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Was Burt Reynolds a Melungeon? . . . a surprising resemblance to actor, Omar Sharif

Was Burt Reynolds a Melungeon? . . . a surprising resemblance to actor, Omar Sharif


Part Four of the series on Burt Reynolds and the movie, Deliverance

Google facial recognition algorithms clustered photos of Omar Sharif and Burt Reynolds.

In Part Three, readers learned that throughout much of his life, Burt Reynolds had claimed that he was either 1/4th Seminole or 1/4th Cherokee.  These were both bogus claims that were exposed late in his life.   His last name was English, but neither of his official parents looked Anglo-American or had his black hair color and tan skin tone.  In fact, he had very little resemblance to his official parents.  They had Sephardic Dutch and Germanic Dutch facial features.  The public will probably never learn the complete, accurate explanation of Burt’s family origins.

Also, in Part Three, I mentioned that long ago, a Swedish city planner with a degree in anthropology told me that I looked like a Northern Sami and that Burt Reynolds looked like an Arab.   Shezam!  It turns out that like many Eastern Creek and Uchee families, my family does carry some Sami DNA markers and she was right . . .  neither Native American nor Sami men are covered in dense body hair, like Reynolds was. That’s a Mediterranean and Middle Eastern trait.

Sharif (1932-2015) achieved permanent fame for his outstanding performances in Lawrence of Arabia and Dr. Zhivago.  He and Burt could have passed for twins.   Looking up Sharif’s bio, I was surprised to learn that he was not ethnically Egyptian, but actually of multi-ethnic Syrian ancestry.  This is important information.

Omar Sharif, whose adopted surname means “noble” or “nobleman”, was born as Michel Dimitri Chalhoub in Alexandria, Egypt, to a Melkite Catholic family of Syro-Lebanese descent.  He belonged to a small ethno-cultural minority known as the Levantine Antiochian Greek Catholics of Egypt, an offshoot of the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch.  In 1955, he was forced to convert to Islam in order to marry his actress-wife.  After their divorce in 1974, he blatantly violated many tenants of Islam such as kissing Jewish and Christian women in public, etc. In 2005, as he was being filmed his lead role in an Italian movie about the Disciple St. Peter, he publicly announced his “conversion” back to Christianity . . .  but his funeral was held in one of Cairo’s principal mosques . . . so who knows?

Sharif’s ethnic background is very significant, because it represents a mixture of all the ethnic groups, who have lived in the eastern Mediterranean Basin . . . including Palestinian Jewish and probably some Crusader knights.  Lebanon once had a Christian majority.  This is just the type of multi-cultural background that we would expect to see in the Mediterranean miners and colonists, who settled in the Southern Appalachians during the late 1500s and 1600s.    Take a look at comparisons of the two famous actors at different stages in their lives. In particular, look at their facial proportions, protruding chins, noses, lips and hair lines.  Burt Reynolds’ eyes do look Native American, but he did not have eye-folds as is common among Muskogeans and Southeast Asians.






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Richard Thornton is a professional architect, city planner, author and museum exhibit designer-builder. He is today considered one of the nation’s leading experts on the Southeastern Indians. However, that was not always the case. While at Georgia Tech Richard was the first winner of the Barrett Fellowship, which enabled him to study Mesoamerican architecture and culture in Mexico under the auspices of the Institutio Nacional de Antropoligia e Historia. Dr. Roman Piňa-Chan, the famous archaeologist and director of the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, was his fellowship coordinator. For decades afterward, he lectured at universities and professional societies around the Southeast on Mesoamerican architecture, while knowing very little about his own Creek heritage. Then he was hired to carry out projects for the Muscogee-Creek Nation in Oklahoma. The rest is history. Richard is the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the KVWETV (Coweta) Creek Tribe and a member of the Perdido Bay Creek Tribe. In 2009 he was the architect for Oklahoma’s Trail of Tears Memorial at Council Oak Park in Tulsa. He is the president of the Apalache Foundation, which is sponsoring research into the advanced indigenous societies of the Lower Southeast.



    Richard, a very interesting article I read about underwater buildings in the Bahamas…I noticed a connection with the placement of the chambers of the Great Pyramid and these underwater pyramids: They seem to be aligned in the same manner?
    “Scientists now understand that following the end of the last ice age (the Pleistocene epoch), Earth encountered a traumatic event approximately 12,000 years ago, when a series of asteroids bombarded our planet and changed surface features, elevated the surface temperature, and destroyed a vast number of civilizations”. The Puuc-style architecture of Central America…does that look Egyptian to you? Thanks for your articles.

    • Not at all. Puuc structures have rounded corners and their houses have rounded ends. I stayed in 19th or 20th century Puuc style house while in eastern Campeche. Here is a photo of the house and then an image of a Puuc temple.


        True…as their pyramids do have a very rounded shape. They seem to be clustered into one area location by hills of the Yucatan…any clue for the clueless of what those people called themselves? Thanks for the response.

        • They called themselves the name of whatever city state they lived in. The word Puuc means “Hill Country” so they would have said that they lived in a particular village, town, city or city state within the Puuc. I have a lot of slides of Puuc architecture. Later on I will have time to digitize them and post them on POOF. Right now I am putting in long hours on my house and land.


            Thanks for the reply… Best of luck with your home remodel project.



    After reading your last article about Burt Reynolds I told Gene, “I bet Burt was a Melungeon. Wonder if Richard thinks so, too.” You and I must be on the same page!

    Isn’t Nathan Deal governor of Georgia? Deal/Dial is a surname often found among the Lumbees of North Carolina. About 15 years ago when we visited Gene’s brother Ralph in Warner Robins, I read a newspaper article about a Mr. Oxendine (maybe Commissioner of Public Safety?). Ralph and Sandy his wife showed no interest in Indian matters . As I understand it, Oxendine is a true Lumbee name, only found among Lumbees.

    Has your bear friend allowed you to pick enough muscadines to make muscadine wine? Gene and I rarely drink, but if we do, it has to be muscadine or scuppernong wine. I so hope you enjoyed the wine we brought you last year.

    Richard, please keep us in your thoughts and prayers as we face hurricane Florence coming ashore. We’ve faced this many times living here. It never gets any easier.

    • Get out there Carolyn. I was in New Orleans immediately after Hurricane Katrina. I was supposed to go down to the delta on behalf of the Creek Nation to help a Native American tribe build temporary shelters, but the Louisiana National Guard ignored my official pass and wouldn’t let me in. Instead for two days, my two herd dogs and I looked for bodies. I still have nightmares from time to time because of that experience.

      Actually, Oxendine and Dyal are names also found among the Roanoke Island Colonists. I am convinced that many of the Lumbees are descended from the marriages between surviving colonists and Native Americans.

      I am making muscadine juice and freezing it. That is a fool proof approach for someone with no experience at making wine.


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