards development of the U.S we know today is indubitable. It is anything, but insignificant. Senator John Sharp Williams of Mississippi once made a speech about how the Welsh people have played an integral part in the success the United States of America has achieved since its independence. This is now a part of the Congressional Record.
Going through this list of famous Welsh Americans, you will realize the significance these people hold in the history, present and future of this great nation.
1. Anthony Hopkins
First on the list, Sir Anthony Hopkins is a Welsh actor and a composer. Famous for his role of ‘Hannibal Lecter,’ in the movie The Silence of the Lambs, Anthony Hopkins is widely looked upon as one of the greatest actors of all time. He also appeared in major movies like The Mask of Zorro, Meet Joe Black and The Elephant Man. He has won 3 BAFTA awards, 2 Emmy Awards and the one that really put him alongside the greatest names in American Cinema, the Academy Award for best actor, for his role in The Silence of the Lambs. He was knighted and given the CBE order, in 1993. Ten years later, he was honored by a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
2. John Quincy Adams
A legendary name in American history, John Quincy Adams was the sixth president of the United States of America. Since early age, it was like he was destined for success in the political arena. The reason for this was that he was the son of the second president of the U.S, John Adams. John Quincy Adams was a member of several different parties, which includes Federalist, Democratic-Republican, National Republican, Anti-Masonic and Whig party. His historical and legendary status can be attributed to his diplomatic skills which led to success in arranging many international treaties. Most incredible of these treaties was the Treaty of Ghent, which led to the end of the War of 1812. His actions, as president, were aimed towards promoting education, modernizing the economy and legislating an agenda that would pay-off the increasing debt the country was under. He has also been credited for his negotiations with the UK, Spain and other countries. Although his efforts for a re-election were unsuccessful, history remembers him as a moral leader of the modernization era. His status was also furthered by his foreign and economic policies and a strong stance against slavery.
3. Daniel Boone
A pioneer, explorer and frontiersman, Daniel Boone goes down in the pages of history as one of the earliest folk heroes. Boone started out as a militia officer and rose through the ranks in no time. During the Revolutionary War, he was elected in the General Assembly of Virginia. He was a brave, valiant soldier who left a legacy. However, what made him famous was his role in discovery and settlement of a land, which is now known as Kentucky. Back then, Kentucky was a portion of Virginia, which was occupied by Indian Tribes. However, this occupation ended when Boone conquered it and named a village after himself. This village is known as Boonesborough and the population of Kentucky of today is around 4.4 million people. Daniel Boone is an iconic figure in American History and is remembered as a legend in stories and tales.
4. George W. Bush
Like John Q. Adams, George Bush is both, the son of a former president and a former president himself. George W. Bush was the 43rd president of the United States of America. A graduate of Harvard Business School, Bush started out in the oil business. However, after he ran unsuccessfully for the House of Representatives, in 1977, there was a big gap in his political career. However, coming from a very political family, it was only about time that he made his comeback. He initially became the 46th Governor of Texas, before becoming the President of United States of America, in 2000. From his election to Barack Obama’s victory, the tenure of George W. Bush was frowned upon by many of world’s leaders. Winning a controversial election and facing the September 11, 2001 attack after only 8 months as president, it was not going to be a walk in the park for Bush. From the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, to the 2008 Global Financial Crisis, Bush was never out of limelight. Although, surveys have rated him as one of the worst presidents the country has ever seen, his stats seem to be improving ever since Obama took over as president.
5. Michael Phelps
Swimming has been a sport for a very long time, and so is Olympics. However, after Michael Phelps came along, both have not been the same. Michael Phelps is a retired swimmer, who is considered by many as the best swimmer of all time. He is also the most decorated Olympian of all time, with a total of 22 medals, out of which 18 are gold medals. These 18 gold medals are twice that of the second highest gold medal holder. He has won the most prestigious award in swimming, the ‘World Swimmer of the Year Award’ a staggering 7 times, which really does weigh in the argument that he is indeed, the best swimming has ever seen. Considering his absolutely amazing records and awards, it is actually hard to believe that Michael Phelps is only 27 years old. His arrival on the world stage set higher standards than ever. A complete maestro of his generation, Michael Phelps put his feet in philanthropy, in 2008.
6. Frank Lloyd Wright
A pioneer of ‘organic architecture,’ Frank Lloyd Wright was an architect, interior designer and eventually, a writer. He created over a 1000 structures and accomplished 532 designs. His specialty laid in architectures which complemented the environment and its surroundings. A specimen of this vision, ‘Fallingwater’ of 1935, is a house, located in Pennsylvania. It is acknowledged by Time Magazine as Wright’s best work, while other go to the extent of calling it the finest work by an American architect. From museums, schools, skyscrapers, to furniture and stained glass, Wright created almost everything. He had the Midas touch. 32 years after his death, he was hailed as the greatest American architect of all time, by the American Institute of Architects. He was a true artist, a maestro in his own league. His works are not limited to the field of architecture but he wrote about 20 books and numerous articles, both, domestically and abroad.
