St. Patrick’s Day began as a religious feast for the patron saint of Ireland and has since grown into a global celebration of a vibrant country and its people. In the 2010 Census, 34.7 million United States residents claimed Irish ancestry — this is seven times the current population of Ireland itself! Irish immigrants to the United States have contributed much to American politics, business, music, art, and literature. While there are many individuals to recognize, we wanted to acknowledge these six notables who will be donning their lucky green to celebrate their Irish heritage this St. Patrick’s Day.
Justice Sandra Day O’Connor
Justice Sandra Day O’Connor was born in Texas and raised on a cattle ranch in Arizona. She was elected to two terms in the Arizona State Senate, and in 1981, President Ronald Reagan nominated her to be the first female Supreme Court Justice. Justice O’Connor served on the Supreme Court for 24 years and still remains active as an author and lecturer. Last year, Justice O’Connor was presented with the prestigious Anam Cara Award (Irish Soul Friend) from the Irish Cultural Center in Phoenix.
Ben Affleck was destined to be a film star from a young age. Working as an actor, director, and writer, he has several well-known titles to his name — Good Will Hunting, Argo, and Gone Girl, to name a few. He has also won two Oscars and three Golden Globes. In 2010, Affleck co-founded the Eastern Congo Initiative, which provides development grants and international advocacy for community-building initiatives in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He is married to actress Jennifer Garner, and the couple has three children.
Maureen O’Hara was born in 1920 in Dublin, Ireland. O’Hara is best known for her fiery red hair and playing fiercely passionate heroine characters in film. She trained and acted throughout Ireland, Britain, and the United States; in 1946, she became a naturalized citizen of the United States and now holds dual citizenship with Ireland. O’Hara has been referred to as “one of Hollywood’s brightest stars.” She received the Heritage Award by the Ireland-American Fund in 1991 and an Honorary Academy Award in 2014. At 94 years old, O’Hara currently lives in Idaho with her grandson.
Well-known country crooner Tim McGraw has released 13 studio albums, ten of which have reached number one on the Top Country Album charts. McGraw has won over 40 big name awards for his music, has worked as an actor and producer, and is an active philanthropist. McGraw has Irish blood on both sides of his family and has said he might want to run for political office one day.
Mary Higgins Clark
Mary Higgins Clark was the only daughter of an Irish immigrant father and an American mother, who was also of Irish descent. Higgins Clark began writing at an early age and held many different jobs to support her young children after her first husband died. Higgins Clark’s suspense novels were her biggest sellers: She wrote over 24, and as of 2007, her books had sold more than 80 million copies in the United States alone. Several of her books have graced the New York Times bestseller list. In 1993, the American-Irish Historical Society granted her the Gold Medal of Honor, and she also won the Ellis Island Medal of Honor in 2001.
Stephen Colbert does it all — writer, producer, television host, comedian. Colbert became well known as a correspondent for The Daily Show before going on to host his own spin-off series, The Colbert Report, from 2005 to 2014. He has won six Primetime Emmy Awards, two Grammy Awards, and two Peabody Awards. Both of Colbert’s parents were Irish; many of his relatives immigrated to the United States in the nineteenth century before and during Ireland’s Great Famine.