24 Famous Texans

| Filed under: Texas | Photo by John Bintliff

Texas Monthly is an institution. It always has been. Growing up, you could find piles of old issues lying around our house. My parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles all had subscriptions, and I've kept up my own subscription as an adult.

I think what makes the magazine so great is how well it reflects the diversity of Texas. The interviews and features have always been well-rounded in gender, race, geography, and subject matter. It's always fresh and relevant.

I got nostalgic one evening and started looking back through their online archives, collecting old articles to read later. I found that I was piecing together a history of Texas that would rival anything you'd find in a textbook. It was fascinating to read about notable and influential Texans when they were still unknown to the rest of the world ... back when they were just "Texas Famous." I've curated a collection of articles and quotes to share, as well as some recommendations of my own for further exploration.


  • Matthew McConaughey

    Uvalde, TX

    "The ice maker, man. The Manitowoc QF-400. I looked for years for the freezer that would make Sonic ice in your very own home, and that’s the only one that’ll pull it off. Best damn ice in the world!"

    Texas Monthly Article: Dude! by John Spong (2008) & The McConaughey Flowchart (2017)

    Further Watching: Dazed and Confused

  • Tommy Lee Jones

    San Saba, TX

    On Jones: "And most of all, you see it in his manner, which can go from a courtly gentleness to the promise of a fistfight: This is a man who belongs to the hard, arid West Texas of his youth and will forever live there, no matter where he goes."

    Texas Monthly Article: The Fugitive by Mimi Swartz (1993)

    Further Watching: The Fugitive


  • Sandra Bullock

    Austin, TX

    "A lot of people in the industry are baffled that I would just pick up and leave L.A. ... but I feel a lightness when I’m here (Austin). It’s the kind of place where I can feel normal again."

    Texas Monthly Article: The Starlet by Skip Hollandsworth (1998)

    Further Watching: Speed

  • Sissy Spacek

    Quitman, TX

    On Spacek: "You don’t get any more authentically Texan than being a boy named Bubba or a girl named Sissy."

    Texas Monthly Article: Sissy Spacek’s Long Walk Home by Jan Jarboe Russell (1991)

    Further Watching: Coal Miner's Daughter


  • Lance Armstrong

    Austin, TX

    "This stain will live forever. I’ll never get rid of it. I’ll just try and do the best for my family, my community, my constituency—whatever that may be."

    Texas Monthly Article: The Man Who Fell to Earth by Michael Hall (2013)

    Further Reading: Cycle of Lies: The Fall of Lance Armstrong

  • Earl Campbell

    Tyler, TX

    On Campbell: "In 1981 the legislature enshrined Earl Campbell as an Official State Hero Of Texas. Only three other favorite sons—Davy Crockett, Stephen F. Austin, and Sam Houston—had been previous recipients of that honor..."

    Texas Monthly Article: Earl Campbell by Jan Reid (2001)

    Further Watching: Career Highlights

  • George Foreman

    Marshall, TX

    "Preaching is my profession ... I just moonlight as a boxer."

    Texas Monthly Article: Big by Jan Reid (1995)

    Further Reading: By George: The Autobiography of George Foreman

  • Nolan Ryan

    Alvin, TX

    On Ryan: "Packaged in that fastball were all of the reasons why Texas baseball fans loved him ... his passion for the game, his competitiveness, his ability to rise to an occasion, and above all, his refusal to give in to the passage of time."

    Texas Monthly Article: Savoring the Private Ryan by Paul Burka (1999)

    Further Watching: Dancing with Robin Ventura


  • Terrence Malick

    Austin, TX

    "It was in Austin that I had the idea for Days of Heaven ... I found myself alone for a summer in the town I had left as a high school student. There were those green, undulating hills, and this very beautiful river, the Colorado. The place is inspired and inspiring."

    Texas Monthly Article: The Not-So-Secret Life of Terrence Malick by Eric Benson (2017)

    Further Watching: Badlands

  • Robert Rodriguez

    San Antonio, TX

    On Rodriguez: "Of course, Richard Linklater was here, and he’s a sort of godfather to all of us, but Robert had a thriving film production center. He had created this way to work with great people in a great place, to make what he wants to make on his own terms."

    Texas Monthly Article: King of Dreams by Carina Chocano (2014)

    Further Watching: El Mariachi


  • Roky Erickson

    Austin, TX

    Bill Bentley, on Erickson: "He was the most electric performer I’ve ever seen, and that includes Hendrix ... He was possessed, so vivid and mesmerizing."

