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Famous Persons with Disabilities
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MADISON James, 1751-1836, (epilepsy),
4th US President 1809-1817, drafted the Bill of Rights. Often referred to as the Father of the Constitution. Played a leading role in the Constitutional Convention of 1787 where he helped design the checks and balances system that equalizes the roles of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government. He also created the federal system.

MANKILLER Wilma, 1945-present, (muscular dystrophy),
Her family was ordered by the Bureau of Indian Affairs to move from Oklahoma to San Francisco. In 1969 while in college she did fundraising for 18 months to assist Native American students who protested the government on poor treatment of Native Americans programs with the Oakland California School System. In 1977 Wilma took the position of Economic Stimulus Coordinator for the Cherokee Nations. In 1981 she became Director of Cherokee Nation’s Community Development Department. In 1979 following a car accident doctors became concerned about a strange muscular weakness. After a series of tests it was discovered that she had a strange form of muscular dystrophy. In 1983, Russ O. Swimmer ran for office of Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation and selected Wilma as his running mate. She became the Cherokee Nation’s first female Deputy Chief. She was sworn in December 15 1985 as principal chief of the Cherokee Nation.

MANLEY Dexter, 1959-present, (learning disability),
American football player-defensive end, Washington, 1981-1989, defensive lineman of year, 1986, banned from NFL for life for drug abuse, 1989, currently with Ottawa, Canadian Football League.

MARSH Curt, 1959-present, (amputee)
First round draft choice of the Oakland Raiders in the 1981 National Football League Draft. His seven year NFL career high point was his membership on the 1983 Raider Super Bowl Champion team. Forced to retire in 1987 with a severe ankle injury which eventually led to a below the knee amputation in 1994. Now competes in events for amputee athletes and is a gold medal power lifter in addition to pursuing a successful motivational speaking career.

MATLIN Marlee, 1965-present, (hearing impairment),
At eight she began to perform with a children’s theater group at the Center for Deafness in DesPlaines IL. Displayed remarkable talent in her first major role as Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. Enrolled in Harper College at Palatine, IL where she planned to major in criminal justice. She wanted to be a police officer but realized her deafness would be an obstacle so she dropped out. Before she left Harper College she learned that auditions were being held for a Chicago production of the play Children of a Lesser God. She tried out and was awarded the role of Lydia. While the play was going on, Paramount began work on a film version and she got the role for this as well. Won Oscar as Best Actress in March 1987 for her role. In 1991 she played a deaf lawyer in a series called Reasonable Doubt.

MAUPASSANT Guy de, 1850-1893, (epilepsy),
French author. Was student of Flaubert. It is believed that his epilepsy was caused by brain damage resulted from contracting syphilis as a youth. Recognized as master of short stories and wrote Pierre et Jean 1888.

MCNICHOL Kristy, 1962-present, (bipolar),
American actress who played Buddy Lawrence on television series Family 1976-1980, won Emmys 1977, 1979, played Barbara Weston on television comedy Empty Nest, 1988.

MCQUEEN Steve, 1930-1980, (learning disability),
American actor who was a superstar in the true sense of the word. Probably the most emulated movie actor ever. His peers called him one of the best actors in film history and his films are considered classics. The Great Escape 1963 and Sand Pebbles 1966 to name two films.

MEHTA Ved, 1934-present, (visual impairment),
Blind writer/journalist for New Yorker and wrote several books about his life.

MERRILL Robert 1919-present, (speech impairment),
American baritone, became one of the world’s leading opera stars. Gained recognition for his powerful and resonant voice, which he combined with great warmth and superb technique despite his stuttering while speaking. First to sing 500 performances at New York Met., 1973.

MICHAELANGELO, 1475-1564, (mental disorder) (epilepsy),
One of the world’s greatest artists. He suffered with mental illness. After 1546 he devoted much of his time to architecture and poetry. Pope Paul III appointed him supervising architect of St. Peter’s Basilica which was one of Pope Julius II’s unfinished projects.

