Today is Friendship Day! (10 Sets of Famous Friends)

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A Brief History

On August 4, 2019, we celebrate another Friendship Day, truly one of the worthwhile “Days” you might find on those ubiquitous event calendars that have a day for (seemingly) everything.  So important is this “holiday,” it has its own organization (which you could see by clicking the link above).  After family, friends are the next most important people in the world, and today we take a look at 10 examples of friends that are famous, infamous, or of historical importance.  Who is your best friend?  Your mom/dad?  Your sister/brother?  Someone you have known since childhood, or a more recent acquaintance?  Some people would say their spouse.  Would you?  (Would your spouse?)

(Did you know? Friendship Day was designated by the US Congress in 1935 to fall on the first Sunday in August each year.)

Digging Deeper

10. Bonnie and Clyde, Robbers.

Bonnie and Clyde in March 1933 in a photo found by police at an abandoned hideout.  Photograph by one of the Barrow gang.

A couple united in pursuit of ill-gotten gains, this robber duo terrorized the Central United States from 1932 to 1934, with bank robberies, car thefts, and shootouts with police.  Along with other members of their gang, they may have killed 9 police officers and a few civilians thrown in, though it is unlikely Bonnie Parker was the shooter in any of these murders.  Nor was she a cigar smoker, contrary to the famous picture of her with a stogie in her mouth, which was a joke photo.  (She did smoke Camel cigarettes.)  Clyde Barrow was the real killer of the duo and had killed a man in prison in 1930 by bashing in his skull with a pipe.  (That man had made sexual assaults against Clyde, so perhaps Clyde’s anger is understandable.)  Clyde was said by a friend to have changed while in prison (1930-1932), becoming a “rattlesnake.”  Bonnie had been married in 1926, before she had even turned 16 years old!  That marriage did not last, and her husband absconded, although the pair never officially divorced.  (Bonnie was wearing her wedding ring when she died.)  The pair became famous or infamous as they blazed a trail of crime, and to some were a sort of folk hero duo.  They came to a violent end when the stolen car they were driving was ambushed in Louisiana and riddled by well over 100 bullets.  Their bodies were said to have borne 50 bullets wounds each, although other accounts said Clyde had 17 bullet wounds and Bonnie 26 bullet wounds.  Either way, the fabled couple were dead and became part of the history of “friends.”

9. Alexander the Great and Hephaestion, Emperor and General.

A painting by Charles Le Brun depicting Alexander and Hephaestion (in red cloak), facing Porus, during the Battle of the Hydaspes.

Alexander (356 BC-323 BC) succeeded his father, Phillip II of Macedon, as King and became an emperor of his own empire by conquering lands across the Mediterranean and Near East, including North Africa.  Never defeated in battle, he is considered by many as the greatest military genius of all time.  Despite having more than one wife, ancient Greek men only took other men seriously as friends and people of substance, and so Alexander had a best friend in Hephaestion, a man he had made one of his most trusted generals.  Hephaestion had been the commander of Alexander’s personal bodyguard unit, but was elevated to command the Companion Cavalry, Alexander’s elite force.  Alexander eventually raised his pal to the position of second in command, and even gave one of his wives’ sisters to Hephaestion in a symbolic gesture of making Hephaestion a member of the royal family.  In 324 BC, a year before Alexander’s own death, Hephaestion became ill with fever and died, Alexander failing to reach his bedside before Hephaestion died.  Alexander was heartbroken by the loss of his best friend, and various accounts have Alexander displaying his grief in incredible ways, including banning music, ordering all manes and tails be shorn from horses, razing of battlements and throwing himself on the lifeless body of his friend and refusing to leave the body!  (Alexander reportedly had to be dragged off the lifeless Hephaestion.)  Alexander is said to have refused food and stayed in bed crying for 2 entire days after Hephaestion’s death.  Alexander might have sacrificed a dozen “well born” youths in Hephaestion’s honor!  Although accounts of Alexander’s life are somewhat suspect due to the passage of time between the actual events and the writing of the accounts (many decades, perhaps 350 years, by a Greek named Arrian), the friendship between the 2 men is probably one of the great stories of friendship in history.

8. Oprah Winfrey and Gayle King, Media mogul and Television Journalist.

This low-resolution image of the July 2012 cover of O, hosted on servers in the United States by the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation, is used here in an article intended for educational purposes to illustrate the publication of the magazine in question
with the publication name visible on the image itself qualifies as fair use under United States copyright law.

