The South is full of famous faces, from celebrated singers and authors to those who changed the course of history on the battlefield. When groups visit the homes and museums of these individuals, they get the chance to step into the shoes of their heroes and learn about the world that shaped them.
Some visitors may be surprised by how much they relate to these historical figures and walk away with newfound appreciation for their legacies. Here are six legendary Southerners who are sure to capture the imaginations of all your group members.
Rosemary Clooney House
Internationally recognized singer and actress Rosemary Clooney was known for the rich texture of her voice and for cultivating an expressive, bluesy style that set her apart early in her singing career.
“Anytime you hear her sing from her early years, you can tell it’s Rosemary,” said Steve Henry, proprietor of the Rosemary Clooney House.
Originally from Maysville, Kentucky, Clooney began her entertainment career in the late 1940s when she sang a duet with her sister Betty on a Cincinnati radio station. After going on tour with the Tony Pastor Band, she eventually signed with Columbia Records, also home to Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and Frank Sinatra. Over the years, she appeared on popular programs like the “Ed Sullivan Show” and released No. 1 hits such as “Come On-A My House,” “Hey There” and “Mambo Italiano.”
She later starred alongside Bing Crosby in the classic film “White Christmas.” When “White Christmas” debuted in 1954, it garnered rave reviews worldwide, becoming the highest grossing film of the year. According to Henry, one of the reasons the film achieved such widespread popularity during the 1950s was that it paid tribute to military veterans.
“You have to understand that the U.S. had just been through World War II and the Korean War,” said Henry. “Plus, it had great actresses, great singers — all of the music that Irving Berlin produced was highly regarded.”
Just four months before she passed away from lung cancer in 2002, Clooney received the Grammy’s Lifetime Achievement Award in honor of her illustrious six-decade career.
Fans can visit Clooney’s picturesque riverside home in Augusta, Kentucky, where she spent the last 22 years of her life. The house is open Thursday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and features childhood photographs, beautiful costumes from her films, a comprehensive collection of “White Christmas” memorabilia and an exhibit on her famous nephew, George Clooney.
Little Rock, Arkansas
Gen. Douglas MacArthur has long been regarded as one of the greatest military leaders in American history, perhaps best known for his valiant defense of the Philippines and other Pacific regions during World War II. He famously uttered the line, “I shall return” when President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered him to flee the Philippines as Japanese forces closed in, and he did so two years later with reinforcements to liberate the islands from Axis control. Later, he oversaw the successful Allied occupation of postwar Japan and played a pivotal role leading United Nations forces in the Korean War. Though his outspoken criticism of President Harry S. Truman’s leadership during the Korean War led to his dismissal from military command in 1951, a decision that sparked outrage among the American public, MacArthur received a hero’s welcome upon his return to the United States and remained an influential figure until his death in 1964.
The five-star general was born in 1880 in Little Rock, Arkansas, at the Civil War arsenal where his father was stationed as a captain. Today, the Tower Building of the Little Rock Arsenal is one of the most historic buildings in the state, housing the MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History. Inside the museum, visitors can browse exhibits that highlight some of the most critical events and innovations in military history, from the advent of the jeep to the use of propaganda posters during World War II to draw public support for the war effort.
The museum examines many details of MacArthur’s life and legacy, particularly the controversy of his dismissal from command, which led to tense civil-military relations for many years to come. Groups also get the chance to explore an authentic Civil War structure and walk the grounds where many of the historic events depicted in the gallery occurred.