7. Jesse James
Probably the most infamous name on the list, Jesse James was an outlaw, robber and a murderer. Since the list consists of ‘famous people’ rather than popular ones, Jesse James qualifies just fine. James was the most renowned member of the James-Younger Gang, which was a major gang of robbers and outlaws, in the 19th century. Although he was considered a public enemy, he reveled in a celebrity status throughout his life. This status turned from celebrity to legend, after his death. During the Civil War, he was a Confederate guerilla, accompanied by his brother. While the murderer status comes due to allegations of what these two did during the war, what happened afterwards led to him being held in high regard and addressed by many as Robin Hood. The reason was clear: he stole from the rich and gave it to the poor. However, there is little or no evidence of what he did with the robbery gains. James was eventually killed by a member of his own gang, who killed him to collect the bounty on his head. After his death, he turned into a legend in the Wild West. In the 2007 movie, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Brad Pitt played the character of Jesse James.
8. Thomas Jefferson
Being one of the 7 ‘Founding Fathers’, Thomas Jefferson is one of Wales’ biggest gift to American History. Thomas Jefferson was the 3rd President of the United States of America. He was the Governor of Virginia during the American Revolution, and also held several other government posts, like the Ambassador of the U.S in France, U.S Secretary of State, and also the Vice President to President John Adams, who he went on to succeed, eventually. He was a forerunner in promoting education and formed the University of Virginia. From overseeing the securing of Louisiana territory from France, to putting embargoes on imports from Britain, his tenure saw both, good and bad times. However, his other endeavors made him widely recognized as one of the greatest U.S presidents. The main highlight, the main talking-point of what Thomas Jefferson means to American History can be seen in the fact that he was the main author of Declaration of Independence (1776). Today, he is seen as a chief American icon of liberty, democracy and antimonarchism, a coherent spokesmen of the American Revolution, and a man of the renaissance. According to Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson is the most distinguished politician in U.S history.
9. Tom Cruise
Tom Cruise is one the most recognized faces of Hollywood. Winner of three Golden Globe Awards and nominee for three Academy Awards, Tom Cruise goes down in the glittery pages of world cinema’s history. It was not always his acting that kept him under limelight, but also his personal relationships with actresses. He married 3 different actresses: Mimi Rogers, Nicole Kidman and Katie Holmes. A career, which took off after 1986 movie Top Gun, saw Tom Cruise become Hollywood’s highest paid actor, in 2012. Throughout his career, Cruise has given many remarkable performances. These include Rain Man, A Few Good Men, Jerry Maguire, Vanilla Sky, Minority Report, War of the Worlds, and many such blockbusters. However, the role that amplified Tom Cruise’s image on the global stage was his portrayal of Ethan Hunt, in the Mission: Impossible film series. From a hunk in the 1990s to a mature actor of the 21st century, Tom Cruise’s contributions to Hollywood are laudable. As of 2013, Cruise’s movies have grossed $7.3 billion, across the globe. Constantly hailed as one of the most handsome, talented and powerful celebrities, Tom Cruise is a household name across the globe. A perfect example of what Tom Cruise’s impact is the fact that 10th October, 2006 was avowed as ‘Tom Cruise Day’, in Japan.
10. Abraham Lincoln
Saving the best for the last, probably the most influential icon of American History, Abraham Lincoln was the 16th president of the U.S, serving from March 1861 to April 1865, when he was assassinated. Lincoln steered the country amidst its biggest crises. He led the whole nation through the Civil War, and at the same time, kept his efforts focused on conserving the Union, abolishing slavery and streamlining the economy. Raised in a poor family, Lincoln was self-educated lawyer, who eventually became, a Whig Party leader, Illinois state legislator and a member of the United States House of Representatives. He pioneered the 13th amendment, which eventually lead to slavery in the USA being abolished. Lincoln faced fierce opposition and adversity throughout his career, but he remained steadfast and did not give in. Historian describe him being fearless, astute and a man of morals. Today, Lincoln means legend, it means perseverance and self-belief. He is considered not only one of the greatest presidents of the U.S, but THE greatest president the country’s history has ever seen. Over 150 years after he was assassinated, the person, who gave the blacks in America the freedom they deserved, is still talked about by you and me, with utmost respect and admiration.
Post-migration, the Welsh people preferred keeping a lower profile than their Celtic cousins. As a result, symbols of Scottish and Irish national identity, like the kilt and the shamrock, enjoy relatively more recognition than the Welsh icons, like the red dragon and the leek. Nonetheless, over the centuries, the impact that these Welsh have had on the development of their new country has gained recognition and appreciation. Truly, without these people, U.S.A, as we know it today, would not be possible.