Public Housing Success Stories

A number of extraordinarily successful people spent their formative years in America’s government housing—making the case that some support early in life can lead to success in anything—from academia, acting, and music, to politics, business, and sports.

One of the portraits of success below is 17-year-old Leonard Galmon.

The son of a 13-year-old mother and troubled father, Galmon grew up on the streets of the Magnolia public housing development in New Orleans. There, he fought hard to forge his education in notoriously poor public schools, eventually overcoming long odds to win a scholarship to Yale University.

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Vernon Jordan, Jr.,
Civil rights leader who lived in one of the first public housing projects in Atlanta, Georgia.
Jimmy Carter
U.S. President, Jimmy Carter lived in public housing in Plains, Georgia.
Leonard Galmon
Yale University Student

Sonia Sotomayor
U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Sonia Sotomayor grew up in a Bronx public housing unit.
Howard Schultz
Starbucks Chairman was born in Brooklyn, New York, and moved with his family to the Bayview Housing projects in Canarsie, NY.
Deval Patrick
Massachusetts governor, Deval Patrick lived in Chicago’s Robert Taylor Homes.
Gregory Meeks
U.S. Congressman Gregory W. Meeks was raised in a public housing project in East Harlem.
Eliot Engel
NY Congressman Eliot Engel was born in the Bronx and grew up in a Ney York housing project.
Tom Ridge
The first U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, Tom Ridge grew up in public housing in Erie, Pennsylvania.
Walter Williams
Economist, Walter E. Williams grew up in a West Philadelphia housing project. Williams has often given testimony before Congress on matters of public policy.
Mary Wilson
Mary Wilson grew up in Detroit’s Brewster-Douglass Housing Projects during their early years.
Whoopi Goldberg
Caryn Elaine Johnson became Whoopi Goldberg, she spent 19 years on the sixth floor of the Chelsea Houses, NY.
Lily Tomlin
Lily Tomlin grew up in Detroit’s Brewster-Douglass Housing Projects during their early years.
Dr. Aprille Ericsson
Dr. Aprille Ericcon, who studied at MIT before becoming the first woman to earn a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering.
Kirby Puckett
Chicago’s Robert Taylor Homes were once home to Kirby Puckett.
Hector Camacho
Boxer, Hector "Macho" Camacho lived in NY's James Weldon Johnson Houses, moving there as a child after his birth in Puerto Rico.
Diana Ross
Diana Ross grew up in Detroit’s Brewster-Douglass Housing Projects during their early years.
Florance Ballard
Florance Ballard grew up in Detroit’s Brewster-Douglass Housing Projects during their early years.
Loni Love
Loni Love grew up in Detroit’s Brewster-Douglass Housing Projects during their early years.
Etterlene DeBarge
Etterlene DeBarge grew up in Detroit’s Brewster-Douglass Housing Projects during their early years.
Angela Bassett
Actress Angela Bassett grew up in public housing in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Marc Anthony
Salsa singer Marc Anthony grew up in the Metro North Houses in East Harlem.
Sean Combs
Sean P. Combs grew up in public housing in Harlem.
Rick Scott
Florida Governor Rick Scott lived in public housing in Urbana, Illinois.
Mr. T
Mr. T, (Rocky, The A Team), spent his childhood in Chicago public housing.
Jay-Z
Jay-Z grew up in public housing in Marcy Houses in Brooklyn.
Kenny Rogers
Kenny Rogers, famed country music legend and actor, grew up in public housing in Houston.
Lloyd Blankfein
Lloyd Blankfein, CEO and Chairman, Goldman Sachs, grew up in Brooklyn public housing.
Ursula Burns
Xerox CEO, the first black woman to lead a Fortune 500 company, grew up in New York City’s Lower East Side public housing.
Elvis Presley
Singer, Elvis Presley grew up in public housing in Memphis.