MIHALAS Dimitri, 1939-present, (bipolar),
Astronomer and educator. He has taught at Princeton University, 1964-1967, University of Colorado, 1967-1968, University of Chicago, 1968-70 and in 1972-80 at the University of Colorado. He was the senior scientist at the High Altitude Observatory, National Center Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, 1971-1979 and 1982-1985. From there he went to Sacramento Peak Observatory, Sunspot, New Mexico, 1979-1982. Los Alamos National Laboratory 1981. He is the author of several books.

MILLER Kathy, 1962-present, (traumatic brain injury),
On March 14 1977 due to an accident one of her legs was crushed and her brain was badly injured. She was a marathon runner. In 1978 she won the International Valor in Sports Award.

MILSAP Ronnie, 1944-present, (visual impairment),
Country singer who is blind. His hits include Any Day Now 1982. As a child he learned to play the violin and the guitar. While in high school he formed his own rock band but turned to country music and went to Nashville TN. In 1976 he became a regular on Grand Ole Opry.

MILTON John, 1608-1674, (visual impairment),
English poet who wrote in four different languages. Known for his master piece written after losing his eyesight, Paradise Lost 1667. He wrote one of the greatest eulogy’s ever Lycidas.

MOHAMMED [Mahomet Muhammad],570-632, (epilepsy),
Arab prophet and founder of Islam, 1622. Prophet of Allah. Wrote The Koran. Considered by most Muslims to have been sinless.

MOLIERE Jean [Jean Baptiste Poquelin], 1622-1673, (epilepsy),
French playwright, wrote The School for Wives 1662. The Imaginary Invalid 1673. Moliere was his stage name. Considered to be one of the greatest French writers of comedy.

MONROE Marilyn [Norma Jean Mortenson], 1926-1962, (speech impairment),
American actress. Ultimate pin-up girl and cult figure. Starred in Some Like It Hot 1959, Bus Stop 1956. She also stuttered.

MOORE Dudley [Dudley Stuart John Moore], 1935-present, (physical impairment),
English actor and musician. Starred in 10, 1979, Arthur 1981. Won Grammy 1974, Special Tony 1969 and 1974.

NASTASE Ilie, 1946-present, (bipolar),
Romanian Tennis player. Won US Opens 1972 and 1975, French Open 1973, Italian Opens 1970 and 1973. Won doubles with Jimmy Connors at Wimbledon 1973.

NEWTON Sir Issac, 1646-1727, (epilepsy),
He left college (Trinity College) in Cambridge from 1665-1666 due to the bubonic plague. During this time he developed calculus, the law of universal gravitation, the binomial theorem and discovered the composite nature of white light. Newton was a shy and sickly boy and remained shy as an adult. He went to great lengths to avoid controversy.

NIJINSKY Vaslav, 1888-1950, (mental disorder),
Dancer who had clinical depression. One of the greatest male dancers in the history of ballet. Best known role was in the ballet Afternoon of a Fawn.

NOBEL Alfred, 1833-1896, (epilepsy),
Swedish Chemist, Engineer and Inventor of Dynamite. Philanthropist left $9.2 million for annual Nobel Prizes first awarded 1901. He established the Nobel Prizes.

NORTON Emperor Joshua, 1817-1880, (mental disorder),
Self-appointed Norton I Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico, Joshua Norton won a permanent place in the annals of San Francisco as the wisest and shrewdest of madmen.

NUSSBAUM Susan, 1953-present, (spinal cord injury),
While in high school Susan and some classmate wrote and produced a play about women’s liberation. The school however took a dim view of her production because the play included a graphic description of an abortion. She was suspended from school. In 1978 while at Goodman School of Drama in Chicago, on her way to class she was struck by a car. The accident fractured her spine and she became a quadriplegic. She worked at a place called Access Living and felt at home. She wrote her first play called String Back. The play pokes fun at the public’s misconceptions about people with disabilities. She now teaches drama and directs plays and acts.