Oprah, one of the rare people easily identified by merely their first name, is one of the most beloved and influential people in the United States, if not the world.  Certainly one of the most famous and renowned women, and a woman of color at that, this billionaire media star, publisher, and actress would likely attract top notch companions as friends.  Enter Oprah’s best friend, Gayle King, television journalist (CBS News) and author, and an editor at O, The Oprah Magazine.  Millions of women would give anything to be friends with Oprah, or for that matter with Gayle King!  King is a college grad (University of Maryland, 1976) boasting a degree in the double major of Psychology and Sociology.  King and Winfrey met in Baltimore in 1976 where both women were breaking into the television business.  They became great friends and have been besties ever since.  While Oprah is the undisputed Queen of Media (a title we just invented), Gayle is quite the influential media factor herself, inducted into the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame in 2018 and being named to Time magazine’s “100 most influential people of 2019.”  (Oprah has appeared on the Time list at least 10 times.)  At #20 on Forbes magazine’s “The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women,” Oprah is the highest ranking entry from the media and entertainment sector.  What an amazing power couple these 2 friends make!

7. Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, Actors.

Affleck and Matt Damon attend a Camp David screening of Good Will Hunting with President Bill Clinton in 1998.  Source: William J. Clinton Presidential Library.

A Hollywood power duo, these 2 buddies teamed up in 1997 to write Good Will Hunting, an effort that won them an Oscar.  Both of these talented actors are Hollywood A-Listers, though perhaps not at the tippity-top of the list.  Good buddies since high school in Massachusetts, the guys are now 46 years old (Affleck) and 48 years old (Damon) and continue to collaborate on movie projects, most recently working on a film called The Last Duel.  In the entertainment industry there are many sets of friends among actors, singers and the like, and we use the Damon-Affleck duo to represent an example of a long (30 years) and fruitful relationship.

6. Douglas MacArthur and Courtney Whitney, US Army Generals.

Whitney, at left holding binoculars, with MacArthur, seated center, observing the shelling of Incheon, Korea.  Photograph by Nutter (Army).

Douglas MacArthur is the overwhelmingly more famous of this pair of buds, a man we have written about concerning his controversial legacy.  MacArthur rose to become Chief of Staff of the US Army and during World War II led the Southern half of the US war against Japan.  MacArthur also presided over the occupation of Japan after World War II, a job he accomplished in an incredibly successful manner, perhaps his greatest accomplishment.  He also led the United Nations war effort in Korea, before being infamously fired by President Truman (1951).  Whitney had been an Army officer and pilot that left the service to work as a successful lawyer in the Philippines, a fortuitous location that brought him in contact with MacArthur who was serving as a military advisor to the Philippines from 1937 until recalled to active duty in 1941.  MacArthur apparently took to Whitney and when MacArthur made good on his promise to “Return” to the Philippines in 1944, he brought Whitney with him.  Whitney himself is a controversial figure, an ultra-conservative that was put in charge of Filipino guerrilla efforts against the Japanese prior to the American invasion of the Philippines in 1944.  His animosity toward the OSS (Office of Strategic Services) influenced MacArthur and led MacArthur to ban the OSS from operations in MacArthur’s sector.  While MacArthur managed to earn the adulation of Filipinos (and later the Japanese), Whitney was “condescending” toward the Filipinos and seemed only to respect those Filipinos of substantial economic means.  Oddly enough, both extremely conservative Generals operated in occupied Japan with a decidedly liberal leaning toward the administration of the country and the drafting of the new Japanese Constitution.  Whitney went to Korea at MacArthur’s side, and quit the Army when MacArthur was fired.  (MacArthur died in 1964, followed by Whitney in 1969.)  (Note:  The author personally knew the grandson of Courtney Whitney, Courtney Whitney III while serving as a Marine Corps officer in 1979.)

5. Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer, Buddies.

West German DVD cover; from left to right: Tom Sawyer (Sammy Snyders), Huck Finn (Ian Tracey).  This low-resolution image of a video cover, hosted on servers in the United States by the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation, is used in article intended for educational purposes per fair use under the Copyright law of the United States.

This pair of ‘aw shucks’ river rats are our contribution to the fictional friends category.  The invention of Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens), these young men have adventures on the Mississippi River that make them the envy of boys growing up across America.  In spite of their fictional nature, they are perhaps the epitome of the American boy buddies archetype.

