(Investigator Magazine, 2017 July)

Fred Franz waiting beneath the speakers' stage
at the West Lakes sports stadiums in Adelaide in 1984


Jehovah's Witnesses have often been regarded as uneducated buffoons of no accomplishment; but this was a caricature.

Below is a partial list of JWs and associates who achieved public prominence. Their backgrounds include: Meeting attendance as children; Having JW family members; Excommunicated; Continued full involvement; and newly converted.

List of Prominent JWs

•    Akulova, Varya (1992- ) Ukrainian weight-lifter, the "strongest girl in the world"
•    Alexander, Gregg (1970- ) Lead singer and song writer for the "New Radicals"
•    Allen, Thomas (1931-1988) Percussionist in the rock/jazz group "War"
•    Anderson, Barbara (1940- ) Member at Brooklyn JW Headquarters who exposed the Organization's tolerance of pedophiles
•    Andre, Peter (1973- ) English-born Australian singer and TV personality
•    Bale, Christian (1974- ) Actor who played Moses in Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014)
•    Banda, Thandiwe (1966- ) Former first lady of Zambia
•    Benson, George – Singer, guitarist
•    Bianci, Maurizio (1955- ) Jazz guitarist
•    Bone, Krayzie [Henderson, Anthony] (1973- ) Member of the rap group "Thugs-n-Harmony"
•    Brkic, Ivana (1986- ) Croatian singer
•    Campbell, Naomi (1970- ) Supermodel
•    Campbell, Valerie – Model and mother of Naomi Campbell
•    Carr, Firpo (c.1950- ) American radio show producer, author, lecturer
•    Covington, Hayden C. (1911-1978) Watchtower Society attorney
•    Dedmon, Dewayne (1989- ) Professional basketball player
•    Dever, Juliana (1980- ) Hollywood actress
•    Edur, Tom (1954- ) Professional ice hockey player
•    Eisenhower, Dwight D. (1890-1969) 34th US president
•    Engleitner, Leopold (1907-2013) German concentration camp survivor
•    Evans, Luke (1979- ) Hollywood actor from Wales
•    Flanagan, Vester Lee (1973-2015) Gunman who killed a reporter and cameraman live on TV
•    Frances-White, Deborah (1978?- ) Australian-born, UK-based comedian
•    Franz, Frederick (1893-1992) Main theologian of JWs and Watchtower Society president
•    Garrido, Nancy (1955- ) Kidnapper sentenced to 36 years in prison
•    Gavilan, Kid (1926-2003) Former World Welterweight Champion
•    Glover, Donald (1983- ) Sitcom actor and comedian
•    Godenzi, Mina Hung (1965- ) Miss Hong Kong 1984; actress
•    Graham, Larry (1946- ) Bass guitarist with the band "Sly and the Family Stone"
•    Granger, Danny (1983- ) Professional basketball player
•    Graves, Teresa (1948-2002) Actress
•    Gygax, Gary (1938-2008) American game designer; co-creator of "Dungeons and Dragons"
•    Halliwell, Geri (1972– ) Singer with the Spice Girls
•    Harper, Roy (1941- ) English folk rock singer whose stepmother was a JW
•    Haynes, Rick – Canadian bassist
•    Hill, Dave (1946- ) British musician; guitarist
•    Holland, Kim – Dutch porn star, formerly a JW
•    Houston, Marques B. (1981- ) American singer, songwriter, actor
•    How, W. Glen (1919-2008) Canadian lawyer
•    Howard, Terrence – Actor
•    Jackson, Janet (1966- ) Singer
•    Jackson, Katherine (1930- ) Matriarch of "The Jacksons" musical group
•    Jackson, La Toya (1957- ) Singer
•    Jackson, Michael (1958-2009) Singer, pop superstar
•    Jackson, Rebbie (1950- ) Singer
•    Jamar, Lord [Dechalus, Lorenzo] (1968- ) Actor, rapper, member of the band "Brand Nubian"
•    Jaywon – Nigerian musician, singer
•    Joiner, Alvin N. [XZibit] (1974- ) American rapper, actor and TV host
•    Jux, Egon (1927-2008) Architect of Hamburg's Köhlbrand Bridge over the River Elbe
•    Keane, Margaret D.H. (1927- ) Artist famous for paintings of women and children with big eyes
•    Knowles, Peter (1946- ) British 1960s soccer star
•    K-os [Brereton, Kevin] (1972- ) Canadian singer, rapper, songwriter
•    Kudo, Tori (1958- ) Founder of Japanese music group "Maher Shalal Hash Baz"
•    Langbroek, Kate (1965- ) Australian writer and television personality
•    Lemon, Chet (1955- ) Professional baseball player (Detroit Tigers)
•    Locking, Brian (1938- ) British guitarist in the rock band "The Shadows"
•    Lönnig, Wolf Ekkehard (1943- ) Scientist with the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research in Germany and militant creationist
•    Lovegrove, Jennifer (1970?- ) Canadian novelist and poet
•    Lozz, Allisson (1992- ) Mexican actress, model, singer
•    McCumber, Mark – Professional golf player
•    Martija, Rene Montes de Oca (1963- ) Cuban human rights activist
