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List of Belgian Americans

This is a list of notable Belgian-Americans. However, the term Belgian-American is here used in a very liberal way: It includes not only Americans of Belgian descent and Belgians who took American citizenship (Belgian-Americans in the strictest sense), but also Americans born in Belgium, Belgians born in the USA, Belgians who lived for a considerable period of time in the United States and vice versa. All, however, would describe themselves as Belgian-Americans. A brief bio beside each entry helps to clarify in which of these categories each individual falls.

To be included in this list, the person must have a Wikipedia article showing they are Belgian American or must have references showing they are Belgian American and are notable.


  • Ted LeFevre (1964–), theatrical set designer
  • Jan Yoors (1922–1977), Flemish-American artist, photographer, painter, sculptor, writer, tapestry creator, and, earlier in life, a gypsy


  • George Washington Goethals (1858–1928) was the Brooklyn-born son of Belgian immigrants. Goethals was the first recorded Belgian-American graduate of West Point (where he is buried) and was appointed by Theodore Roosevelt to build the Panama Canal - which he accomplished under budget in 1914.



  • Johnny Crawford (1946–), actor; maternal grandparents were Belgian
  • Robert L. Crawford Jr. (1944–), actor; maternal grandparents were Belgian
  • Johnny Depp (1963–), actor
  • Cameron Douglas (1978–), actor; father of partial Belgian descent and son of Michael Douglas
  • Michael Douglas (1944–), actor and producer; mother of partial Belgian descent
  • Robert Duvall (1931–), actor and filmmaker
  • Jorja Fox (1968–), actress
  • Johnny Galecki (1975–), actor born in Bree, Limburg Province, Belgium; best known for his roles as David Healy in the ABC sitcom Roseanne, Rusty Griswold in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, and as Leonard Hofstadter in the CBS sitcom The Big Bang Theory
  • Marianne Hagan (1966–), actress
  • Henry Hathaway (1898–1985), film director and producer; born Henri Léopold de Fiennes; by right a Belgian marquis, a hereditary title held by his paternal grandfather, who had been charged by his King Leopold I of Belgium to acquire the Sandwich (Hawaiian) Islands for Belgium; failing to do so, he settled in San Francisco instead of returning home.
  • David Hayter (1969–), actor and voice actor
  • Audrey Hepburn (1929–1993), award-winning film star, model, and humanitarian; born in Brussels to Dutch and British parents and grew up in the Netherlands
  • Bonnie Hunt (1961–), actress and voice actress
  • JAF (1930–2005), cartoonist
  • Simon Nuchtern (1936–), filmmaker
  • America Olivo (1978–), actress, singer, and model; mother of partial Belgian descent
  • Frank Oz (1944–), actor, puppeteer, director, and producer; Belgian mother
  • Audrina Patridge (1985–), actress, model
  • Ben Pronsky (1978–), actor and voice actor
  • Drew Van Acker (1986–), actor



  • Leo Hendrik Baekeland (1863–1944), Belgium-born American chemist who invented Velox photographic paper (1893) and Bakelite (1907), an inexpensive, nonflammable, versatile, and popular plastic; in 1978, he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
  • Charles Joseph Van Depoele (1846–1892), electrical engineer, inventor, and pioneer in electric railway technology


