If you think about your last name, you might wonder about your origins. Maybe your last name reveals that your family came to the US from a certain country three or four generations back. You may also see that you have a famous relative. If someone has a famous last name that you share, you might wonder about a possible connection.
Let’s look at a few last names that have great historical significance. These last names remain in the public consciousness, in some cases many years after a person bearing that name did something noteworthy.
Johnson remains one of the world’s most common last names. It literally means John’s son, and it makes sense that the name should enjoy worldwide prominence when you consider the name John’s enduring popularity.
This remains one of those last names with historical significance because multiple famous people have had it. You might think about the English actor Scarlett Alice Johnson. There’s Sophia Orne Johnson, the American author from the 1800s.
Maybe you recall Taborah Johnson, the iconic jazz singer, and actor. The handsome American actor Van Johnson appeared in many popular movies in his day.
Perhaps Lydon Bains Johnson remains the person with this last name that enjoyed the greatest notoriety. The American president LBJ signed the Social Security Amendments into law in 1965. He essentially created both Medicaid and Medicare. He also prioritized the Apollo Space Program that brought about the moon landing.
The Smith last name also remains popular. The smith profession existed for centuries, and that’s probably why so many Smiths populate the globe to this day.
In modern times, you might think about Will Smith, the American actor. He’s an Oscar winner, though he achieved infamy the very night he won by smacking comedian and fellow actor Chris Rock in one of the Academy Award’s most shocking moments ever.
There’s also Kevin Smith, the prolific director, and sometime actor. There’s LL Cool J, the rapper, and actor, real name James Todd Smith. There’s the singer Patti Smith who made some great music in the 1970s.
Perhaps Joseph Smith remains the most well-known Smith, though. Joseph Smith founded the Mormon church. He claimed he saw an angel in the 1800s and developed a gospel using what the angel told him as this new religion’s main basis. The Mormon church has many members and enjoys great prominence in Utah and elsewhere.
You may know the Davis last name as well. When you think about it, perhaps you remember the actress Viola Davis, an Oscar winner. There’s Eric Davis, part of the Cincinnati Reds during the 1980s. He won a World Series Championship with them in 1990.
Miles Davis might also come to mind. Most people consider him a musical genius. He put jazz on the map, though he lived a tumultuous life.
You might think about Sammie Davis Jr. He broke down many color barriers in his day, and he was a fantastic musician and all-around entertainer.
You may think about Jefferson Davis. He founded the Confederate States and partially brought about the Civil War that claimed many American lives. He’s certainly a famous Davis, though perhaps he’s more infamous when historians look back and note his deeds.
Older Americans might remember Bettie Davis. She was one of the first true movie stars from the black-and-white picture era. She exemplified grace and charm.
There’s also Clive Davis. He produced American records for decades and brought some huge names into the public eye, such as Janis Joplin, Sly and the Family Stone, Chicago, Billy Joel, and many others.
The Thomas last name endures as well. When you think about famous individuals with the Thomas last name, you might recall Frank Thomas, the baseball player and Hall of Famer.
The White Sox had a formidable bat in their lineup for years with the intimidating Thomas, who called himself “The Big Hurt.” In recent years, he has sold male enhancement pills in memorable TV commercials.
There’s also Clarence Thomas, the Supreme Court Justice. Justice Thomas has been in the news for various reasons over the years. Most people feel he’s a conservative, and his wife has found the national spotlight lately.
The last name Thomas might also bring to mind Rob Thomas of Matchbox 20. You may think of Dylan Thomas, the poet.
Oldfield Thomas might remain the most famous Thomas, though. He was a British zoologist. Thomas was an inventor who created earplugs for soldiers during his life’s later years. He was also one of the world’s foremost taxonomists when he died.
Oldfield Thomas studied animals exhaustively, discovering and naming some 2,900 species. In 1901, the Royal Society elected him for membership, symbolizing the great renown in which Britain held him.
Finally, there’s Wilson, another famous last name that many individuals and families around the world still hold. The last name Wilson means Will’s son. Since the name Will remains popular as well, you can see how this last name came about.
You might remember August Wilson, the playwright. There was also Woodrow Wilson, the American president. President Wilson led what Americans called the Progressive Movement at the time, in the early 1900s.
President Wilson led America into World War I. Some condemned the idea during that era, but Wilson insisted that America involve itself to protect democracy worldwide. History mostly remembers Wilson fondly. He was a distinguished academic, along with his political career.
You may also know Owen Wilson and Luke Wilson, the brother actors. They usually show up when comedic movies or shows need a love interest. Luke Wilson spent time on That 70s Show, and both have several acting credits collaborating with the director Wes Anderson.
These last names all remain popular, and they’ve made their mark throughout history. If you have a not-so-famous last name, maybe you’ll change that. In the coming years, perhaps someone will remember your deeds when your last name pops up in conversation.