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Born May 26

John Wayne, better known as the Duke, was a top box-office draw for 30 years. Wayne is an American legend known for his tough, rugged persona. He appeared in 83 Western movies during his film career. He became an instant star from his leading role in John Ford's "Stagecoach" in 1939, and he won an Oscar for his role in the movie "True Grit" in 1969. We remember Wayne's life today as well as the lives of other notable people who were born this day in history.

Click to discover notable people who died this day in history including TV personality Art Linkletter.

1962: Black, born Colin Vearncombe, British singer who had a hit single in 1987 with the song "Wonderful Life," is born in Liverpool, England.

1951: Sally Ride, U.S. astronaut who was a crew member of the space shuttle Challenger, is born in Los Angeles, California.

Ride, the first American woman in space – and also the youngest American in space – inspired generations of women who were blown away by the pleasant-seeming, normal-looking, and completely brilliant and driven young woman who burst onto the national radar in 1983. She broke one of the toughest glass ceilings there was – and Americans loved her for it. Especially American women. Read more

 

 

 

1946: Mick Ronson, English guitarist who was a member of David Bowie's backing band, the Spiders From Mars, is born in Kingston Upon Hull, England.

"Mick was the perfect foil for the Ziggy character," Bowie said in 1994, "as very much a salt-of-the-earth type, the blunt northerner with a defiantly masculine personality, so that what you got was the old-fashioned Yin and Yang thing. As a rock duo, I thought we were every bit as good as Mick and Keith or Axl and Slash. Ziggy and Mick were the personification of that rock and roll dualism." Read more

 

 

 

1940: Levon Helm, U.S. musician and actor who was the drummer and frequent lead singer for the Band and had movie roles in "Coal Miner's Daughter" and "The Right Stuff," is born in Elaine, Arkansas.

Helm helped drive a roots-rock revival that's still going strong today. In a year when the charts were full of psychedelic rockers and funky R&B, the Band blended country with rock to create something very different. "Music From Big Pink," their debut album, was a slice of Americana that didn't storm the charts, but quietly crept into our consciousness until, today, it's regarded as one of the best and most important rock albums of all time. Read more

 

 

 

1928: Jack Kevorkian, U.S. doctor known for advocating a patient's right to die via physician-assisted suicide, is born in Pontiac, Michigan.

Jack Kevorkian (AP Photo)Nicknamed Dr. Death because of his fascination with the subject, Kevorkian catapulted into public consciousness in 1990 when he used his homemade "suicide machine" in his rusted Volkswagen van to inject lethal drugs into an Alzheimer's patient who sought his help in dying. For nearly a decade, he escaped authorities' efforts to stop him. His first four trials, all on assisted suicide charges, resulted in three acquittals and one mistrial. Read more

 

 

1926: Miles Davis, U.S. jazz trumpeter and bandleader who is widely considered one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century, is born in Alton, Illinois.

Davis is widely regarded as one of the most important musicians of the 20th century, being at the cutting edge of bebop, hard bop, and fusion, just to name a few of the jazz movements he helped shape. Along the way, he influenced generations of musicians, including many sidemen who would enjoy influential and successful careers of their own. Read more

 

 

 

1923: James Arness, U.S. actor known best for playing Marshal Matt Dillon on TV's "Gunsmoke," is born in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

For 20 seasons in the 1950s, '60s, and '70s, James Arness played Marshal Matt Dillon on "Gunsmoke," helping to make the show one of the most popular and beloved TV series of all time. "Gunsmoke" was the No. 1 show on television for several years of its record-breaking run, and when network CBS threatened to cancel the show, fans lobbied successfully to keep it on the air. And throughout the show's two decades on television, Arness was its star. His Matt Dillon was the quintessential Wild West lawman: tall and imposing, fighting and defeating bad guys with ease. Read more

 

 

1922: Troy Smith, U.S. businessman who founded Sonic Drive-In, is born in Seminole, Oklahoma.

1920: Peggy Lee, U.S. singer-songwriter whose hits include "Fever" and "Mañana (Is Soon Enough for Me)," is born in Jamestown, North Dakota.

When Peggy Lee was discovered by Benny Goodman in 1941, it was the beginning of a beautiful – and six-decadeslong – career. Lee only performed with Goodman and his band for two years, leaving when she married his guitarist (Goodman didn't like his musicians to fraternize with the "girl singers"), but the short partnership helped launch her to stardom. It brought us a few fantastic hits, too – like the song that made Peggy Lee famous, "Why Don't You Do Right." Read more

 

 

1913: Peter Cushing, English actor known for his roles in Hammer Films including "The Curse of Frankenstein" and "Dracula," as well as for playing Grand Moff Tarkin in "Star Wars," is born in Kenley, England.

Hammer Films was the British production company responsible for many of the great low-budget horror and thriller movies of the 1950s, '60s, and '70s. Hammer Films covered all the classics – Frankenstein, Dracula, The Mummy – and often, Cushing was there in a leading role. He played Baron Victor Frankenstein in Hammer's "The Curse of Frankenstein," Van Helsing in "Dracula," and Sherlock Holmes in "The Hound of the Baskervilles." In "The Mummy" he was an unlucky archaeologist, and in "Night Creatures" he played a scheming reverend. Read more

 

 

1912: Jay Silverheels, Canadian actor who played Tonto on TV's "The Lone Ranger," is born near Brantford, Ontario.

1907: John Wayne, U.S. actor whose iconic films include "True Grit," for which he won an Academy Award, "The Quiet Man," and "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance," is born in Winterset, Iowa.

Wayne truly wanted to serve his country in World War II, trying again and again to join up. But his age (he was 34 when the U.S. entered the war) and his four children gave him deferment status – plus his movie studio didn't want to lose a top star. As hard as he lobbied to be enlisted, Republic Studios lobbied harder to keep him out of the war. They won, and Wayne had to content himself with being a patriot at home – and with playing war heroes in some of his greatest movies, including "Sands of Iwo Jima." Read more

 

 

1894: Norma Talmadge, U.S. film actress and producer who was a star of the silent era, is born in Jersey City, New Jersey.

1886: Al Jolson, Lithuanian-American singer and actor who starred in the first full-length "talkie," "The Jazz Singer," is born in Seredžius, Russian Empire.

1883: Mamie Smith, U.S. singer who was the first African-American blues musician to make vocal recordings, is born in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Click to discover notable people who died this day in history including TV personality Art Linkletter.