We asked you to vote on who you thought was the most famous person from Sacramento and from a starting field of 32 luminaries born and raised in Sacramento city and county, you narrowed it down to two names: Baseball legend Dusty Baker and former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy.
My choice – the great non fiction writer, Joan Didion – made it only as far as the final four until being aced out by Baker. NBC news anchor Lester Holt also made the final four, until he was outvoted by Kennedy.
Levar Burton, of “Roots” and “Star Trek the Next Generation” and “Reading Rainbow” fame, also got a lot of votes. So did Olympic Gold Medal swimmer Debbie Meyer, intellectual Cornel West, and Tower Records titan, the late, great Russ Solomon.
But when it was all said and done, Kennedy reigned supreme. Despite or because of Kennedy’s intensely debated 30-year legacy on the court, between 1988 and 2018, he was your choice in a final round that saw votes come in from 21 countries.
The vast majority of the votes came from the U.S., but voters weighed in from France, the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, Japan and Mexico. We received a vote from the Ukraine. We may have to investigate that one.
This exploration of notable people from Sacramento was born after a tweet I posted in protest to colleagues suggesting that actor Tom Hanks was the most famous Sacramentan. Hanks spent two years as undergraduate at Sacramento State, but that was it. Then I compiled a list of people who were actually born here, raised here and went to high school here, and did great things with their lives..
It was an impressive list of people. There was California Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Academy Award nominated director Greta Gerwig, Chino Moreno of the Deftones, CNN host Lisa Ling, and many others.
The list matched the diversity of Sacramento. Most of Sacramento’s most famous attended public schools. In the final four, Kennedy and Didion graduated from C.K. McClatchy High School. So did Moreno and Becerra. Solomon famously dropped out of McClatchy. Academy Award winning actress Jessica Chastain dropped out of El Camino.
Baker attended Del Campo, Holt went to Cordova. West went to John F. Kennedy, Meyer to Rio Americano .
The influence of Catholic educations in Sacramento shaped Burton, who went to Christian Brothers and Gerwig who went to St. Francis. Baseball star Rhys Hoskins went to Jesuit.
Justice Kennedy got the most overall votes and that’s hard to argue, but the winner in this contest is Sacramento. The city and county have raised exceptional, including countless leaders, movers and shakers not on this list.
It’s a sign of a healthy community: Growing exceptional people.