Notable Natives

Michelle Burke | 1970 –
Actress Michelle “Gray” Burke was born in Defiance on November 30, 1970. She is best known for her roles as Jodi Kramer in the 1993 film Dazed and Confused and as Connie Conehead in the 1993 film Coneheads. She also appeared in the 1994 movie Major League II. Michelle also is credited as Michelle Rene Thomas and Michelle Thomas. She is married to Singer/Songwriter Scott Thomas. Michelle plays the role of Lauren in the upcoming movie “Laughing Out Loud”.

Alan Francis | 1969 –
Alan started his career at the age of 10, winning his first world junior title at just 12 years old. He has won the Men’s World Horseshoe Championship 16 times. He is also the only player to consistently pitch over 90% and is regarded by many as the greatest horseshoe pitcher ever. The New York Times wrote that he may be “the most dominant athlete in any sport in the country”. Alan and his family currently live and work in Defiance.

Sam Hornish Jr. | 1979 –
Born and raised in the Defiance Area , Sam won the 2006 Indianapolis 500 and became the first driver to ever overtake for the lead on the race’s final lap. He became the first 3-time champion in IRL history. Sam and his family reside in the Napoleon area. Sam currently races the Sprint Cup Series.

Chad Billingsley | 1984 –
Chad is currently a right handed pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers. As a senior at Defiance High School in 2003, he pitched in 11 games and was 6-1 with a 1.49 ERA, striking out 113 and walking only 16 in 56 innings. Billingsley was the first round pick (24th overall for the Dodgers in the 2003 Major League Baseball Draft.)

Jonathon “Jon” Niese | 1986 –
Jon was raised in Defiance where he attended Defiance High School. In Little League and high school Niese was a teammate of Dodger pitcher Chad Billingsley. In the 2005 Major League Baseball Draft the New York Mets chose Niese in the 7th Round. He was named one of the five starting pitchers on Baseball America’s 2010 All-Rookie Team.

Don “Midnight” Miller | 1902 – 1979
Born March 29th, 1902 in Defiance, Miller followed his three brothers to the University of Notre Dame where he was one of the famous “Four Horseman”. Coach Knute Rockne called Miller “the greatest open field runner I ever had.” When his playing career ended, he coached at several colleges and then moved on to become a lawyer in the Cleveland area. In 1970 he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

William Edward “Wild Bill” Davison | 1906 – 1989
A native of Defiance, Davison was billed as the “Trumpet King”. A fiery jazz cornet player who emerged in the 1920’s that had a fierce uninhibited way of attacking a beat. He is best remembered for his association with bandleader Eddie Condon whom he worked and recorded with. The tag “Wild Bill” was not a reflection of his music style but of his reputation in his private lifestyle. He continued playing and globetrotting the world until his death at the age of 83.

Terry Ryan | 1946 – 2007
Terry “Tuff” Ryan was born in Defiance, Ohio the sixth child of Kelly and Evelyn Lehman Ryan. She graduated from Defiance High School in 1964 and graduated with a B.S. In English and Journalism from Bowling Green State University in 1969. Terry was the writing half of the cartooning team of T.O. Sylvester that ran weekly in the San Francisco Chronicle. Terry wrote “The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio” following the death of her mother Evelyn Ryan in 1998. The book has been adapted into a movie produced by DreamWorks and Revolution Studios that premiered in the fall of 2005. After a long bout with cancer, Terry Ryan died on May 16, 2007.

Michael Hitchcock | 1958 –
Currently starring in the series Glee as Dalton Rumba, Michael was born in Defiance, Ohio on July 28th, 1958. He is an actor, screenwriter and television producer. Michael is known for his role in the movie “House Arrest”, as well as televisions credits that include Men of a Certain Age, MADtv, Desperate Housewives and Arrested Development.


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