25 celebrities with Topeka connections

1 of 25

Wil Wheaton was part of the cast of TV’s “Star Trek: The Next Generation” before he moved to Topeka and worked for NewTek in the 1990s. He later appeared as a fictionalized version of himself on “The Big Bang Theory.” (wil.wheaton.net)

2 of 25

Rex Stout, who grew up in Topeka, gained fame as a detective fiction writer whose best-known character, Nero Wolfe, was featured in 39 novellas and 33 novels between 1934 and 1975. (washburn.edu)

3 of 25

Charles Sheldon, a Topeka minister and Social Gospel movement leader known for writing the 1896 best-selling book “In His Steps,” which posed the question, “What would Jesus do?”

4 of 25

Fay Tincher, who was born in Topeka and grew up here, acted between 1913 and 1930 in numerous films of the motion picture industry’s silent era. She began in 1918 to operate her own film company, Fay Tincher Productions. (Pinterest)

5 of 25

Sherie Rene Scott, who grew up in Topeka, has acted and sang in many Broadway and Off-Broadway plays, twice earning Tony Award nominations. She also co-founded a Grammy Award-winning record company. (sherierenescott)

6 of 25

James Reynolds, an actor who attended Washburn University and has played the character of Abe Carver since 1981 on the NBC soap opera “Days of Our Lives.”

7 of 25

Karl and Will Menninger were brothers and psychiatrists whose Topeka-based Menninger Foundation gained fame for treatment of mental illness. Karl Menninger received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1981.

8 of 25

John Quade, who grew up in Topeka, held numerous TV and movie acting roles, including playing a motorcycle gang leader in the Clint Eastwood movies “Every Which Way But Loose” and “Any Which Way You Can.” (File photographs/The Capital-Journal)

9 of 25

Bill Kurtis, a WIBW-TV newscaster credited with saving lives by warning residents as Topeka’s 1966 tornado approached, went on to fame as a TV news anchor and the narrator of crime and news documentary programs. (2016 file photograph/The Capital-Journal)

10 of 25

Andy McKee, who was born in Topeka and grew up here, is known as one of the world’s finest acoustic guitarists. Millions have seen YouTube videos of his performances, which use various techniques to turn his guitar into a full orchestra

11 of 25

“Dr. Phil” McGraw, an author, psychologist and TV show host who gained celebrity status through appearances on the Oprah Winfrey show, operated a spa with his father in Topeka in the 1970s. (drphil.com)

12 of 25

“Kansas” band members Phil Ehart, Dave Hope, Kerry Livgren and Rich Williams grew up in Topeka. Their group subsequently recorded eight gold albums and seven Top 40 singles.

13 of 25

Alvin Karpis, who grew up in Topeka, was designated “Public Enemy No. 1” by the FBI before being captured in 1936. He spent 33 years in prison for crimes linked to the kidnapping of wealthy brewer William Hamm. (fbi.gov)

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Jeff Kready, a stage performer raised in Topeka, set a record in 2006 when he became the youngest singer to play Jean Valjean in a Broadway version of the musical “Les Miserables.” The record stood for nine years. (jeffkready.com)

15 of 25

Katrina Leskanich, who was born in Topeka, gained fame as lead singer of “Katrina and the Waves.” The band had three top 40 U.S. single in the 1980s and won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1997. (katrinasweb.com)

16 of 25

Coleman Hawkins, who attended high school and college in Topeka, became known as the first great jazz musician to play tenor saxophone. He was among originators of the “bebop” style of music in the 1940s. (File photograph/The Associated Press)

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Jayne Houdyshell, a theater actress who grew up in Topeka after being born here in 1953, has been nominated for three Tony awards and in 2016 won a Tony for “Best Featured Actress in a Play.” (Amanda Voisard/The Washington Post)

18 of 25

Langston Hughes, an acclaimed poet, novelist, playwright and social activist, lived in Topeka as a child. He was a leader of the 1920s Harlem Renaissance and an early innovator in the art form of “jazz poetry.” (File photograph/The Capital-Journal)

19 of 25

Aaron Douglas, an African-American painter, illustrator and arts educator, was born in Topeka and grew up here. He played a key role in the cultural, social and artistic “Harlem Renaissance” that spanned the 1920s.

20 of 25

Gordon Jump, who worked in the late 1950s and early 1960s for Topeka’s WIBW-TV, later gained fame as a cast member for the sitcom “WKRP in Cincinnati.” He also played a repairman in Maytag appliance commercials.

21 of 25

John Brown, an abolitionist who spent time in Topeka during its early years, was hanged in 1859 after leading a raid on the federal armory at Harpers Ferry, W. Va. (Submitted)

22 of 25

Annette Bening, an actress born in Topeka in 1958, has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and has been nominated for four Academy awards and a Tony Award. She’s married to actor Warren Beatty. (File photograph/The Associated Press)

23 of 25

Boxcar Willie, a singer/songwriter born in Texas in 1931 as Lecil Martin, lived in Topeka while serving with the Air Force. He later became a country music star, performing in character as a hobo. (File photograph/The Associated Press)

24 of 25

Gwendolyn Brooks, a poet, author and teacher born in Topeka, became the first African-American woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1950. She was later Poet Laureate of Illinois. (File photograph/The Capital-Journal)

25 of 25

Gregg Binkley, an actor who was born in Topeka in 1963 and grew up here, has gained fame by appearing in movies and TV shows, including being part of the recurring cast for the sitcom “My Name is Earl.” (File photograph/The Associated Press)


A handful of celebrities with Topeka connections lived here all their lives. But many left soon after reaching adulthood, and some were taken away by family members not long after being born. Here’s a list of 25 past and present famous people with Topeka connections.

The list doesn’t include some celebrities — including political leaders and sports stars — who will be spotlighted in other slideshows this week.


Read the full special section commemorating the 160th anniversary of Topeka becoming a city here.


Related slideshow: The 52 Topeka mayors

Related slideshow: 10 of the most prominent sports figures from Topeka

Related slideshow: Five features that make Topeka what it is

Related slideshow: Five of the best-known politicians with Topeka connections

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