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In 1867, the territory of Alaska was purchased by the United States from the Russian Empire. The deal was struck for $7,200,000 by a man called William H. Seward. Though he was ridiculed at the time, he is now more famous for the deal than for his political achievements.
Alaska, the 49th state of the United States of America, has evolved from being an undeveloped state to one of the major contributors to the U.S. economy. Today, it boasts of more than five times the jobs it had 50 years ago, and a much more prosperous and stable population. During the 1970s and 1980s, Alaska witnessed an unprecedented developmental phase that helped to a great extent in its progress. Earlier, people who lacked facilities, flourished in all aspects of life during this period. Ever since, the contributions of the Alaskans to various fields of human activity have been remarkable.
Following are some of the famous people of Alaska, who continue to inspire many people across the world.
"Big Mike" HeneyMichael James Heney (1864-1910), a.k.a "Big Mike" or "The Irish Prince of Alaska", was a railroad contractor who built two of the most impeccable railroads viz., the 'White Pass and Yukon Route', and the 'Copper River and Northwestern Route', which are considered to be marvelous engineering feats. Remarkably, he built these rail routes without having any sort of formal technical education.
Ernest GrueningErnest Gruening (1887-1974) was a journalist, and the territorial governor of Alaska from 1935 to 1953. As a governor, he formed the Alaska Territorial Guard or Eskimo Scouts to protect the Alaskan region from Japanese invasions during World War II. He lobbied for the statehood of Alaska, and was a senator from 1956 to 1958. He was an able leader and a staunch opponent of the Vietnam War.
Ray MalaRay Mala (1906-1952) was a famous actor of yesteryears, and one of the most famous Alaskan film personalities. He starred in Eskimo/Mala The Magnificent, an Oscar winning film, as well as the first to win an Academy Award in the 'Best Film Editing' category. He was the first Native American movie star.
Elizabeth PeratrovichElizabeth Peratrovich (1911-1958) was a civil rights activist, who worked for the rights of native Alaskan people. She played a pivotal role in bringing about a major change in government attitude with regards to Alaska's Native citizens. Elizabeth championed the passage of the anti-discrimination bill, which guaranteed equal treatment for all citizens in public accommodations.
Howard RockHoward Rock (1911-1976) was the editor of the Tundra Times, and was instrumental in getting the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act passed. His efforts prevented the 'Atomic Energy Commission' from conducting nuclear tests at a site near Point Hope in Alaska, where he was born.
Benny BensonBenny Benson (1913-1972) was the man behind the conception and creation of the official flag of the State of Alaska. In a competition for students from grades seven to twelve in 1926, Benny's design was selected as the winning entry for the territorial flag, which later on became Alaska's state flag. He was only thirteen years old at that time.
Susan ButcherSusan Butcher (1954-2006), a dog musher, is the only woman to win theIditarod Sled Dog Race, for four consecutive years out of the five in which she participated, from 1986 to 1989. She died in 2006, and to pay tribute to her, the Alaskans celebrate the Susan Butcher Day on the first Saturday in March each year.
Molly Hootch and Anna TobelukBoth, Molly Hootch (born in 1956) and Anna Tobeluk (1957-1980), are credited for revolutionizing the Native Alaskan village education. Prior to 1976, many Alaskan villages lacked educational facilities beyond the eighth grade. A number of Native students together filed a suit against the State of Alaska for the provision of high schools in 100 of its villages. The case was named 'Tobeluk' but is popularly referred to as the 'Molly Hootch case', for her role as a leader in the plaintiffs' agitation. 126 schools were granted high school status by the court as a result of this effort.
Libby RiddlesLibby Riddles, a dog musher born in 1956, was the first woman to win theLast Great Race on Earth, a name for the 1,049 miles long Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, in 1985. She achieved this at the age of 29, and took 18 days, 2 minutes and 17 seconds on a route from Anchorage to Nome.
Sarah PalinSarah Louise Palin was born in 1964, and was the governor of Alaska till July 2009. She captured world's attention when she was nominated for the post of Vice President by the Republican Party. Although she lost to Senator John McCain, the presidential nominee, her popularity grew manifold. She is also an author, a sports journalist, a political commentator, and a commercial fisherwoman.
Irene BedardIrene Bedard, born in 1967, is a famous American actress born and brought up in Anchorage, Alaska. Irene has acted in a lot of Hollywood flicks, and was voted by People Magazine as one of the top 50 beautiful people in 1995. She is best known as the voice for the main character in the animated Disney film Pocahontas.
Trajan LangdonTrajan Langdon (born in 1976) is a famous basketball player who played for Cleveland Cavaliers, and is currently a top player for CSKA Moscow in Russia. Langdon, also nicknamed Alaskan Assassin, is the first Alaskan to play in the NBA.
Scott GomezScott Gomez, an ice hockey player born in 1979, is the first Alaskan to play in the American National Hockey League (NHL), and also the first player of Latino origin to achieve this distinction. Currently, he is playing for the Alaska Aces.
Carlos BoozerCarlos Boozer, born in 1981, is yet another basketball sensation raised in Alaska. He has been a part of the All-Stars NBA team as well as the gold medal winning U.S. basketball team at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.
More Famous Alaskans
The list of famous Alaskans cannot be complete without mentioning the following distinguished individuals, of whom, not only Alaska, but the entire world is proud.
Margaret Murie - Author, environmentalist, conservationist - called 'Grandmother of the Conservation Movement'
Virgil Franklin Partch - Cartoonist
Khaleed Leon "Khleo" Thomas - Actor, singer, rapper
Daryn Colledge - Footballer
Anna Kathryn Holbrook - American soap opera actress
Randy Kutcher - Baseball player
Jason Ryznar - Ice hockey player
Nathan West - Actor
Jewell - Actress, singer, songwriter, and guitarist
Sydney Mortimer Laurence - Painter
Austin Lathrop - Industrialist
Charles E. Bunnell - Educator
Margaret Elizabeth Bell - Writer
Vern Tejas - Mountaineer
All these people, and many more, have brought name, fame, and glory to Alaska, and the state continues to revel in their honor.
Famous Alaskan Criminals
Though, for years, Alaska has been associated with its beautiful landscapes, and captivating wildlife, crime has also been a eloquent part of its social setup. Given below is the list of some classic Alaskan fugitives, who became famous because of their illegal and anti-social ways.
Jefferson "Soapy" C. Smith - Conman, famous for crooked gambling
Edward Krause - Alaska's first suspected serial killer
Charles Hendrickson (a.k.a "The Blue Parka Bandit") - Robber, famous for donating a part of his booty to the Church
Nellie Beatty (a.k.a "The Black Bear") - Famous of her illegal dealings in mining, banking, and for prostitution.
Frank Canton - Bank robber, and a cattle thief
Tommy Johnson (a.k.a "The Blueberry Kid") - Suspected murderer, who could never be caught
William Dempsey - Murderer
William Wellington & Edward Hanson (a.k.a "The Sheep Camp Vigilantes") - Burglars
Fred Hardy - Robber and murderer
With the passage of time, more and more Alaskans are taking on new challenges in various fields, and proving themselves. Taking inspiration from the 'glorious Alaskans', the coming generations continue to make their state, and the world proud.