Fun Facts About Hillsborough County
Hillsborough County is the fourth most populous county in the state. It was founded on the 25th of January back in 1834. Of the 1,266 square miles, almost 20% is water. The county was named for Wills Hill, Earl of Hillsborough, who served as the British Secretary of State for the Colonies from 1768-1772.
There are many beautiful places to explore here including the Sunshine Skyway Bridge and the Egmont Key. While there are many famous people from and living in Hillsborough County, let’s focus on the ones from the most important towns.
Famous People From Ruskin
Willa Ford was born and raised in Ruskin. She’s known for acting as well as her singing career. She started singing at the age of 8 with the Tampa Bay Children’s Choir. You may have heard her sing when she toured Walt Disney World and Busch Gardens in the mid-1990s.
Her biggest hit “I Wanna Be Bad” was featured in the movies Undercover Brother, What a Girl Wants, and Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star. Think she’ll head back for any school reunions?
Ruskin seems to be the best place for creating singers. Famous singing siblings Nick, Aaron Carter, and Leslie Carter grew up in Ruskin after their family relocated there from New York City when they were young.
Nick Carter is famous for being a Back Street Boy, and then launching a successful solo career. Unfortunately, Nick was bullied in school, and the family moved to Apollo Beach.
Diontae Johnson was born and raised in Ruskin and grew up to be a professional football player. He’s a wide receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers. After graduating from the University of Toledo, he was drafted in the third round in 2019 by the Steelers. Keep catching them, Diontae!
Is professional wrestling a sport? I wouldn’t argue the point with Ruskin native MarkyKate Duignan Glidewell also known as Sage Beckett and Rosie Lottalove! She wrestled professionally until 2012 when she retired due to injuries. She came back in 2014 after losing almost 130 pounds.
Clarence and John Anglin grew up in Ruskin. They’re notorious and known best for being two of the three people who successfully broke out of Alcatraz in the escape of 962.
Famous People From Riverview
NFL Safety Jahleel Addae grew up in Riverview and got his start in football at Riverview High School. After graduating, he went to Central Michigan where he tried a few different positions successfully building his skills.
He was a free agent and picked up by the San Diego Chargers for the 2013 season and played professionally as a safety until 2018. For the 2019 season, he went to the Houston Texans. He then went back to the Los Angeles Chargers in 2020.
Another famous Addae is Jahleel’s brother Jahmile who played safety at West Virginia and played professionally for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Indianapolis Colts. He now coaches at his alma mater West Virginia University.
Not all celebrities are positive stories, though. Some stories are rather sad. Debra Lafave was born and raised in Riverview. After graduating from college, she became a teacher and got married. Unfortunately, she chose to have an inappropriate relationship with a student and was convicted and sentenced to three years of house arrest and seven years probation.
She did have to spend some time in prison and was taken advantage of by the administrators. Nude photographs were taken by the Temple Terrace Police Department and circulated.
She had been diagnosed as being bipolar, and her sister had been killed by a drunk driver around the time this happened. We hope she’s found peace as well as some anonymity.
Famous People In Riverview
Tom “Rebel” Dougherty has been a member of the Professional Bowlers Association since 2001. He’s won four titles and eighteen regional titles. He’s well known for creating a one-hand, no-thumb delivery. He calls Riverview home. When he’s not on the circuit, he helps run two bowling pro shops in Hillsborough County.
Dioner Navarro may have been born in Caracas, Venezuela, but he calls Riverview home. He played professional baseball for 12 years as a catcher for;
- New York Yankees
- Los Angeles Dodgers
- Tampa Bay Rays
- Cincinnati Reds
- Chicago Cubs
- Toronto Blue Jays
- Chicago White Socks
- Long Island Ducks
- Cleveland Indians
He’s lived in Hillsborough County since he was first drafted by the NY Yankees and is very involved with the Boys and Girls Club of America. Fun trivia fact – the Boys and Girls Club of America is also based in Hillsborough County.
Famous People From Apollo Beach
We’ve already mentioned Nick Carter. And did you know Tessa Ludwick, the actress, was raised in Apollo Beach? Her career started when she was seven as the voice of Allegra in the Nick Jr. program Allegra’s Window.
It took off from there with more television shows, movies, and a touring Broadway musical of Annie.
Famous People From Gibsonton
Gibsonton was often called the place where circus and carnival sideshow performers went to retire. Since it’s unincorporated, it was easy for circuses to keep the elephants and tigers over winter with them.
It’s still a place where the retired performers can live in relative peace.
Founded in the 1930s by The Oddest Couple, it thrived as a haven. With the decline in people’s desire to stare at something different, the improvement of medicine and treatments, and the introduction of the Americans with Disabilities Act those with deformities or genetic disorders have been able to find more normal jobs and lifestyles.
The most notorious story is the murder of Grady Stiles, also known as the “Lobster Boy.” Ectrodactyly is a genetic condition that’s inherited. His father had it as well. Gradymurdered his daughter’s fiance and was convicted of third-degree murder but served no time.
Some say it’s because no prison was equipped to care for someone with his condition. Others say that it was a sympathy verdict of 15 years’ probation as Stiles had cirrhosis and emphysema.
Other Celebrities Nearby
Many celebrities live nearby and can show up from time to time. Have you run into Kirstie Alley or Tom Cruise? Dave Bautista from Guardians of the Galaxy fame calls this county home as well as John Cena. Tom Brady is a new resident as well.
So keep your eyes open. You never know who you’ll run into!