July 6th, 2009
Reading about celebrities who have either been Jehovah’s Witnesses or may have had some connection the religion during their lifetimes has become even more popular with the recent passing of Michael Jackson. Everyone seems to want to know what other famous people have been JWs, especially movie or rock stars, even if they have only been inside a Kingdom Hall a time or two.
This time we will dig a little deeper and highlight five people that you may not have been aware were Witnesses or they may have faded into obscurity before their time. All were well known when they were in the limelight and excelled in their professions.
Here is our third set of five celebrity JWs (or close enough to be considered):
- Joyce Holden (actress)
- Terrence Howard (actor)
- Margaret Keane (artist)
- Patti Smith (singer)
- Lou Whitaker (athlete)
- Joyce Holden (1930 – ), 1950s blond leading lady of horror and crime movies, a former Universal Pictures starlet. She went to Hollywood High School and attended UCLA for two years. Was Miss Southern California and Miss KTLA (a Los Angeles television station). Appeared in the Milk Man with Donald O’Connor in 1950, in one of the Ma and Pa Kettle movie series, and The Werewolf (1956). Appeared frequently in TV anthology shows and was a talk show host on CBS-TV’s “Morning Show” (Barbara Walters was her assistant producer). Appeared in Disney’s “Spin and Marty” series and two episodes of “Science Fiction Theater.” (Link to video biography by her daughter) She became a Jehovah’s Witness in 1954 and reportedly spent some time at Bethel. Married for over fifty years, she and her husband live in California and are still active Witnesses. [Status: Active]
- Terrence Howard (1969 – ), Academy Award nominated American movie actor noted for his roles in Mr. Holland’s Opus, Crash, Lackawanna Blues, and Pride. His 2005 Academy Award nomination was for playing a down-and-out pimp trying to become a song writer in Hustle & Flow. He is most recently famed for his role as Col. Rhodes in the movie Iron Man. In a 2007 NPR interview he explained, “I’m like most people in the world. I’m a little selfish in what I want. I like doing my thing, my way. In my heart, I wanted to be a Witness. If it wasn’t for the smoking of cigarettes and all, I would be a Witness.” According to that interview, Howard is not ready yet to commit himself, but he plans to pursue his desire to become an active Jehovah’s Witness sometime in the future. He was the host for the PBS documentary, “Knocking,” that presented a favorable treatment of the Witness religion and culture. [Status: Undetermined]
- Margaret Keane (1927 – ), Known for her painting of delicate girls with big eyes, Keane is a fixture in popular culture. Some of her well-known fans over the years have included actresses Joan Crawford and Natalie Wood, for whom she painted portraits. Filmmaker Tim Burton, who commissioned Keane to paint Lisa Marie and borrows Keane’s style for many of his cartoon characters. Animator Craig McCracken’s characters “The Powerpuff Girls” are based on Keane’s “waifs.” Margaret herself attributes her deep respect for the Bible and inspirations of her artwork to the relationship with her grandmother. In 1955 she became one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, which she said changed her life most definitely for the better. Her works while she was living in her husband’s shadow were dark and sad, but after she divorced him, moved to Hawaii, and became a Jehovah’s Witness, she painted in a much happier and brighter style. Currently Margaret and her second husband make their home in Northern California. [Status: Active]
- Patti Smith (1946 – ), American singer–songwriter, poet and visual artist who was a highly influential component “punk rock” movement and has been called the “Godmother of Punk.” Her most widely known song is “Because the Night”, which was co-written with Bruce Springsteen. In 2007 she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Raised by a Jehovah’s Witness mother, she left organized religion as a teenager because she felt it was too confining. The opening line, “Jesus died for some body’s sins, but not mine,” of her cover version of Them’s “Gloria” is her response to this experience. [Status: Unaffiliated]
- Lou Whitaker, (1957 – ), ‘Sweet Lou’ Whitaker is best known as part of one of the most successful double play combinations in baseball’s history. With the Detroit Tigers, and alongside Alan Trammel, Whitaker excelled as a second baseman. In 1978, Whitaker won the Rookie of the Year award, hitting .285 with 138 hits and 58 RBIs. A career .276 hitter, Lou hit 244 home runs, drove in 1084 RBIs, 143 stolen bases. A 5-time All-Star, Whitaker was best known for his defensive skills with a .984 fielding percentage and 1,527 double plays. He and Chet Lemon refused to stand for the National Anthem before games because of his Jehovah’s Witness religious beliefs. [Status: Active]