Famous People of Nome

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Famous People of Nome


Nor­we­gian explor­er Roald Amund­sen arrived in Nome in 1906, on the tail-end of his three-year voy­age through the North­west Pas­sage. His Arc­tic adven­tures became the stuff of leg­end: lead­ing the first expe­di­tions to reach the South Pole in 1911 and the North Pole in 1926. A bust of Amund­sen is locat­ed out­side Nome City Hall.


Ada Black­jack earned noto­ri­ety as a female Robin­son Cru­soe,” after being strand­ed in the wilder­ness for two years on remote Wrangel Island. A des­ti­tute wid­ow, Ada had joined the expe­di­tion to earn mon­ey for her young son’s med­ical care. Hers is a sto­ry sur­vival against the odds in the harsh con­di­tions of remote Alaska.


Home­town boy turned World War II hero, Jim­my Doolit­tle made Nome proud with his avi­a­tion accom­plish­ments, includ­ing lead­ing the 1942 raid on Tokyo after the Japan­ese bomb­ing of Pearl Har­bor. Jimmy’s inde­pen­dence, courage and com­pet­i­tive nature had their roots in the rough and tum­ble envi­ron­ment of gold-rush era Nome.

Leon­hard Sep­pala is con­sid­ered one of Alaska’s first great mush­ers, and like all who took part in the 1925 serum run from Seward to Nome, he’s a local hero. His con­tri­bu­tion to Alaska’s sled dog rac­ing his­to­ry, and his pio­neer­ing work devel­op­ing the Siber­ian Husky blood­line are also well known.

Leon­hard Seppala’s said his lead dog Togo was the best dog that ever trav­eled the Alas­ka trail.” Sep­pala and Togo com­plet­ed many jour­neys togeth­er, includ­ing 261 miles mush­ing through the dri­ving winds and blind­ing snow of the 1925 relay that brought a life-sav­ing serum to Nome dur­ing a diph­the­ria epidemic.

Gun­nar Kaasen and sled dog Bal­to made his­to­ry on the last leg of the 1925 mush­ing relay, bring­ing life-sav­ing serum safe­ly to Nome dur­ing a diph­the­ria out­break. After their arrival on Front Street, they received the bulk of the media’s atten­tion, going on a tour of the U.S. after­ward and even appear­ing in movies. 

Grow­ing up half-Native in World War II era Nome, Alber­ta Schenck was just a teenag­er when she began pub­licly defy­ing those who sought to treat her as a sec­ond-class cit­i­zen. Her advo­ca­cy con­tributed to the pass­ing of the 1945 Alas­ka Anti-Dis­crim­i­na­tion Act – well before the Civ­il Rights move­ment in oth­er parts of the U.S.


Nome’s ear­ly years were plagued with fight­ing over min­ing claims, jury fix­ing, and embez­zle­ment of pub­lic funds – cor­rup­tion that went to the high­est lev­els of gov­ern­ment. In 1901, Judge Wick­er­sham arrived to set things in order, pre­sid­ing over many impor­tant cas­es. A long and sto­ried career fol­lowed, detailed in folksy diaries.


Mar­jorie Ram­beau was just 9 when she land­ed in Nome with her moth­er and grand­moth­er, who had planned to start a hos­pi­tal there. Mar­jorie dressed like a boy so she could sneak into Front Street’s dance halls to sell dough­nuts, sweep floors, and play her ban­jo for the min­ers. Her career as a not­ed stage and screen actress earned her two Oscar nominations.   ...more


Wyatt Earp is prob­a­bly the best known of Nome’s ear­ly res­i­dents, based on his noto­ri­ety for the Gun­fight at the OK Cor­ral,” which has been immor­tal­ized in sev­er­al books and movies. The for­mer law­man and his wife Josie were suc­cess­ful in min­ing the min­ers” of Nome. They ran the Dex­ter Saloon for a few sum­mers, and left town with a report­ed $80,000.

Tex Rickard was a like­able fel­low and remark­able sales­man, who con­vinced Wyatt Earp to join him in Nome’s boom­ing saloon busi­ness. Their com­pet­ing saloons both did well, and they each left Nome for more adven­tures. Rickard became one of the coun­try’s first great sports pro­mot­ers, build­ing New York’s third Madi­son Square Garden.


Gold min­er turned author Rex Beach spent years in Nome detail­ing his obser­va­tions in pulp fic­tion nov­els that were lat­er made into movies. His pop­u­lar sto­ries focused on the dra­mat­ic and sala­cious nature of Nome’s ear­ly days. His nov­el The Spoil­ers was made into a movie five times, with one ver­sion star­ring John Wayne and Mar­lene Dietrich.