O’NEIL Kitty, 1946-present, (hearing impairment),
Deaf and a great stunt woman in many television shows, (Wonder Woman, Baretta). On December 4 1976 she drove a rocket car to become the Fastest Woman on Earth.

O’NEILL Eugene, 1888-1953, (mental disorder),
Famous playwright, author of Long Day’s Journey Into the Night. Suffered from clinical depression. In 1936 he received the Noble Prize for Literature.

OE Hikari, 1963-present, (developmental disability),
Hikari was born with a potentially fatal cranial deformity following traumatic brain surgery during infancy. Later found to be a musical savant. Hikari surprised everyone by becoming a recognized composer of classical music. His first two CD’s, Music of Hikari Oe 1992 and Music of Hikari Oe 2 1994 have been best-sellers in his native Japan, worldwide more than 300000 copies have been sold.

PAAR Jack, 1918-present, (speech impairment),
American entertainer, pioneer talk show host, star of Tonight Show 1957-1962, Jack Paar Show 1962-1965 and 1973.

PAGANINI Nicolo, 1782-1840, (epilepsy),
Italian composer and violinist. Revolutionized violin technique, fingering methods. Became the of the greatest violinist of all time.

PASCAL Blaise, 1623-1662, (epilepsy),
French philosopher and mathematician and theologian. Formulated Pascal’s Law which states fluids transmit equal pressure in all directions.

PASTEUR Louis, 1822-1895, (learning disability),
Scientist who made major contributions to chemistry, and medicine industry that greatly benefited humanity. He was a great theoretical scientist.

PATTON George, 1920-1991, (learning disability),
Old Blood and Guts. American Army General commanded the 3rd Army, War World II, leader in Battle of The Bulge 1944.

PERLMAN Itzhak, 1945-present, (polio),
At age of four Itzhak contracted polio. The disease weakened the muscles in his legs. He began the violin at and early age. With a scholarship from the American-Israel Cultural foundation, he entered the tel Aviv Academy of Musicm was hailed as a musical prodigy at age five and gave his first solo recital at the age of 10. He went on the television show Ed Sullivan and was a success. He continued his studies in the US at the Juilliard School for he Performing Arts in New York City. Perlman made his début at Carnegie Hall on March 5, 1963. His performance brought him to the attention of Isaac Stern and Yehudi Menuhin, two of the world’s leading violinists. In 1964 he became a finalist in the Edward M. Levintripp International Competition. In the late 1970s he became aware of the growing disability rights movement and developed a sense of solidarity with other disabled people. Itzhak married Tobi Lynn Friedlhander, violinist. He has a busy concert schedule and does fund-raising for organizations of people with disabilities.

PETER THE GREAT, 1672-1725, (epilepsy),
Russian Czar, Peter I the Great, son of Aleksei Romanov Family was one of the most famous rulers in history. He ruled first as a Czar of Russia and later became Russia’s first emperor. He transformed Russia into a great European power.

PIERSALL Jimmy, 1929-present, (bipolar),
Baseball player for the Boston Red Sox who suffered from bipolar depression.

PIPPIN Horace, 1888-1946, (physical disability)
After completing the eight grade he dropped out of school to help his family. He did an assortment of jobs. In 1914 he joined the National Guard and ended up on the front lines in France during World War I. On note pads he kept a diary of his war experiences which later transformed into his paintings. In 1918 a shell fragment shattered his right shoulder which left his arm almost totally paralyzed. He returned home and art brought him back to his old self. In 1931 he began his first major art piece, The End of the War: Starting Home. By the time of his death he painted, drew and wood carved 150 pieces.

PITT William, 1759-1806, (epilepsy),
Second son of the First Earl of Chatham. In 1781 he became a member of the House of Commons. He was initially a reformist who opposed the war with the American colonies and urged peace. In 1783 he became Britain’s youngest Prime Minister.