•    Marvin, Hank (1941- ) British guitarist with "The Shadows", living in Perth since 1986
•    Mase, Evelyn Ntoko (1922-2004) First wife of South African president Nelson Mandela
•    Merritt, Jerry Lee (1933-2001) American musician; Rockabily Hall of Fame member
•    Metzger, Kurt (1977- ) American comedian
•    Meyers, Dave (1953-2015) Professional basketball player
•    Moir, Mike (1946- ) Photographer for Surfer magazine
•    Monk, Thelonius (1917-1982) Jazz pianist and composer
•    Moore, Angelo (1965- ) Saxophonist and lead singer for the rock band "Fishbone"
•    Morrison, Van (1945- ) Irish singer
•    Müller, Bohumil (1915-1987) Czech survivor of Mauthausen concentration camp; dissenter during Communist rule
•    Mustaine, Dave (1961- ) Guitarist, singer
•    Mwanawasa, Maureen – A baptized JW and wife of the president of Zambia
•    Nakatani, Miki (1976- ) Japanese actress and singer
•    Naylor, Gloria (1950-2016) Novelist; author of The Women of Brewster Place (1982)
•    Newsome, Debbie (1962- ) Hostess in the Australian 1980s TV dating show Perfect Match.
•    Nicholson, Viv – London lottery winner in 1961 who later joined JWs; the musical Spend, Spend, Spend is based on her story
•    Oni, Toun (1938-2010) Nigerian actress
•    O'Meara, Mark (1957- ) Professional golfer
•    Padilla, Rustom – Filipino movie star
•    Palego, Angelo (1935- ) Italian Expedition leader searching for Noah's Ark
•    Pear, Dave (1953- ) Professional football player
•    Peoples, Shonte (1972- ) American football player
•    Penton, M.J. (1932- ) Canadian history professor who led a JW splinter group in the 1980s
•    Piliso, Lieby (?-1997) Nelson Mandela's youngest sister
•    Pizzanelli, Herman – 1960s concert guitarist in Uruguay; convert to JWs
•    Prince [Nelson, Prince Rogers]  (1959-2016) Singer/song-writer famous for X-rated lyrics
•    Quarry, Nathan Parker (1972- ) Martial arts fighter who starred in The Ultimate Fighter (2005; 2007)
•    Quintanilla, Selena (1971-1995) Singer, actress
•    Rance, Alex (1989- ) Professional Australian footballer
•    Roberts, Evelyn B (1909-1995) Poet
•    Rocha, Coco (1988- ) Canadian fashion supermodel
•    Rodriguez, Michelle (1978- ) American actress
•    Romero, Sol (1984- ) Singer and actress
•    Rule, Ja [Atkins, Jeffrey] (1976- ) Singer, actor
•    Sakamoto, Miu (1980- ) Japanese singer
•    Salley, John (1964- ) Professional basketball player
•    Scott, Jill (1972- ) Singer and poet
•    Scott, Travis (1979- ) Professional football player for the "Rams"
•    Shepherd, Sheri (1967- ) American television presenter
•    Smith, Patti (1946- ) Punk rock star and songwriter whose mother was a JW
•    Spillane, Mickey (1918-2006) Crime novelist; converted to JWs in 1952
•    Sutcliffe, Peter (1945- ) Yorkshire Ripper who murdered thirteen women; converted in prison
•    Suzuki, Damo (1950- ) Japanese musician living in Germany
•    Swain, Carol M. (1954- ) Political scientist and professor at Vanderbilt University who left JWs at age 20
•    Takao, Shushila – New Zealand actress
•    Tambling, Bobby (1941- ) English professional footballer
•    Terry, Phil (1943- ) Member of the soul music group "The Intruders"
•    Testolini, Manuela (1973- ) Wife of Prince 2001-2006
•    The Notorious B.I.G. (1972-1997) Rapper, Composer, Singer
•    Thomas, David (1953- ) Songwriter and vocalist; sings "Jehovah's Kingdom come" for the album New Picnic Time
•    Toriyama, Akira (1955- ) Japanese game artist
•    Usui, Yoshito (1958-2009) Japanese cartoonist/artist
•    Valente, Bria (1977- ) American singer & model; girlfriend of Prince
•    Villarroel, Carmina (1975- ) Philippines actress and former model
•    Virk, Reena (1983-1997) Canadian murder victim
•    Volpe, Leo J. (1916-2000) Draft resister during WWII who founded "Restored Israel of Yahweh" in 1973
•    Voorhies, Lark (1974- ) Black American television movie actress  
•    Wayans Brothers – Actors in the sitcom The Wayans Bros which aired 1995-1999
•    Whitaker, Lou – Professional baseball player (Detroit Tigers)
•    Williams, Venus (1980- ) & Serena (1981- ) Tennis champions;  Olympic gold medal winners
•    Willson, Dan [Withered Hand] (1974- ) Scottish rock musician
•    Winfield, Chuck (1943- ) Former trumpeter for the jazz-rock music group "Blood, Sweat and Tears"
•    Wise, Willie – professional basketball player in Seattle
•    Worilds, J. (1988- ) Professional football player
•    Yano, Akiko (1955- ) Japanese pop and jazz musician and singer
•    Yoshikawa, Hinano (1979- ) Japanese fashion model and actress


