Top 5 Famous People From Vermilion Parish
We continue with our Famous People from Acadiana articles. So far we’ve covered St. Martin, Acadia and Iberia parishes.
I hope you’ve enjoyed these compilations as much as I have in researching and putting them together. It is a fun learning experience.
Again, remember that this is a list of people who were born in that particular parish then went on to prominence in their respective field.
Let’s enjoy the Top 5 Famous People from Vermilion Parish:
5. George Petty – Pin-Up Artist – Abbeville
I bet most of you have never heard of this guy. He was born in Abbeville in 1894 and his family moved to Chicago before the turn of the century. But a native he was nonetheless. George Brown Petty IV was best known as a pin-up artist and his work appeared primarily in Esquire and True, which was a popular men’s magazine. He was most famous for his signature “Petty Girl”, which was a series of paintings of women done for Esquire. These women were depicted with the relative lengths of their legs being longer — and the relative sizes of their heads being smaller — than those of his actual models. An image of a Petty girl was used in the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album. Petty passed away in San Pedro, California in 1975.
4. Kent Desormeaux – Hall of Fame Jockey – Maurice
First began riding quarter horses and was 16 when he began working as an apprentice jockey at Evangeline Downs. Desormeaux had immediate success which led him to move north and in 1987 earned the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Apprentice Jockey. In 1989 he set the current mark for most wins in a year with 598. He’s won the Kentucky Derby three times, the Preakness twice and the Belmont once. In his career, Desormeaux has won 5,451 races and those purses have raked in over $243 million dollars. In 2004 he was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. (Oh, he’s even appeared on an episode of Baywatch!)
3. Bobby Charles – Singer/Songwriter – Abbeville
Born Robert Charles Guidry in Abbeville in 1938, Bobby grew up listening to Cajun music along with country. But at the age of 15 he heard a performance by Fats Domino, an event that “changed my life forever,” he later recalled. Charles helped pioneer the sound that we in south Louisiana know so well, Swamp Pop. His most famous songs he wrote included a couple of ‘small hits’ — “See You Later Alligator” famously done by Bill Haley & His Comets and “Walkin’ to New Orleans”, a smash hit for the aforementioned Fats Domino. In late 1976, Bobby Charles was invited to play with The Band at their farewell concert, The Last Waltz. In September of 2007, he was inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame. Charles collapsed in his home near Abbeville and died on January 14, 2010.
2. Iron Eyes Cody – Actor – Kaplan
Cody was born in Kaplan in 1904 and his real name was Espera Oscar de Corti. His parents owned a grocery store in Gueydan. Although he portrayed Native Americans in his movie and tv appearances and claimed Cherokee-Cree ancestry, it was revealed in 1996 that his mother was actually a Sicilian immigrant. Nonetheless, Cody went on to a successful acting career, having started at the age of 12. He appeared in more than 200 films including The Big Trail (1930) with John Wayne, The Scarlet Letter (1934) with Colleen Moore, Sitting Bull (1954) as Crazy Horse, Nevada Smith (1966) with Steve McQueen and (for the younger folks) Ernest Goes to Camp (1987) as Chief St. Cloud. But perhaps his most famous piece of work was the 1970s “Keep America Beautiful” public service announcements where he played the “crying Indian.” The commercial showed Cody as an Indian, shedding a tear after people throw trash from a speeding car and it lands at his feet. Cody was married twice and adopted several Indian children. He passed away in Los Angeles in early 1999 at the age of 94.
1. Sammy Kershaw – Country Musician – Kaplan
This was kind of no-brainer. When you talk about Vermilion Parish, most people think of one fella – country music star Sammy Kershaw. Sammy was born in Kaplan in 1958. At the age of 11 his grandfather gave him his first guitar. However, his father died that same year. His “Pop-Pop” had a significant influence on his life. Kershaw began playing in the honky tonks of south Louisiana with local legend J.B. Pere. But the pressures of growing up fast took a toll in the form a serious drug and alcohol problem. After a short break from music, Sammy decided to give it another go and things didn’t turn out half bad. He got signed to Mercury Records and in 1991 released his debut album Don’t Go Near the Water. Over the course of his now 20+ year career there have been a lot hits, but amazingly only one of his songs has reached the top of the charts, 1993’s “She Don’t Know She’s Beautiful”. In addition to making great music, Sammy has also done some wonderful things in his community and home state. For years he headed up his Sammy Kershaw Foundation which gave back thousands of dollars to needy children and their families. And Kershaw twice had very successful runs at the Lt. Governor’s office in the Pelican state. You can find a happy Sammy Kershaw these days either at his home in Lafayette or on the road entertaining in front of countless loyal fans.
Brandon Mitchell – Former NFL Player (New England, Seattle) – Abbeville
Tommy Mouton – Syndicated Radio Announcer, Inventor of World’s First Bluetooth Remote Broadcast Microphone – Abbeville
Charlton Lyons – “father” of the La. Republican Party – Abbeville
Deb Richard – Former Professional Golfer – Abbeville
Cedric Benoit – Musician and member of Louisiana Music Hall of Fame – Kaplan
Shane Sellers – Jockey – Erath
D.L. Menard – Cajun Musician – Erath
Fiddlin’ Frenchie Burke – Fiddle Player – Kaplan
*** Dudley J. Leblanc lived most of life in Vermilion Parish but was actually born in Youngsville, thus, he doesn’t qualify for this parish.