PLATH Sylvia, 1932-1963, (mental disorder),
Poet and novelist ended her lifelong struggle with clinical depression by taking her own life.

POE Edgar Allen, 1809-1849, (epilepsy),
He is most famous as the first master of the short story form, especially tales of the mysterious and macabre. He is also considered the father of the modern detective story. He was known as a poet and critic. Some of his famous poems include The Sleeper 1831, Lenore 1831, The Raven 1845. Some of his story stories include The Fall of the House of Usher 1839, The Murders in the Rue Morgue 1841 and The Mystery of Marie Roget 1842-1843.

POWELL John Wesley, 1834-1902, (amputee),
During the Civil war he lost his right arm just below the elbow. Led an expedition down the Colorado River on May 1869 and emerged from he Grand Canyon on August 29, 1869. In 1879 he founded the Smithsonian Institution Bureau of Ethnology and directed it for 23 years.

PRIDE Charley [Country Charley], 1939-present, (bipolar),
American country singer. Won Grammy for Kiss an Angel Good Morning 1972. First African American country music star. First African American to perform at the Grand Ole Opry. He wrote an autobiography Pride: The Charley Pride Story. Known to have bipolar disorder.

PRYOR Richard, 1940-present, (multiple sclerosis),
Comedian,actor, writer and producer. Played in small-time clubs until his appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show which brought him a movie offer in 1966. He is the owner of Indigo Production and Richard Pryor Enterprises, Inc. Some of his films include, Bustin Loose, Blue Collar, See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Harlem Nights, Your Life Is Calling (which he produced and directed) it was based upon the traumas of his life.

PYTHAGORAS,582BC-507BC, (epilepsy),
The Samian Sage. Greek philosopher and mathematician discovered principles of musical pitch. Was famous for formulating the Pythagorean Theorem which states that the square of he hypotenuse of a right angled triangle is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides.

QUEEN Boadicea,?-61AD, (epilepsy),
British queen of the Iceni, a Celtic tribe inhabiting the territory that is now Norfolk and Suffolk. After the death of her husband the King Prasutagus her kingdom was seized by the Romans.

RAUSCHENBERG Robert [Milton Raschenberg], 1925-present, (dyslexia)
American artist among the most important in pop art. Uses sophisticated techniques of photomontage and silk-screening. His collages are called "combines" and include "Gloria" 1956 and Summer Rental 1960. He championed the theory that the essential nature of creativity is not in the object produced but in the concept and the process of creation.

REAGAN Ronald, 1911-present, (hearing impairment),
40th President of the United States. 1981-1989. Also served two terms as governor of California. In 1932 he became a radio announcer for WOC in Davenport IA and later WHO in Des Moines IA. In 1937 he signed a contract with Warner Brothers and his first film was Love is on the Air.

REEVE Christopher, 1952-present, (physical impairment),
American actor best known for title role of Superman in 1983 and 1987. Paralyzed in horse back riding accident 1995. Campaigns for spinal cord injury research.

REILLY Charles Nelson, 1931-present, (speech impairment),
American comedian, won Tony for How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying 1961, television game shows, situation comedies and varieties.

RENO Janet, 1938-present, (neuromuscular),
First female to serve as United States Attorney General 1993. Diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in the late 1990s.

RICKENBACKER Eddie, 1890-1973, (learning disability),
Leading US air ace in World War I 1914-1918. He shot down 22 enemy planes and four balloons. Before World War II he inspected American air bases and his plane was shot down. He survived on a raft for 24 days.