  • Evelyne Brancart (1954–), Belgian-born pianist
  • Pierre D'Archambeau (1927–2014), Swiss-born violinist; Belgian parents
  • Désiré Defauw (1885–1960), Belgian-born violinist and conductor. He made his American debut with the NBC Symphony Orchestra. Since 1940, Defauw was director and conductor of the Orchestra of the Symphonic Concerts of Montreal. During the following years he conducted the major American Orchestras: the Boston Symphony, Detroit Symphony, with the Chicago Symphony he was Musical Director and Conductor for four years. The Grand Rapids Symphony, and the Chicago Youth Orchestra, he was visiting conductor of orchestral activities at Northwestern University in 1955. Just before his death, he retired as director of the Gary Symphony Orchestra in Indiana.
  • Frédérique Petrides née Frédérique Mayer (born 26 September 1903, Antwerp, Belgium–died 12 January 1983, Manhattan), Belgian-American conductor. In New York City, Petrides founded the Orchestrette Classique, an all-women's chamber orchestra, which existed from 1932 to 1943, premiered works by new American composers, such as Paul Creston, Samuel Barber and David Diamond; and gave five to six concerts annually in Carnegie Chamber Music Hall, now Weill Recital Hall; founded the Carl Schurz Park concert series on Manhattan's Upper East Side in 1958; founded the West Side Orchestral Concerts in 1962; founded the Hudson Valley Symphony Orchestra in Tarrytown, New York in the 1930s, and founded the Student Symphony Society in New York City in 1950. Ms. Petrides was also editor and publisher of the ground-breaking Women in Music newsletters, which, in the 1930s chronicled the activities of women musicians from the ancient Egyptian times to the then present and were published in New York and circulated internationally.[2][3] Petrides's accomplishments were followed and reviewed by leading critics and writers such as Virgil Thomson,[4] H. Howard Taubman, Irving Kolodin, Olin Downes, Robert A. Simon, Jerome D. Bohm, Francis D. Perkins, Theodore Strongin, Raymond Ericson, Harold C. Schonberg and Robert Sherman[5] who, in the New York Times of July 3, 1970, describes Petrides as "a prime mover in New York's cultural affairs since the mid-1930s".
  • Jean-Baptiste "Toots" Thielemans (1922–2016), Belgian jazz artist well known for his guitar, harmonica play and also for his highly accomplished professional whistling. He made his big breakthrough when he went on European tour with Benny Goodman in 1950. He moved to America in 1952 (and became a US citizen the same year) where he is extremely well known, especially among the jazz community. Quincy Jones said this about him in 1995 : "I can say without hesitation that Toots is one of the greatest musicians of our time. On his instrument he ranks with the best that jazz has ever produced. He goes for the heart and makes you cry. We have worked together more times than I can count and he always keeps me coming back for more". Toots hates his favourite instrument, the harmonica, being called a 'miscellaneous instrument'. Indeed, the late Clifford Brown said : "Toots, the way you play the harmonica they should not call it a miscellaneous instrument".His successes include harmonica solo contributions to film scores for Midnight Cowboy, The Getaway, Sugarland Express, Cinderella Liberty, Turks Fruit (Turkish Delight), Jean de Florette and others. In 1962, he had a massive hit with 'Bluesette'. He also did many concerts and recordings with legends such as George Shearing, Ella Fitzgerald, Quincy Jones, Bill Evans, Jaco Pastorius, Natalie Cole, Pat Metheny, Paul Simon and Billy Joel. Many people also will remember him from the music used for the 'Old Spice' TV commercial.


  • Bob Beauprez (1948–), member of the United States House of Representatives
  • Charles Benedict Calvert (1808–1864), U.S. Congressman from the sixth district of Maryland, serving one term, 1861—1863; his mother, Rosalie Eugenia Stier, was the daughter of a wealthy Belgian aristocrat, Baron Henri Joseph Stier (1743–1821) and his wife Marie Louise Peeters
  • James Carville (1944–), lawyer
  • Blake Farenthold (1961–), politician and lobbyist
  • Peter Minuit (1589–1638), Belgium-born in the Duchy of Cleves, in present-day Germany; Director-General of the Dutch colony of New Netherland from 1626 until 1633 and founder of the Swedish colony of New Sweden in 1638; by tradition he purchased the island of Manhattan from the Native Americans (Algonquins), on May 24, 1626
  • Louis C. Rabaut, Democratic congressman representing Michigan's 14th congressional district
  • Francis Rombouts, Mayor of New York City
  • Anne-Marie Slaughter, Director of Policy Planning for the United States Department of State. She was Dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University from 2002 to 2009. Slaughter was raised in Charlottesville, Virginia by her American father and Belgian mother. She graduated magna cum laude from Princeton in 1980 where she majored in the Woodrow Wilson School and received a certificate in European cultural studies. She received her M.Phil. and D.Phil. degrees in international relations from Oxford in 1982 and 1992, respectively, and her law degree from Harvard Law School, cum laude, in 1985.[6]
  • Leon L. Van Autreve (1920–2002), Sergeant Major of the Army


  • Father Pierre-Jean DeSmet (1801–1873), Belgian-born Roman Catholic priest who became the most trusted of the white men among the Native Americans of the Western United States in the mid-19th century
  • Louis Hennepin, baptized Father Antoine (1626 – c. 1705), Flemish Catholic priest and missionary of the Franciscan Recollect Order (French: Récollets) and an explorer of the interior of North America; discovered Niagara Falls, Hannibal, Missouri and was the first to place the name 'Chicago' on a map (1683)
  • Archbishop Charles John Seghers, the Apostle of Alaska (1839–1886) was consecrated Bishop of Vancouver Island on June 29, 1873. On November 28, 1886, while resting in a deserted cabin in the Alaskan foothills, Bishop Seghers was shot through the heart. His body was borne back to a grief-stricken people and his remains rest under the high altar in the Cathedral at Victoria.
  • James Oliver Van de Velde (1795–1855), Belgian-born US Catholic bishop; served as the second Roman Catholic Bishop of Chicago, 1849-1853; in 1853, he was transferred to Natchez, Mississippi and became bishop of the Diocese of Natchez, where he served until his death


