You Probably Don't Know The Real Names Of These Historical Figures


Dictator of Soviet Russia, Joseph Stalin, addresses voters of the Stalin election district in Moscow, on the eve of the election in which Russians voted for the first time under the new constitution. (Bettmann/Getty Images)

Joseph Stalin

Ioseb Besarionis dze Jughashvili became a revolutionary turned Soviet leader turned brutal dictator better known as Joseph Stalin. He first began using the name, which was inspired by the Russian word for steel and meant to project strength, after publishing one of his better-known works, Marxism And The National Question, having previously published under other pen names like Soselo and Koba.

Bill Clinton

It's probably no surprise that Slick Willy's first name is William, but you may be shocked to know that his real last name is Blythe. He was born William Jefferson Blythe III, named for his father, but he never got to meet his namesake, who died in a car wreck just a few months before the future president was born. His mother remarried a few years later, and Clinton took his new stepfather's name as a teenager even though he recounted the man as abusive toward the family.

Gerald Ford is sworn in as president by Chief Justice Warren Burger in the White House East Room, while Betty Ford looks on. (Robert L. Knudsen, White House Press Office/Wikimedia Commons)

Gerald Ford

Another politician whose birth name got swapped because of remarriage is Leslie Lynch King, Jr., A.K.A. Gerald Ford. As the story goes, Mr. King was a violent man who pulled a knife on his wife and infant son only days after the latter's birth, so Mrs. King promptly filed for divorce and sought greener pastures. A few years later, she met a man named Gerald Rudolf Ford, and when they married, she decided to rename young Leslie after her new beau.

Anne Rice

The renowned writer of vampire fiction had "bohemian" parents, by her own account, who apparently thought it was a great idea to name their newborn daughter Howard Allen Frances O'Brien after her father. Her mother thought the name would give her a leg up in the world, and her father was delighted to have a junior, but the young girl introduced herself as Anne on her first day of school and never budged. Her name was legally changed shortly after, though she didn't acquire the surname of Rice until she married painter Stan Rice in 1961.

Wayne in The Comancheros (1961). (20th Century Fox/Wikimedia Commons)

John Wayne

Probably the most confusing of the bunch is the ever-evolving name of silver screen megastar John Wayne. He was born Marion Robert Morrison in 1907, but according to Wayne, his parents decided they actually liked the name Robert enough to give it to their next son and renamed him Marion Mitchell Morrison, though some accounts say it was actually Michael. No record of an official name change has ever been found, but either way, Marion Morrison just didn't sound like a western star to the folks in Hollywood. Initially, Wayne performed small parts under the first name Duke, which was the same name as his beloved dog, but upon receiving his big break, director Raul Walsh christened him John Wayne after the Revolutionary War general Anthony Wayne. The movie did well, and the name was cemented into cinema history.