ROBERTS Ed, 1939-1995, (polio),
At age 14 Ed contracted poliomyelitis. He also used an iron lung at night. Ed was the first quadriplegic ever enrolled at the University of California at Berkeley. He graduated with a BA and Masters degree in political science and later a Ph.D. In 1969 he was invited to act as consultant to the Special Students Program within the US office of Education in Washington DC. He wrote the guidelines with references to students with disabilities. In 1972 he obtained federal funding to start the center for Independent Living. In 1984 Ed received money from various Awards. With this money he started the World Institute on Disability which is based in Oakland California. (WID) brings together experts on every aspect of disability to help formulate social policy. He was president of WID until his death in 1995.

ROCKEFELLER Nelson, 1908-1979, (learning disability),
Vice President of the United States from 1974-1977. He was severely dyslexic. He filled a vacancy that was created when Vice President, Gerald Ford succeeded Richard Nixon who had resigned as President.

ROOSEVELT Franklin Delano, 1882-1945, (polio),
The 32nd President of the United States and promised to create jobs for the unemployed and gave assistance to those in need. Suffered with polio and worked very hard to hide the extent of his disability.

ROREM Ned, 1923-present, (speech impairment)
American composer. Won 1976 Pulitzer Prize for Bicentennial Commission, Air Music, published many diaries.

ROUSSO Harilyn, 1946-present, (cerebral palsy),
When she was a little girl taking piano lessons, she was frustrated by many pieces she played. The part for the right hand was always the most complex, her left hand had more coordination. To solve this situation she crossed her hands and played right hand parts with her left hand and left hand parts with her right hand. She attended and graduated from Brandeis University in economics. While in Washington Harilyn got involved in the growing women’s movement. She came to realize that women and disabilities need attention and she spoke a lot on both issues. In 1980 she stared a program called Networking Project for disabled Women and Girls. This was sponsored by the New York YMCA. In 1988 Harilyn edited a book to young people, Disabled, Female and Proud.

RUDOLPH Wilma, 1940-1994, (polio),
At the age of four, after a series of illnesses and polio Wilma regained her health. Her left leg was paralyzed. With physical therapy she regained the use of her leg. In 1957 Wilma enrolled at Tennessee State University and she qualified for the Olympic Team. In 1960 she went to the Olympics in Rome Italy and won the women’s 100 meter dash, 200 meter dash and ran he last leg of the 400 meter relay. In February 1961 Wilma entered the Milbrose Games, and indoor tack meet field a New York Madison Square Gardens. These games are restricted to males only, so Wilma was the first woman to be invited to participate in 30 years. She received he 1961 Sullivan Award, an honor received for America’s most outstanding amateur athlete of the year.

RUFF Charles, 1939-present, (physical impairment),
Trial lawyer for organized crime and racketeering section of the Justice Department, 1967-1969. Attorney in charge Labor and Gambling unit, 1969-1970, Chief Management and Labor Secretary Criminal Division of Justice Department, 1970-, Editor of African Law Journal 1966. He is currently the Council for the President of the United States. After graduating from Columbia Law School, and his wife, Susan, went to teach law in Liberia in 1963. While there, Ruff came down with a mysterious flu-like illness that parlayed his legs. He has used a wheelchair every since.

RUSSELL Harold, 1914-1999, (amputee),
Actor and soldier. A defective blasting cap cost him both hands while demonstrating explosives assembly. During his stay in the Army hospital a movie crew came to do a documentary on a soldier’s rehabilitation after loosing his hands called Diary of a Sergeant. This caught the attention of Samuel Goldwyn who cast Russell in his movie The Best Years of Our Lives in the role of an amputee struggling to adjust to civilian life. Won best supporting actor award 1946 as well as a second special Academy Award for bringing hope and courage to his fellow veterans. Only actor ever to win two Oscars for the same role. He started speaking to veteran groups and civic organizations about racial discrimination. In 1964 President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed him as Chairman of the President’s Committee on Employment of the Handicapped which worked to educate employers about he capabilities of disabled people. It is still going on today.

RYAN, Leilani, 1945-present, (polio),
Disabled in 1954 with polio one month before the polio vaccine came out. She is currently a Rehabilitation Counselor.