The Famous People with Asthma List

Lists are always popular, maybe they encapsulate information in such an easy-on-the-eyes way. Apparently, I like lists enough to patch this one together back when I was editing the BellaOnline asthma page.

Today is President’s Day in the U.S., which technically means we’re honoring past presidents like Washington and Lincoln. The real-life impact of the holiday? No mail today, and I’m only halfway successful at getting some work done because the girls have the day off school.


Yeah, it’s not so much a holiday for me.

But let’s use the day to talk about presidents, anyway. This list includes six former presidents. Doesn’t that seem remarkably high? Six out of 43. That’s what? Something like 1/7th of the total? Kind of makes me wonder if the stress and impact on health are worth the prestige and power of the position. But then, maybe the trend works in the other direction. Childhood asthma can generate lots of lying-around time and lends itself well to reading and thinking. Especially decades ago, when asthmatics didn’t really have any maintenance meds and suffered more. It’s not beyond the realm of possibility that chronic conditions led some children to cultivate deep inner intellectual lives and maybe even great political ambition. JFK wrote Profiles in Courage while bedridden for back surgery, and that won the Pulitzer.

The List:


Martin Van Buren (1782-1862) – 8th U.S. President
Calvin Coolidge (1872-1933) – 30th U.S. President
Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881) – British statesman and author
Che Guevara (1928-1967) – socialist revolutionary
John F. Kennedy (1928-1963) – 35th U.S. President
John Locke (1632-1704) – politician and philosopher
Peter I/Peter the Great (1672-1725) – Russian tsar
Walter Mondale (b. 1928) – 42nd U.S. Vice President
Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) – 26th U.S. President
William Tecumseh Sherman (1820-1891) – Civil War general
Daniel Webster (1782-1852) – lawyer and statesman
William III (1650-1702) – King of England, Scotland, and Ireland
Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924) – 28th U.S. President

Jason Alexander (b. 1959) – actor
Steve Allen (1921-2000) – actor and comedian
Loni Anderson (b. 1946) – actress
Morgan Fairchild (b. 1950) – actress
Moses Gunn (1929-1993) – actor
Helen Hayes (1900-1993) – actress and Academy Award winner
Bob Hope (1903-2003) – actor, comedian
Diane Keaton (b. 1946) – actress and Academy Award winner
Martin Scorsese (b. 1942) – film director and Academy Award
Paul Sorvino (b. 1939) – actor
Sharon Stone (b. 1958) – actress
Elizabeth Taylor (b. 1932) – actress and Academy Award winner
Orson Welles (1915-1985) – screenwriter, film director, producer and actor, Academy Award winner


Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979) – poet, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award
Charles Dickens (1812-1870) – novelist and short story author
Ambrose Pierce (1842-1914) – journalist, short-story author, and satirist
Pliny the Elder (23-79 AD) – Roman scholar and historian
Marcel Proust (1871-1922) – novelist, essayist, and critic
Joseph Pulitzer (1847-1911) – publisher and posthumous founder of the Pulitzer Prize
Dylan Thomas (1914-1953) – poet and short story author
Howard Thurman (1900-1981) – author, theologian, and civil rights leader
John Updike (b. 1932) – novelist and Pulitzer Prize winner
Edith Wharton (1862-1937) – novelist and short story author


Ludwig von Beethoven (1770-1827) – composer
Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990) – composer and conductor
Judy Collins (b. 1939) – folk singer
Alice Cooper (b. 1948) – rock musician
Billy Joel (b. 1949) – singer/songwriter and pianist, Grammy Award winner
Robert Joffrey (1930-1988) – dancer, choreographer, founder of the Joffrey Ballet
Liza Minnelli (b. 1946) – singer and actress, Academy Award and Tony Award winner
Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951) – composer
Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741) – composer and conductor


Jerome Bettis (b. 1972) – former NFL halfback
Bruce Davidson (b. 1949) – former Olympic equestrian
Tom Dolan (b. 1976) – former Olympic swimmer
Kurt Grote (b. 1973) – former Olympic swimmer
Nancy Hogshead (b. 1962) – former Olympic swimmer
Jim “Catfish” Hunter (1946-1999) – former MLB player and Hall of Famer
Jackie Joyner-Kersee (b. 1962) – former Olympic runner
Bill Koch (b. 1956) – former Olympic cross-country skiier
Greg Louganis (b. 1960) – former Olympic diver
Debbie Meyer (b. 1952) – former Olympic swimmer
Art Monk (b. 1958) – former NFL wide receiver
Dennis Rodman (b. 1961) – former NBA player
Alberto Salazar (b. 1958) – past winner of the New York City and Boston marathons
Amy Van Dyken (b. 1973) – former Olympic swimmer
Dominique Wilkins (b. 1960) – former NBA player and Hall of Famer

**Portions of this list based on Faces of Asthma at the Breath of Life Project.

13 responses to “The Famous People with Asthma List”

  1. Asthmagirl says:

    I often think about how folks in the past dealt with asthma. I’m not sure I would have made it past the first year or so… ick.

    When I look at this list, I wonder if their asthma is/was better or worse than mine.

  2. Asthmagirl says:

    PS~ Hows the starter? What have you made?

  3. Amy says:

    I know Teddy Roosevelt, Proust, and Edith Wharton all had it pretty bad. In fact, Roosevelt never “outgrew” or “overcame” asthma, as is so widely repeated. Instead, yes, his breathing capacity grew and he lived a robust, active life in spite of asthma.

    I wonder how many historical figures had moderate and not severe asthma but just didn’t have things like maintenance steroids to get it all under control. As much as I hate prednisone, I don’t think AG would have made it past the first year or so without it, either.

  4. mary says:

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  6. Bethy says:

    And Niall Horan From One Direction Dose Too <3

  7. Kayla says:

    I have a more severe asthma and have always felt ashamed by it and tried to hide it the best I could. I have always wondered if any famous people have to deal with asthma too, it’s terrible to deal with and sometimes comforts me in knowing I’m not alone.

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