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Distinguished, Famous, and Notable Debtors

There is a prevalent misconception in the public that an individual who files for protection under the bankruptcy code (a Constitutional right as guaranteed for all lawful residents by Article 1, Section 8 of the United Stated Constitution) is a bad, reckless, or immoral person who had some malicious scheme to rack up debt with the intention to never repay creditors. In my experience, for 99% of bankruptcy filings this couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Bankruptcy filers are your neighbors, your kid’s friend’s parents, people you go to church with, people you work with, and everyone else you imagine would never owe more than they can afford to repay and be forced to file bankruptcy. However, we never realize who these bankruptcy filers are because it’s not a hot topic for most bankruptcy filers to discuss, even with their closest of friends or family. The large majority of bankruptcy filers are good and honest people that never had any plan to file bankruptcy, but rather found themselves in a tough spot and to protect their families; they proceeded to file bankruptcy. Most bankruptcy filers could have never imagined any scenario where they would be faced with the decision to file bankruptcy. However, things rarely go as planned and we adjust accordingly.

Following are some famous, distinguished and/or notable individuals that have filed bankruptcy, been determined insolvent at death, or been incarcerated due to unpaid debt:

–          Thomas Jefferson (3rd President of the United States )

–          Abraham Lincoln (16th President of the United States)

–          Ulysses S. Grant (18th President of the United States)

–          Levi P. Morton (22nd Vice President of the United States)

–          Thomas Paine (Considered a “Founding Father” of the United States)

–          James Wilson (United States Supreme Court Justice, 1789 – 1798)

–          Walt Disney (The Walt Disney Company)

–          William C. Durant (founded General Motors)

–          Charles M. Schwab (founded Bethlehem Steel)

–          William Fox (co-founded 20th Century Fox)

–          H.J. Heinz (founded Heinz Ketchup)

–          Donald Trump

–          P.T. Barnum (founded Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus)

–          Henry Ford (founded Ford Motor Company)

–          Samuel L. Clemens (pen name Mark Twain, author)

–          Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (musician/composer)

–          Oscar Wilde (playwright)

–          Rembrandt (painter)

–          Michael Jackson (singer, musician)

–          Elton John (singer, musician)

–          Tom Petty (singer, musician)

–          Willie Nelson (singer, musician)

–          Cyndi Lauper (singer, musician)

–          Larry King (tv personality)

–          Stan Lee (comic book author, etc.)

–          Burt Reynolds (actor)

–          Lorraine Bracco (actress)

–          Johnny Unitas (athlete, football)

–          Mickey Rooney (actor)

–          Lenny Bruce (comedian)

–          Ed McMahon (tv personality)

The list of people seems never ending and constantly continues to grow. While this is clearly not intended to encourage anyone to incur debt they cannot repay, it simply shows that insolvency and/or bankruptcy can and does happen to all sorts.

For an interesting and more detailed look at some of the celebrity filers listed above, you can click here and read about what led some of them (and others) to file bankruptcy.

About the Author
Christian Spaulding is the founder and principal attorney at Spaulding Law Group. Mr. Spaulding has lived in Southern California his entire life and his family has been in Southern California since the late 1800’s. Mr. Spaulding received his undergraduate degree from Chapman University in Orange with a Bachelor of Science in Accounting. While completing his undergraduate studies, Mr. Spaulding was the recipient of the prestigious Wall Street Journal Student Business Award. Mr. Spaulding graduated at the top of his accounting program at Chapman University and attended law school at Chapman University School of Law where he was a Merit Scholarship recipient. Mr. Spaulding has focused his firm’s practice solely on consumer protection and bankruptcy since 2009.

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