Famous People of Alaska
Article by Cecil Sanders
Here’s a list of famous people who were born, spent a significant amount of time, or now live in Alaska. A few of the names may surprise you.
Jimmy Doolittle (December 14, 1896 – September 27, 1993): A WWII hero and Medal of Honor recipient, Doolittle grew up in Nome. The Doolittle Raiders, led by Jimmy Doolittle, bombed Japan by direct order of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in a daring mission as a response to the attack on Pearl Harbor. The men volunteering for this one way mission were to bail out over China, since the bombers couldn’t carry enough fuel to return the long distance back to the aircraft carriers at sea.
Wyatt Earp (March 19, 1848 – January 13, 1929): Lawman, gunman and one of the most famous frontiersmen of the west, Earp built Dexter’s Saloon in Nome, served on Nome’s first city council, and also served 12 days as town Marshall in Wrangell. Earp was the last surviving participant in the famous gunfight at O.K. Corral.
Bob Ross (October 29, 1942 – July 4, 1995): This world famous oil painter served as first sergeant of the U.S. Air Force Clinic at Eielson Air Force Base, southeast of Fairbanks. Ross gained fame in the art world with his instructional painting shows and later built a large retail business selling paints and supplies.
Larry Sanger (July 16, 1968 – ): American Internet project developer, and co-founder of Wikipedia, Larry grew up in Anchorage. He later quit Wikipedia and became publicly critical of its accuracy.
Walter Harper (1893 – October 25, 1918): Harper was an Alaska native and the first man to step foot on the summit of Denali in the first recorded ascent on June 7, 1913. Harper married Frances Wells and soon after both perished when aboard the passenger ship Princess Sofia when it was caught in a snowstorm, hit a reef, and sunk, killing all 343 passengers and crew members onboard.
Jewel Kilcher (May 23, 1974 – ): Kilcher, a singer-songwriter, guitarist, producer, actress, author, and poet, grew up in Homer. In her career she has sold over 30 million albums worldwide. She was born in Utah, but the Kilcher family has deep roots in Alaska as her grandfather, Yule Kilcher, was a delegate to the Alaska Constitutional convention and a state senator. Jewel comes from the Kilcher family that has gained fame in the T.V. reality series, Alaska: The Last Frontier.
Larry Csonka (December 25, 1946 – ): Hall of Fame running back, Csonka carried the Miami Dolphins to victory in Super Bowl VII and VIII. Csonka hosted “North to Alaska” a fishing and hunting show that aired from 1998 to 2013, and currently resides in Wasilla.
Curt Schilling (November 14, 1966 – ): Born in Anchorage, Schilling is one of the best postseason pitchers in baseball history with a record of 11-2, and has won 85% of the postseason games he’s started. It is widely believed in the sports world that Schilling won himself into the Hall of Fame, and talked himself out of it. Schilling contends his endorsement of Trump has cost him the support he needed to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Schilling is a three-time World Series champion.
Sydney Laurence (1865–1940): Laurence came to Alaska in 1903 and lived in Tyonek and the surrounding area, and soon focused his life primarily around painting. Within ten years he was considered one of the most prominent Alaska artists and through his art style, helped define Alaska as the Last Frontier.
Archie Van Winkle (March 17, 1925–May 22, 1986): Born in Juneau, Van Winkle served in the Marine Corps in three wars: in the WWII campaigns of the Solomon Islands, the Phillippines and the landing of Emirau; the Korean War campaign of the Battle of Inchon (where he was injured and for his heroism in battle awarded the Medal of Honor); and the Vietnam War campaign of the Battle of Khe Sanh. Other awards he received were the Distinguished Flying Cross, two Bronze Stars, Air Medal and three Purple Hearts. After serving a long, decorated military career, Van Winkle returned to Alaska and lived on a boat in Bar Harbor near Ketchikan. He died there in 1986.