How Many Famous Lefties Can You Name?

You’d be surprised how many recent presidents were lefties.

Photo by Randy Fath on Unsplash

Unless you’re in a minority, you can easily take it for granted that everyone else is like you. I remember the first time I met someone whose parents were divorced (that I knew about) and it seemed so unusual. And for most of us who are right handed, it’s quite strange to find that a portion of the world is unlike ourselves… or that their needs might be different from ours.

Take the guitar, for example. Jimi Hendrix didn’t have the luxury of owning a guitar designed for lefties, so he learned to play a right-handed guitar the opposite way, with the bass string on the bottom instead of the top.

There are actually whole stores for left-handed people. There are even scholarships for lefties, as if their minority status required our support, I suppose. Maybe some rich lefty wanted to make sure left handers got a fair shake.

In baseball I remember that one of the great pitchers of all time, Sandy Koufax, was a southpaw (nickname for left-handed pitchers.) Being one of the greatest Jewish baseball players, he stands out as a double minority.

Surprisingly, the following presidents were all-left handed: James A. Garfield, Herbert Hoover, Harry S. Truman, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. It’s remarkable how five of the post-Nixon presidents were lefties, with the two righties being our least successful. Bet you didn’t know that.

(In researching, I learned something else about Mr. Hoover, our Roaring Twenties president who ushered us into the Great Depression. He died in 1964, a year after John F. Kennedy, who ushered us into the disruptive Sixties.)

Here’s a smattering of other left handers: King Louis XVI of France, Queen Victoria of England, Prince Charles of England, Fidel Castro, Henry Ford, David Rockefeller, Helen Keller, Dr. Albert Schweitzer, astronauts Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin and Wally Schirra, Jay Leno, Dave Barry, Edward R. Murrow and Ted Koppel. Quite an interesting cast of characters in my opinion.

A few left-handed authors you might be familiar with include: James Baldwin, Peter Benchley, Lewis Carroll, Marshall McLuhan, Mark Twain, H.G. Wells and Eudora Welty.

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Illustration by the author.

The list of lefty musicians is longer still. Here’s but a portion: David Byrne, Glen Campbell, Kurt Cobain, Phil Collins, Bela Fleck, Judy Garland, Isaac Hayes, Chuck Mangione, Robert Plant, Cole Porter, Rachmaninoff, Maurice Ravel, Lou Rawls, Paul Simon, Tiny Tim and Rudy Valee.

Artists of the left hand persuasion include Albrecht Dürer, M.C. Escher, Paul Klee, Michelangelo, LeRoy Neiman, Raphael, and Leonardo da Vinci… an auspicious group.

And of left handedness in the acting profession there seems no end, far too many to list here.

At times I’ve gotten the impression that being left-handed has a somewhat negative connotation, as if a person is somehow underhanded for being a lefty. This is a strange notion, but it’s born out in a number of ways. For example the Chinese character for “left” means improper.

It’s no doubt a bummer that many tools and implements are designed for righties, making many activities just that much more challenging. Seven to ten percent of all people are left-handed, and yet we’ve failed to accommodate for them in so many ways. Thank goodness for left-handed teacups when we’re entertaining company.

An avid reader who writes about arts, culture, literature & other life obsessions. @ennyman3 Look for my books on Amazon

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