Famous People of Alaska
Article by Cecil SandersHere’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.
President Reagan and Senator Goldwater awarding General Doolittle | Photo: Wikimedia Commons Jimmy Doolittle | Photo: Hill Air Force Base 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, years before heading north to Nome. | Photo: Wikimedia Commons Nome in 1900. Earp's bar "Dexter Saloon" on left. | Photo: Wikimedia Commons 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.
Artist Bob Ross | Photo: www.togetherweserved.com Bob Ross in Air Force | Photo: www.togetherweserved.com 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. Bob 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, co-founder of Wikipedia | Photo: Wikimedia Commons 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, first to climb Denali. | Photo: Wikimedia Commons 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.
A young Jewel Kilcher performing. | Photo: NPR Jewel Kilcher in recording studio. | Photo: Wikimedia Commons via Flickr 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.
Csonka for the touchdown against the Vikings. | Photo: larrysconka.com 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.
Schilling speaking to troops at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan. | Photo: Wikimedia Commons 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 photographed in 1914. | Photo: Wikimedia Commons Famous painting of Denali by Sydney Laurence. | Photo: Wikimedia Commons 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.
President Truman awarding Archie Van Winkle the Medal of Honor. | Photo: NY Daily New War Hero Archie Van Winkle | Photo: Wikimedia Commons 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.
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F. Bruce Willard of Homer, Alaska (RIP)
The “infamous” Charley Fannon! Retired Wasilla police chief.
Not born here. Became famous here. Arriving with but 50 cents.
Secretary of the Interior under Nixon.
Left his job because of his beliefs on Vietnam!
Add the latest Olympian too Kikkan Randall
bob ross was born in florida
you just got to love Alaska
The late Mel McDaniel grew up in Anchorage and went to west high school in the 60’s with my dad. He was known for hits like his country song “Baby’s Got Her Blue Jeans On” and “Louisiana Saturday Night”.
True ..the hidden valley ranch dressing ..this is true because I heard that at least sevral times about the hidden valley ranch dressing family ..true
I’d drop Curt Schilling off this list, since his time in Alaska was extremely brief (he left as an infant).
Don’t forget Tommy Moe. He won gold in the men’s downhill and silver in the Super G. Lillehammer’s 1994 Winter Olympic Games.
Brig General Rosanne Bailey, recently deceased and my first wife, had assignments in Alaska, retired and settled in a beautiful log cabin outside of Fairbanks.
Yes, Lincoln Brewster for sure. He is currently the Worship Leader for a Church that i attend here in California, Bayside of Granite Bay.
While living on Kodiak Island for 12 years, Alaska State Senator Fred Zharoff was our next door neighbor. His Son Freddy Jr and i used to ride Dirt Bikes all over the Island.
Jessica Moore. She played basketball in the MatSu Valley and graduated from Colony High in 2000. She played in the WNBA.
Thoroughly enjoyable. I look forward to more additions.
Ambrose Olsen – born and raised in Homer and became a New York model, for Armani, Hugo Boss, D&G, Nautica, Yves Saint Laurent, Dior, Louis Vuitton, Burberry and more. He also cat-walked runways.
Marine Corps not ’corp.
In the early 1950s, Steve Henson developed what is now known as ranch dressing while working as a plumbing contractor for three years in the remote Alaskan bush. In 1954, he and his wife Gayle opened Hidden Valley Ranch, a dude ranch near Santa Barbara, California, where they served it to guests.
That needs to be a story all by itself! Good one!
Filmaker Don Simpson….“top gun” “flashdance” “Beverly hills cop”and many more blockbusters.. West high grad
His partner was Jerry Bruckheimer
Thanks for the comment Stephenita!
Definitely a worthy candidate to be on the list. Great feedback Colette!
William “Bill” Oefelein, NASA astronaut among other things. West High School graduate, National news love triangle issue with a coworker.. His wife Colleen Oefelein is an author.
Mark should have made the list. Carlos, Mario and Lincoln are all right there close too! Thanks for the feedback. :)
You forgot both Charlie Edwardson of Barrow who was active on Alaska Native issues & Land Claims & Kyosuke Yasuda aka Frank Yasuda who founded Beaver.