  • George Sarton (1884–1956), seminal Belgian-American polymath and historian of science; father of May Sarton
  • Robert Triffin (1911–1993), Belgian-born economist best known for his critique of the Bretton Woods system, later known as Triffin's Dilemma
  • Gonda Van Steen (1964–), Belgian-American classical scholar and linguist


  • Leo Hendrik Baekeland (1863–1944), Belgium-born American chemist who invented Velox photographic paper (1893) and Bakelite (1907), an inexpensive, nonflammable, versatile, and popular plastic; in 1978, he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame
  • Maurice Anthony Biot (1905–1985), Belgian-American physicist and the founder of the theory of poroelasticity
  • Karel Bossart (1904–1975), pioneering rocket designer and 'father (creator) of the Atlas ICBM'
  • Sylvain Cappell (born 1946), Belgian-born mathematician at New York University
  • Julius Arthur Nieuwland (1878–1976), Belgian-born Holy Cross priest and professor of chemistry and botany at the University of Notre Dame; known for his contributions to acetylene research and the discovery of synthetic rubber which eventually led to the discovery of Neoprene by DuPont
  • Nicolas Ruwet (1932–2001), linguist, literary critic and musical analyst
  • Charles Schepens (1912–2006), influential American ophthalmologist, regarded by many in the profession as "the father of modern retinal surgery"
  • George Van Biesbroeck (1880–1974), astronomer
  • George Washington Goethals (1858–1928), United States army general and civil engineer
  • Kevin M. De Cock, Director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Center for Global Health



  • Alice Sue Claeys (1975–), figure skater
  • Edgard Colle (1897–1932), Belgian-born chess master; pioneered the chess opening termed the Colle System
  • Dave DeBusschere (1940–2003), basketball player
  • Roger DeCoster (1944–), legendary Belgian-born motocross racer. His name is almost synonymous with the sport of motocross. He won five 500cc Motocross World Championships and tallied a record 36 500cc Grand Prix victories. He was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 1994, becoming only the seventh motorcyclist in the Hall. In 1999, he was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame.
  • Jacob deGrom (1988–), baseball player
  • Arthur Duray (1882–1954), racing driver
  • Art Houtteman, baseball player
  • George Koltanowski (1903–2000), Belgian-born chess player and promoter
  • Earl Louis "Curly" Lambeau (1898–1965), founder, player, and the first coach of the Green Bay Packers professional football team; Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin is named after him
  • Tuffy Leemans (1912–1979), football player and coach
  • Dutch Leonard (1909–1983), baseball player
  • Ryan Spilborghs, baseball player
  • Tim Tebow (1987–), baseball player, former football player
  • John Vanbiesbrouck (1963–), ice hockey goaltender
  • Christian Vande Velde (1976–), professional road cyclist, whose grandfather immigrated from Ghent in Flanders
  • Kiki Vandeweghe (1958–), basketball player



External links


  1. ^ McFadden, Robert D. (May 24, 1994). "Death of a First Lady: The Companion; Quietly at Her Side, Public at the End". The New York Times. pp. A17. Retrieved November 15, 2009.
  2. ^ Jan Bell Groh (1936- ) Evening the Score: Women in Music and the Legacy of Frédérique Petrides University of Arkansas Press, Fayetteville (1991)
  3. ^ Jane Weiner LePage (1931–2008) Women composers, conductors, musicians of the 20th century, volume ii pps.191-220 Scarecrow Press, Inc. Metuchen, New Jersey and London (1983)
  4. ^ Jan Bell Groh (1936- ) Evening the Score: Women in Music and the Legacy of Frédérique Petrides p. 20 University of Arkansas Press, Fayetteville (1991)
  5. ^ Jane Weiner LePage (1931–2008) Women composers, conductors and musicians of the 20th century, volume ii, p. 191 Scarecrow Press Inc., Metuchen, New Jersey and London (1983)
  6. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-11-23. Retrieved 2009-04-07.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)