Family Tree Tuesday – Reese Witherspoon
Reese Witherspoon is an American actress, film producer, and television producer. Her first feature role as the female lead was in 1991 in the film The Man in the Moon. Witherspoon’s career turning point was her role as Elle Woods in the box office hit Legally Blonde in 2001. She then starred in Sweet Home Alabama in 2002 and returned as lead actress and executive producer of Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde in 2003. In 2005, she won an Academy Award, Golden Globe, BAFTA and Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role for her portrayal of June Carter Cash (who happens to be Reese’s 19th cousin thrice removed) in Walk the Line. In December 2010, she received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Born Laura Jeanne Reese Witherspoon in New Orleans, Louisiana to John Draper Witherspoon, Sr., a otolaryngologist who previously served as a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army reserves and Mary Elizabeth “Betty” Reese who has a Ph.D. in pediatric nursing, and works as a professor of nursing at Vanderbilt University.
She lived in Wiesbaden, Germany for four years as a child as her father worked there while he was in the U.S. military. After returning to the U.S., she spent her childhood in Nashville, Tennessee. Witherspoon was selected as a fashion model for a florist’s television advertisements at age seven, which motivated her to take acting lessons. After completing one year of studies at Stanford University as an English literature major, she left to pursue an acting career. Witherspoon is described as a “multi-achiever” and was given the nickname “Little Type A” by her parents.
Witherspoon is a long-time supporter of Save the Children, an organization that helps children around the world through education, health care and emergency aid. She also serves on the board of the Children’s Defense Fund, a child advocacy and research group. She serves as the first Global Ambassador of cosmetic company Avon Products, she acts as a spokeswoman for Avon’s cosmetic products and serves as the honorary chair of the Avon Foundation which is a charitable organization that supports women and focuses on breast cancer research and the prevention of domestic violence.
She was married to actor Ryan Phillippe and had two children, a daughter Ava and a son Deacon. In 2011, she married talent agent Jim Toth and it was announced in March 2012 that the couple are expecting a baby.
John Knox was Reese Witherspoon’s 12th great grandfather. Knox was a Scottish clergyman and a leader of the Protestant Reformation who brought reformation to the church in Scotland. He was ordained to the Catholic priesthood in 1536. He was licensed to work in the Church of England, where he served King Edward VI of England as a royal chaplain. It is not recorded as to when or how Knox was converted to the Protestant faith, but he was notable for the overthrow of Roman Catholicism in Scotland, and for assuring the replacement of the papal religion with Presbyterianism rather than Anglicanism. Knox is considered the founder of the Presbyterian denomination whose members number millions worldwide.
Reese is also related to one of the signers of the United States Declaration of Independence, John Knox Witherspoon. They are first cousin’s 9 times removed. He was a Scots Presbyterian minister and signed the declaration as a representative of New Jersey. John was president of the College of New Jersey from 1768-1794 which is now Princeton University and trained many leaders of the early nation and was the only active clergyman and the only college president to sign the Declaration. He was elected to the Continental Congress as part of the New Jersey delegation and was appointed Congressional Chaplain by the Congress’ President John Hancock.
Check out Reese Witherspoon’s family tree and see how you’re related!