4. Donald Trump and Jeffrey Epstein, Rich Guys.

Ouch!  President Donald Trump, already suffering from a reputation of alleged disrespect and misconduct involving women does not need anything else to undermine his relationship with the female half of the population, and here comes Jeffrey Epstein, a first class creep of Olympic proportions, charged with sex trafficking of minors in 2019.  While not currently pals, Trump and Epstein, both multi-millionaire playboys that had a definite hankering for the company of beautiful young women, were once buddies and partied together, probably more than once, a fact now highly embarrassing to the President now that Epstein has become infamous for his lenient treatment after sex crimes convictions in 2008.  Oh, and it turns out, Trump appointee as Secretary of Labor, Alex Acosta, had been the prosecutor on the 2008 case in which Epstein was given a “sweetheart deal.”   President Trump now downplays his previous friendship with Epstein, and points out that the 2 had a falling out about 15 years ago.  Trump now claims, “I’m not a fan.”

3. Thomas Edison and Henry Ford, Inventors, Entrepreneurs and Visionaries.

“Thomas A. Edison and Henry Ford”, at the Panama-Pacific international exposition 1915 in San Francisco.  Photograph by Charles Caldwell Moore (1868-1932).

Edison, the most prolific inventor in human history and Henry Ford, the man that supercharged the automobile industry and put the world (especially the United States) on wheels were pretty good friends, palling around on road trips across the United States starting in 1914.  The friendship of these iconic forces of modernization started in 1911 when Ford requested a signed photograph of Edison.  The two men hit it off and became fast friends.  Harvey Firestone, the tire maker, also was their travelling companion and made the friendship a trio.  These “road” trips often went down paths that could hardly be called a road, and were more like adventures in exploration.

2. Duane “The Rock” Johnson and Vin Diesel, Action Actors.

Theatrical release poster for Fast Five (2011).  The poster art copyright is believed to belong to Universal Pictures.  This scaled-down, low-resolution image of a poster, hosted on servers in the United States by the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation, is used here in an article intended for educational purposes per fair use under the copyright law of the United States.

Just kidding.  These 2 powerfully built action hero actors, both men of mixed race heritage, are known to have some sort of personal animosity toward each other despite appearing in movies together.  The Rock claims the differences between the 2 are based on opinions about how to make movies and “professionalism.”  Meanwhile, Diesel has actually defended The Rock when other actors complained about the feud delaying filming schedules.  So maybe their feud is not all that bad?  Certainly, money is one of the most unifying factors in Hollywood, and the Fast and the Furious movie franchise is a $4 billion operation.  Could these guys buddy up to make more cheddar for themselves?  Fans hope so!

1. Man’s Best Friend, the Dog.

This copy of a plate by Jean-Auguste Barre (a French artist, 1811-1896) of Odysseus and Argos is presently in the Louvre Museum, Paris, France.  It is not copyrighted.  It is in the public domain.

You will never get the unconditional love and loyalty your dog will honor you with from a human being.  Period.  Not just a cliché, Dogs are truly Man’s (meaning “Humans’) Best Friends.  “Loyal as a hound dog” is a claim of fealty in the extreme.  For tens of thousands of years, Dogs have been the companions of humans and even preceded Man into space!  Uniquely adapted to life with humans, Dogs react to visual and verbal cues from people as no other animal on the planet.  Not even close.  And we love them back!  (Or at least we should.)  Dogs have time and again sacrificed their own lives in order to save or attempt to save a human life.  If only we could be so loyal…  (Note: God backwards is DOG!  Is this a coincidence or part of a Divine Plan???)

Question for students (and subscribers): Who would you add to this list?  Please let us know in the comments section below this article.

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

Guinn, Jeff. THE VAGABONDS. Simon & Schuster, 2019.

Nelson, Shasta. Frientimacy: How to Deepen Friendships for Lifelong Health and Happiness.  Seal Press, 2016.

Roberts, Vaughan. True Friendship. 10Publishing, 2013.

The featured image in this article, a photograph by Satbir Singh of someone tying a friendship bracelet, is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.  This image, which was originally posted to Flickr, was uploaded to Commons using Flickr upload bot on  by Ranveig. On that date, it was confirmed to be licensed under the terms of the license indicated.


About Author

Major Dan

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.