Comment on three of the above celebrities follows:


Thandiwe was a "political science teacher" who married President Banda (1937-2011) of Zambia in 2008. A website lists her as a JW but without confirmation. The president's religion was Anglican but Thandiwe's religion and her brother's (Moses Chilongo) who died in 2015 seem unmentioned in the media.

Zambia has the highest proportion of JWs of any mainland country. In 2016 one person in 87 of the entire population preached for JWs and 1 in 20 attended their annual "Memorial".


Anderson worked in the JW Brooklyn headquarters, initially in the Engineering Department, and in 1988-1992 the Writing Department doing research for the Organization's official history book.

She also checked correspondence and took phone calls — which often enquired on how to handle child-abuse accusations in JW congregations.

JWs regard outsiders including psychologists and police as being in "Satan's organization" and to be avoided if possible. Alleged wrongdoing therefore has to be reported to congregation elders who either decide what to do or telephone JW Headquarters.

Unless child abuse among JWs had two eye-witnesses or occurred in a state whose jurisdiction required mandatory reporting by clerics, not much was  done in the 1980s-1990s if someone was accused.  Congregations were not even warned. Anderson and her husband went public about sexual abuse cover-up and were excommunicated which provoked a lawsuit:

A court has dismissed the claims of a couple who accused the Jehovah's Witnesses of improperly ousting them from their congregation after the wife told NBC's "Dateline" the denomination covers up child sexual abuse.

The denomination's national organization, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York Inc., asked the court to dismiss a $20 million lawsuit brought by Barbara and Joseph Anderson, who claimed defamation, fraud and intentional infliction of emotional distress in their ouster from their congregation...

In dismissing the case, Judge Patricia Cottrell, with the Tennessee court of appeals, in Nashville, wrote the court did not have jurisdiction to hear it "based upon the First Amendment's protection of decisions of church tribunals on religious questions." …

PRINCE (1959-2016)

The most famous JW convert is Prince Rogers Nelson (1958-2016), born in Minneapolis (USA) of African American parents. He was a singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, musical innovator, record producer, and film director.