    Texas Monthly Article: A Long, Strange Trip by Michael Hall (2001)

    Further Listening: The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators

  • Beyoncé Knowles-Carter

    Houston, TX

    On Beyoncé: "She is relentlessly driven to do whatever is necessary—for her career, for her family—and she is able and willing to bulldoze anything or anyone that gets in her way."

    Texas Monthly Article: It's a Family Affair by Michael Hall (2004)

    Further Watching: Lemonade

  • Willie Nelson

    Abbott, TX

    Jimmy Carter, on Willie: "His voice is one that penetrates your mind and your soul without being a disturbing factor ... you feel that Willie’s singing about something that comes from his heart."

    Texas Monthly Article: "Willie’s God! Willie’s God! We Love Willie!" by Michael Hall (2008)

    Further Listening: Red Headed Stranger

  • Selena

    Lake Jackson, TX

    On Selena: "In South Texas and beyond, she has been elevated from popular singer to something more ethereal: cult hero, martyr, patron saint."

    Texas Monthly Article: Dreaming of Her by Pamela Colloff (2010)

    Further Watching: Selena

  • George Strait

    Poteet, TX

    On Strait: "...he managed to pull traditional country music back into vogue ... Improbably, it has made him the most successful singles artist in history, owner of more number one songs than any other artist in any genre..."

    Texas Monthly Article: The Last Ride of King George by John Spong (2014)

    Further Listening: Strait Country

  • Townes Van Zandt

    Fort Worth, TX

    On Van Zandt: "He was a reckless drunk and a hopeless idealist, but he was also the best Texas songwriter of our time. Just ask Willie Nelson, Lyle Lovett, Nanci Griffith, and countless others who knew him well."

    Texas Monthly Article: The Great, Late Townes Van Zandt by Michael Hall (1998)

    Further Listening: Live at the Old Quarter, Houston, Texas


  • George W. Bush

    Midland, TX

    Fred McClure, on Bush: "Don’t underestimate this guy ... He’s no doubt the biggest political animal in the family—and clearly more competitive than his father."

    Texas Monthly Article: Born to Run by Skip Hollandsworth (1994)

    Further Reading: Portraits of Courage: A Commander in Chief's Tribute to America's Warriors

  • Lady Bird Johnson

    Karnack, TX

    On Johnson: "She was a small-town girl, a wife and mother, an environmentalist, a civil rights activist, a media mogul, and the only person who could tell the president of the United States to go jump in a lake."

    Texas Monthly Article: A Lady First by Jan Jaroboe Russell (2007)

    Further Visiting: Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

  • Barbara Jordan

    Houston, TX

    "My faith in the Constitution is whole, it is complete, it is total. I am not going to sit here and be an idle spectator to the diminution, the subversion, the de­struction of that Constitution."

    Texas Monthly Article: What Does This Woman Want? by Walter Shapiro (1976)

    Further Reading: Barbara Jordan: American Hero

  • Ann Richards

    Lakeview, TX

    On Richards: "[Her] political strength is her genuineness—her ability to transmit her real personality and real feelings to the public and to make the public care how she is doing."

    Texas Monthly Article: Sadder but Wiser by Paul Burka (1994)

    Further Watching: Alamo Drafthouse PSA


  • John Graves

    Glen Rose, TX

    On Graves: "John Graves might have published more books if he hadn’t spent so much time carpentering and raising goats. The bard of Glen Rose’s legacy is written in stones as well as words."

    Texas Monthly Article: Writing Life by Gary Cartwright (2010)

    Further Reading: Hard Scrabble: Observations on a Patch of Land

  • Larry McMurtry

    Archer City, TX

    On McMurtry: "There’s no question that the eighty-year-old author of Lonesome Dove has done more to shape the country’s understanding of Texas than anyone before or since."

    Texas Monthly Article: The Minor Regional Novelist by Skip Hollandsworth (2016)

    Further Reading: Lonesome Dove


  • Michael Dell

    Houston, TX

    "[My wife] Susan and I think we have a responsibility to the community that comes with having succeeded ... We want to make Austin a better city. Also, we want to attract the best and brightest here, and we want to retain them, and so it’s absolutely important."

    Texas Monthly Article: Michael Dell by Evan Smith (2004)

    Further Reading: Direct from Dell: Strategies that Revolutionized an Industry

  • Dan Rather

    Wharton, TX

    "My hope has always been, for all my flaws and weaknesses, that people will say this: 'He wanted to be a reporter and he is.' I think they know that I love this country."

    Texas Monthly Article: Dan Rather Retorting by Gary Cartwright (2005)

    Further Reading: What Unites Us: Reflections on Patriotism