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Hungarian Roots: Former Three-Term Governor Of New York, George Pataki

Robert Velkey 2016.07.08.

In our weekly series, we write about celebrities – artists, actors, musicians, sport stars and scientists – who have some Hungarian origin, yet only few would consider them as “par excellence Hungarians”. In many cases even the persons concerned know/knew only very little about their Hungarian roots, while others are/were proud of their “Magyar” background despite lacking the ability to speak the language of their parents or grandparents. Our twenty-third target is:

George Elmer Pataki served as the 53rd Governor of New York (1995-2006) as a member of the Republican Party. The former governor has deep Hungarian roots, as both his paternal grandfather and grandmother were from Austria-Hungary.


Pataki was born on the 24th of June 1945, in Peekskill, New York. His Hungarian roots are starts deeply by his grandparents who were Hungarian immigrants to the USA. His paternal grandfather was János (later John) Pataki (1883-1970) of Aranyos-Apáti from Austria-Hungary, who came to the United States in 1908 and worked in a hat factory. János had married Erzsébet (later Elisabeth; 1887-1975), also Hungarian born around 1904. Pataki’s father was Louis P. Pataki, worked as a mailman and volunteer fire chief who ran the Pataki Farm. On the former governor’s website we can read: “Pataki grew up in upstate New York working on the family farm where he learned the power of discipline, community, and hard work.”


From the family farm, his way led him to Yale University, where he served as chairman of Conservative Party of the Yale Political Union. After graduating from Columbia Law School, Pataki practiced law, and was later elected mayor of Peekskill. From there, his public service continued and he went to serve as State Assemblyman, State Senator, and three terms as New York State’s 53rd Governor. He started his presidential campaign on the 28th of May 2015 on a Republican ticket to become the President of the United States in the 2016 election but on at the end of the year 2015 Pataki told his supporters that his campaign was henceforth suspended. He is currently Counsel with the law firm Chadbourne and Parke LLC, and president of his own small business, the Pataki-Cahill Group, working in energy infrastructure and clean-tech.

The former governor and his family are conscious of their Hungarian heritage, being supporters and ambassadors of the ReConnect Hungarian Birthright Program. George Pataki can still speak a little Hungarian today, also.


Previously on Hungarian Roots:

Tim Howard, goalkeeper for English club Everton and US national team

Rachel Weisz, English film and theatre actress and former fashion model

Alanis Morissette, Canadian alternative rock singer-songwriter and actress

Gene Simmons, musician, songwriter, guitarist and co-lead singer of rock band KISS

Béla Lugosi, Hungarian-American actor, famous for portraying Count Dracula in 1931

Kesha, US singer, songwriter and rapper

Louis C. K., world-famous US comedian

Adrien Brody, Oscar-winning American actor

Joaquin Phoenix, Grammy and Golden Globe-winning US actor

Don Shula, Legendary American football coach

Drew Barrymore, US actress, model and producer

Paul Simon, American songwriter, singer and guitarist

Uri Geller, Israeli illusionist and self-proclaimed “psychic”

and 15. Goldie Hawn and Kate Hudson, American actresses

Hungarian Roots: Andy Vajna, Hungarian-American Film Producer Of The “Terminator” Series

Joe Eszterhas, Top Hollywood Screenwriter

Edward Teller, “Father of the Hydrogen Bomb”

Harry Houdini, Hungarian-Americal magician, illusionist, escapologist and stunt performer

Peter Falk, world-famous American actor known as lieutenant Culumbo

William Fox, the man who forgot to sleep and founded 20th Century Fox

Tommy Ramone, drummer of cultic punk rock band “The Ramones’