Prince was known for his flamboyant stage presence, extravagant dress and makeup, sexual lyrics, wide vocal range, and blending of funk, dance, rock, pop and soul music. He won seven Grammy Awards, a Golden Globe Award, and an Academy Award for his film Purple Rain.

He secured a recording contract with Warner Bros. at age 18 and with Arista Records in 1998 and by 2015 had released 30 albums.

Over the years Prince was romantically linked to dozens of celebrities but married his young backup singer/dancer Mayte Garcia (b.1973) in 1996. They divorced in 1999.

When Prince was baptized by JWs in 2003 many were baffled because his songs and behaviour often contradicted JW beliefs. He attended meetings and door-knocked accompanied by bodyguards.

Prince's conversion is not inexplicable. He was raised as a Seventh Day Adventist, a religion of similar origin to JWs. His mother, jazz singer Mattie Shaw, was a JW and wanted him to be one. Significant was the influence of guitarist Larry Graham who joined JWs in 1975. Graham performed on stage with Prince in 1998 after which they had regular religious discussions for two years.

In 2001, Prince married Canadian charity worker Manuela Testolini (b.1976) who joined JWs with him. She filed for divorce in 2006 and seems to have abandoned JWs.

In 2007 singer Brenda Fuentes (b.1977), stage name Bria Valente, became Prince's girlfriend and converted to JWs. Valente contributed to the vocals in Prince's album Planet Earth (2007) and Prince produced her debut album, Elixer in 2009. Valente later broke up with Prince.

RANKS has ranked famous JWs from the most famous downwards. After Prince there followed:

2nd Michael Jackson (1958-2009)
The Jackson family matriarch, Katherine, is a JW and raised all her children accordingly but most are no longer practicing.
3rd Serena Williams (1981- )
Winner of four Olympic gold medals in tennis; raised by a JW mother; and "often thanks Jehovah after winning matches." (Wikipedia)

4th Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969)
Military leader and U.S. president; Eisenhower was raised in the "Russellism" cult (which became JWs in 1931) but left as an adult.

5th Geri Halliwell (1972- )
English singer, model, and former "Spice Girl". Halliwell's mother became a JW in the 1970s and took her to meetings and door-to-door, but later "abandoned the faith in disillusionment." Halliwell became an agnostic but eventually "converted to Christianity." (Wikipedia)

6th Terrence Howard (c. 1970- )
American actor, singer and film-producer whose wife is raising their children in the JW religion; Howard reportedly wants to be a JW but cannot qualify.

7th Michelle Rodriguez (1978- )
Screenwriter and actress born in Texas; raised by a JW mother and grandmother but has abandoned the faith.

8th The Notorious B.I.G. (1972-1997)
Song-writer and singer born in New York City and raised as a JW.

9th Naomi Campbell (1970- )
Fashion designer, supermodel and former Miss Universe born in London and raised as a JW but no longer practicing.

10th Janet Jackson (1966- )
Singer, record producer, songwriter, sister of Michael Jackson, raised in the JW sect but no longer practicing.

11th Damon Wayans (1960- )
Damon Wayans is a television director, comedian, actor, film producer and screenwriter. He and his brother, Keenen, were raised in New York by JW parents.

12th Patti Smith (1946- )
Song-writer, musician and poet raised as a JW in Chicago but left the sect.

13th Venus Williams (1980- )
Tennis player and entrepreneur born in California; "one of the all-time greats of women's tennis"; the Williams sisters were Women's doubles champions in the 2012 London Olympics.

14th Dave Mustaine (1961- )
Record producer, guitarist and songwriter born in California; raised as a JW but became a born-again Christian in 2002.

15th Sherri Shepherd (1967- )
Comedian and television personality born in Chicago; was raised as a JW but no longer practicing.



Six of the listed celebrities are discussed in articles on this website:

L. Engleitner
H.C. Covington
F.W. Franz
W. Glen How
M. Jackson
M. James Penton

Dictionary of Jehovah's Witnesses at: