Idaho has been home to many people who have contributed to our world in many ways--from people who revolutionized businesses to athletes who set world and Olympic records to politicians who have helped shape our national character and debate. On this page, you will find short biographical paragraphs about many who have called Idaho home.
Gutzon Borglum (1867-1941) was born near Bear Lake to pioneer parents who emigrated from Denmark. He was a sculptor whose most well-known work is the Mount Rushmore Memorial, which depicts four U.S. Presidents (Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt) carved into the mountainside of South Dakota's Black Hills. A large bust of Abraham Lincoln by Borglum is on display in the U.S. Capitol.
Carol Ryrie Brink (1895-1981) was born in Moscow. Her parents died when she was very young and she was raised by her grandmother, Caddie Woodhouse. Brink later became a children's author and told of her grandmother's life in the book, Caddie Woodlawn. The novel won the 1936 Newbery Medal.
Edgar Rice Burroughs (1875-1950) is an American author, best known as the creator of the Tarzan stories. Burroughs spent some time in Idaho during the early 1900s, and it is rumored that he wrote the first draft of Tarzan of the Apes while working at a stationery store in Pocatello. The first Tarzan book was published in 1912.
Vardis Fisher (1895-1968) was born in Annis (near Rigby) and became a writer. His book, Idaho Guide, is one of the best books about Idaho's people and places. One of his novels, The Children of God, is about the members of the LDS religion; it won the Harper Prize in Fiction in 1939. His novel, Mountain Man, was the inspiration for the movie "Jeremiah Johnson." He had a regular column in The Idaho Statesman from 1943 to 1950. Between 1935 and 1939, he directed the Idaho Writer's Project of the WPA, writing several books about Idaho. Fisher died in Hagerman.
Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961), author of classics such as The Old Man and the Sea, A Farewell to Arms and The Sun Also Rises. He was born in Illinois, but later maintained a home in Sun Valley. Hemingway worked on For Whom the Bell Tolls in Idaho. In 1954, he won the Nobel Prize for literature. He spent his last years in Ketchum and is buried there.
Ezra Pound (1885-1972) was born in Hailey, but spent most of his life in Europe. He achieved fame as a writer and has been called modern poetry's most important writer. Among his works are The Cantos, an 800-page novel series that took him 50 years to complete.
Marilynne Robinson (1943- ) is an award-winning American authorwho was born in Sandpoint. Her first novel, Housekeeping, was released in1980 and won a Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Her second novel, Gilead, came out in 2004 and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction and the Ambassador Book Award. Her third book, Home, published in 2008, was also acclaimed, as a finalist for National Book Award and receiving the Orange Prize for Fiction.
Minerva Teichert (1888-1976) grew up on a homestead outside of American Falls. She was an painter who became well-known for her depictions of Western and Mormon subjects. Much of her work was done while she lived on a ranch in Cokeville, Wyoming.
Kristin Armstrong (1973- ) is a professional road bicycle racer who won the gold medal at the 2008 Olympics Women's Time Trials. She graduated from the University of Idaho and resides in Boise. She also medaled in the World Champsionships in 2005, 2006 and 2007, winning the 2006 championship.
Christin Cooper (1959- ) was a silver medalist in alpine ski racing in the 1984 Olympics, held in Sarajevo. In honor of her silver medal, a run at the Sun Valley Resort carries her name. She is from Ketchum.
Susan "Susie" Corrock (1951- ) is originally from Ketchum, and won the bronze medal in downhill skiing at the 1972 Winter Olympics in Sapporo, Japan. In 1970, she won the U.S. Junior Nationals at slalom and giant slalom.
Stacy Dragila (1971- ) was a pole vaulter for the Idaho State University women's track and field team and won the first gold medal in women's pole vaulting in the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia. She lives in Pocatello and serves as an assistant coach for Idaho State University's track and field team.
Dick Fosbury (1947- ) won the high jump gold medal in the 1968Olympics, held in Mexico City; he set a world record (7 feet 4.25 inches) using a back-first technique known as the Fosbury Flop. He also won the NCAA outdoor champsionship in 1969. He is a civil engineer in Ketchum.
Gretchen Fraser (1919-1994) was an Olympic medalist in alpineskiing. She took the gold in slalom and silver in combined at the 1948 Olympics in St. Moritz. She was the first American woman to win a gold medal at the winter Olympics. She moved to Sun Valley in 1938 and served as a mentor to many female ski racers including Christin Cooper and Picabo Street. She was inducted into the National Ski Hall of Fame in 1960. Gretchen's Gold, a ski run at Sun Valley, is named for her.
Mike Garman (1949- ) broke into major league baseball playing for the Boston Red Sox as a relief pitcher. During his baseball career, which spanned from 1968 through 1978, he played for the Red Sox, the Cardinals, the Cubs, the Dodgers (during the 1977 World Series) and the Expos. He was born in Caldwell.
Bill Johnson (1960- ) was the first American man to ever win an Olympic goldmedal in alpine skiing. He took the gold medal in the downhill event at in the 1984 Olympics in Sarajevo. Although he was reared in Oregon, he learned to ski at Bogus Basin Ski Resort, just outside of Boise.
Walter Johnson (1887-1946), nicknamed The Big Train, played major league baseball for 20 years and was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in the first year it was organized, 1936. He was elected along with Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner and Christy Mathewson. Johnson was born in Kansas, but moved to Weiser in his early teens and played for the Weiser Senators in 1906 and 1907. He was pitching in the semi-pro Idaho State League when a talent scout spotted him and signed him to a contract with the Washington Nationals (later Washington Senators, now Minnesota Twins). Johnson was considered the premier power pitcher of his era and may well have thrown over 100 miles per hour from a sidearm angle. His record total of 3,509 strikeouts stood for more than 55 years until it was surpassed in 1983. Johnson once pitched 84 consecutive scoreless innings. He and Cy Young are the only pitchers to have won 400 games or more. He twice won the American League Most Valuable Player (1913 and 1924). Johnson played in two World Series--1924 and 1925.
Harmon Killebrew (1936-2011) was born in Payette in 1936. He became a great hitter in baseball, and later attributed his abilities to beginning with one of his first jobs--painting houses. He played for the Washington Senators, the Minnesota Twins and the Kansas City Royals. He led the Minnesota Twins to three championships, and won six home-run crowns. He is listed eighth on the all-time list with 573 homers. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1984. During his playing years, his nickname was "Killer."
Jerry Kramer (1936- ) moved to Idaho in his youth and went to high school in Sandpoint. He attended the University of Idaho on a football scholarship. He was drafted in the fourth round of the 1958 NFL draft and became an offensive lineman and kicker for the Green Bay Packers, where he helped the team win five NFL titles and the first two Super Bowls during his eleven-year career (1958-1968). He was selected as an All-Pro in 1960, 1962, 1963, 1966 and 1967. He was inducted into the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame in 1975.
Vernon Law (1930- ) was born in 1930 in Meridian. He played for 16 years with the Pittsburgh Pirates as a pitcher, winning 162 games. In 1960, he was awarded the Cy Young Award as baseball's best pitcher.
Andrea Lloyd (1965- ) is a Moscow native who played on the U.S. Women'sBasketball Team in the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, Korea. The team brought the gold medal back to the U.S.
Debbie McDonald (1954- ) brough home the bronze medal in dressage in the 2004 Summer Olympics. She has also won silver and bronze medals in world championships, as gold medals in the Pan American Games. In 1999, she was named USOC Female Equestrian Athlete of the Year. She lives in Hailey, where she trains and teaches riders at a local equestrian venue.
Dan O'Brien (1966- ) took the gold medal in the decathlon in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. He graduated from the University of Idaho in Moscow, which honored him by naming its Track and Field Complex after him. O'Brien was a three-time World Champion (1991, 1993 and 1995) and five-time National Champion Decathlete.
Dean Oliver (1930- ) won eight world championships in rodeo calf roping in the 1950s and 60s, along with three consecutive titles as world champion All-Around Cowboy by the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association from 1963 to 1965. He is from Nampa and decided on a career in rodeo after attending the Snake River Stampede in 1947. He still holds the PRCA record to tie-down roping world championship.
Dee Pickett was the 1984 World Champion Cowboy and was inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in August 2003. Pickett was also the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association Rookie of the Year in 1978. He played for Boise State University as starting quarterback in 1976-77. Pickett is from Caldwell. His son, Cody Pickett (1950- ), followed in his father's footsteps, achieving success as a national rodeo champion during high school and playing professional football for the San Francisco 49ers and the Houston Texans in the NFL from 2004 to 2006.
Jason "Jake" Plummer (1974- ) played professional football for ten years, six years as quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals and four with the Denver Broncos. He was born in Boise.
Steve Preece (1947- ) played for nine seasons (from 1969-1977) in the National Football League. He grew up in Boise and played football at Borah High School. He was the starting quarterback for Oregon State University. Preece played various positions for the New Orleans Saints, the Philadelphia Eagles, the Denver Broncos, the Los Angeles Rams and the Seattle Seahawks before retiring.
Hayes Edward "Big Ed" Sanders (1930-1954) won the gold in heavyweightboxing at the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki, Finland. He attended Idaho State College (now Idaho State University) on a boxing/football scholarship after attracting the attention of the boxing coach Dubby Holt and the football coach Babe Caccia. His championship bout with Sweden's Ingemar Johansson became boxing lore when Johansson was eventually disqualified by the referee during the second round for "failure to fight." Sander was the first African American Olympic Heavyweight Champion, and returned to the U.S. a national hero.
Picabo Street (1971- ) is an Olympic medalist in alpine skiing. She was born in Triumph, southeast of Sun Valley. She took the silver medal in downhill at the 1994 Olympics in Lillehammer and the gold medal in the Super-G at the 1998 Olympics in Nagano. A run at Sun Valley is named after her.
Larry Wilson (1938- ) was born in 1938 in Rigby and became known as the "Toughest Man in Football," no doubt in part because he once intercepted a pass with both hands in casts. He had 52 career interceptions, and was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1978. He played for the St. Louis Cardinals from 1960-1972. He became the NFL's top free safety, and made the "safety blitz" famous. He was named All-NFL six times and played in eight Pro Bowls.
Joe Albertson (1906-1993) was born in Oklahoma, and moved with his family to Caldwell when he was three. He attended the College of Idaho in Caldwell (now Albertson College), but had to leave when he ran out of money. He found work as a grocery-store clerk, and in 1939, he opened his own grocery store in Boise on 16th Street. He built Albertson's into a large supermarket chain, which now has stores throughout the United States. He also donated time and money to his former college, which in 1991 was renamed Albertson College in his honor.
Gregory C. Carr (1959- ) founded the first technology company to sell voice mail to telephone companies. He and Scott Jones founded Boston Technology in 1986. He also served as the chair of Prodigy, an early global Internet service provider. In the late 1990s, Carr dedicated himself to humanitarian efforts. He formed the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard University, and is heavily involved in philanthropic efforts in Africa, most notably the restoration of Mozambique's Gorongosa National Park. He was born in Idaho Falls.
Philo T. Farnsworth (1906-1971) was born in Utah and moved to Rigby as a young boy. When he was in high school, Farnsworth developed the image dissector, which was the invention that led to the creation of the television. Due to a patent dispute, Farnsworth didn't receive credit for his invention for many years. He has since been nationally recognized as "The Father of Television" and a statue stands in the U.S. Capitol depicting him with a television tube. Rigby is also home to a museum that houses many items significant to Farnsworth and his early invention. For an interesting article about Farnsworth, please click here.
Jon Huntsman, Sr. (1937- ) is an American businessman and philanthropist. Born in Blackfoot, Huntsman founded several profitable manufacturing and finance businesses, including Huntsman Corporation and Huntsman Gay Global Capital. In addition to his business activities, Huntsman had a career in politics serving in the Nixon Whitehouse, as well in a variety of posts for the Republican Party and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Huntsman is also chairman and founder of the Huntsman Cancer Institute and serves on the board of the American Red Cross. Huntsman's son, Jon Huntsman, Jr., is a former U.S. Ambassador to China and Governor of Utah.
Harry W. Morrison (1889-1971) was a co-founder of the Morrison-Knudsen Company (now The Washington Group), an international engineering, mining, civil and industrial construction company. M-K was responsible for a number of the 20th Century's most notable projects, including a number of large dams: the Hoover Dam, the Imperial Dam, the Bonneville Dam and the Grand Coulee Dam. The company helped build Navy airfields across the Pacific during World War II and constructed the San Francisco side of the Bay Bridge. Morrison moved to Boise during his teen-age years and began M-K there in 1912.
John Richard "Jack" Simplot (1909-2008 ) is better known as J.R. Simplot. He came to Idaho in 1911 at age two from Iowa. As a young man, Simplot rented a farm near Declo and grew potatoes. He became the country's largest shipper of fresh potatoes. In the 1950s, he developed the technique that created the frozen French fry. Today, his company, J.R. Simplot, is based in Boise and is one of the world's largest frozen potato manufacturers/processors. For many years, Simplot spent a day each year, serving French fries at a Boise-area fast food restaurant.
Paul Revere Dick was the founder of the 1960s rock band, Paul Revere and the Raiders, which initially started in Boise. The group enjoyed success with hits like "Indian Reservation" (1971), "Steppin' Out" (1965), and "Mr. Sun, Mr. Moon" (1969).
Lillian Disney (1900-1997) was born in Spalding and married Walt Disney in 1925. She is credited with naming the most famous Disney creation, Mickey Mouse. Originally her husband was going to name the cartoon mouse Mortimer, but she said it was "too sissified" and suggested Mickey instead.
Lou Dobbs (1945- ), a nationally-known broadcaster and one of the first anchors at CNN when it started. He hosted CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight until late 2009. Dobbs was born in Texas, but moved to Rupert when he was 12. He attended Minico High School, serving as student body president.
Bill Fagerbakke (1957- ) attended Minico High School in Rupert and the University of Idaho. He is an actor who appeared on the TV sitcom "Coach" as well as other productions. He is currently the voice of Patrick Starr, SpongeBob's best friend, on the animated series, "SpongeBob Squarepants."
Gene Harris (1933-2000) was a jazz pianist who, after a successful career, retired to Boise in 1997. The Gene Harris Jazz Festival began in 1998 and is held in Boise annually.
Mark Lindsay (1942- ) joined the 1960s rock band Paul Revere and the Raiders after hearing them play at a Boise venue. He was one of eighteen children and began performing with local bands in Boise when he was 15. Lindsay was the lead singer and played the saxophone in the band. He left the group in 1975.
William Petersen (1953- ) is an actor best know for his role on the TV series "CSI." Petersen graduated from Bishop Kelly High School in Boise and attended Idaho State University in Pocatello on a football scholarship. During his time at ISU, he gained an interest in acting and has pursued a career in acting.
Gary Puckett (1942- ) is a Twin Falls High School graduate, who went on to form the popular 1960s music group, Gary Puckett & The Union Gap. The group had several hits from 1967 through 1971: "Woman, Woman," "Young Girl," and "This Girl Is A Woman Now." After the group disbanded in 1971, Puckett went on to have a successful solo career and continues to perform throughout the country.
Marjorie Reynolds, born Marjorie Goodspeed, (1917-1997) was a well-known actress in the 1940s, with over 70 film appearance. Her most famous part came in the film "Holiday Inn" where she and Bing Crosby sang the song "White Christmas" in a duet. She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. She was born in Buhl.
Nell Shipman (1892-1970), a pioneer in early film production, was born Helen Foster-Barham in British Columbia. With her husband, Ernest Shipman, she produced the most successful silent film in Canadian history, "Back to God's Country." She produced several films in the 1920s at a studio she maintained in Priest Lake.
Lana Turner (1921-1995) became a famous movie actress during the Golden Age of Hollywood. She was born Julia Jean Mildred Frances Turner in Wallace. When she was 16 years old, she was discovered by the publisher of the Hollywood Reporter at Schwab's Drug Store, a story which has become Hollywood legend. She signed a movie contract, but was required to change her name. She chose the name "Lana." Some of her more well-known movies include: "Johnny Eager" (1942),"Ziegfeld Girl" (1941), "The Postman Always Rings Twice" (1946), and "The Bad and The Beautiful" (1953).
Dawn Wells (1938- ), an actress, is best-known for her role as Mary Ann on the TV sitcom, "Gilligan's Island." She vacationed as a child in Teton Valley and later launched the Idaho Film and Television Institute in Driggs. In the mid 2000s, she also held a film and music festival called SpudFest in the summer. During the run of SpudFest, Wells maintained a home in the Teton Valley.
Carole King (1942- ) has called Idaho home for more than three decades. King is a Grammy Award-winning singer, songwriter and pianist who has been inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Her best-selling album Tapestry (released in 1971), remained on the charts for more than six years. She has been named the most successful female songwriter of the second half of the 20th Century.
Chief Pocatello: (1815-1884) was a Shoshone Indian Chief who gained national notoriety during the struggle between white emigrants and Native Americans. When he died in 1884, he was buired in a deep spring in Idaho along with his clothing, guns, knives and hunting equipment. Eighteen horses were also slaughtered and put into the spring on top of his body. The city of Pocatello is named in his honor; in 2008 the community undertook an effort to erect a statue of Chief Pocatello at the Pocatello Visitor's Center.
Forrest Bird (1921- ) is an inventor who developed a prototype mechanical ventilator that is widely used for acute and chronic cardiopulmonary care. The ventilator, invented in 1955, was revised to create a ventilator for infants, the "Babybird." It is responsible for reduced the rate of breathing-related infant mortality from 70 percent to 10 percent. He has received numerous awards for his scientific innovations, including two Lifetime Scientific Achievement awards. He was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1995. Originally from Massachusetts, Bird now resides in Sagle. In 2007, he opened the Bird Aviation and Invention Museum to showcase his inventions.
Polly Bemis (1853-1933) was born Lalu Nathoy in China, and was sold by her father to Chinese brigands when she was still a child. Eventually she was smuggled to the US where, in 1872, she was sold as a slave in San Franscisco for $2,500. Her buyer ran a saloon in the Warren mining camp in Idaho. Eventually she bought her freedom and ran a boarding house in Warren. She and her husband, Charlie Bemis, were among the first pioneers to settle the Idaho Territory, specifically along the Salmon River. A biographical novel, A Thousand Pieces of Gold, fictionalized Bemis' life; it was made into a film in 1991. Another book about Bemis, Polly Bemis: A Chinese American Pioneer, published in 2003, is used as an elementary classroom history book.
Gregory "Pappy" Boyington (1912-1988) was one of the most decorated American fighter pilots. During World War II, he commanded the famous U.S. Marine Corps squadron known as The Black Sheep Squadron, and shot down 26 planes in the Pacific theater. Boyington was shot down on his last combar mission and spent 20 months as a prisoner of war in Japan. He was awarded the Navy Cross and the Medal of Honor. Boyington was born in Coeur d'Alene. In September 2007, the airport in Coeur d'Alene was renamed Coeur d'Alene-Pappy Boyington Field after Boyington.
Bernard F. Fisher (1927- ) is the first living U.S. Air Force recipient of the MEdal of Honor and the only living USAF member to receive the medal as a result of an act of heroism during the Vietnam War. He is also a Silver Star recipient. He was born in Kuna and retired to his hometown upon leaving the military. A local park in Kuna, the Colonel Bernard Fisher Veteran's Memorial Park, is named after him. The plane he flew during the Vietnam War, an A-1 Skyraider, is on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. In 2006, he was a recipient of my Spirit of Freedom award.
Barbara Morgan (1951- ) was born in California and taught third grade in McCall, Idaho, for many years. In 1985, she was chosen for the Teacher in Space Program, operated by NASA. She received astronaut training and flew aboard the space shuttle Endeavor in August 2007.
Sacagawea (1788-1812) was born in what is now Idaho. She served as a guide to the famous Corps of Discovery led by Captains Lewis and Clark. She assisted the exploration party by digging roots and other types of foods, showing the men how to make leather clothes and moccasins, and saving important papers from a capsized canoe. She was one of the "Snake People," otherwise known as the Shoshone. Her image is on the U.S. one dollar coin.
Cecil Andrus (1931-) was born in Oregon, but has the distinction of serving four terms as the governor of Idaho (1971-1977, and 1987-1994). Between his terms as governor, he served as U.S. Secretary of the Interior under President Jimmy Carter.
Terrel Howard "T.H." Bell (1921-1996) served as the Secretary of Education under President Ronald Reagan (1981-1985). He was born and educated in Lava Hot Springs, and earned a M.A. from the University of Idaho. He spent most of his professional career in Utah before being appointed by Reagan. He rose from high school teacher to college professor to administrative position and was noted for driving a U-Haul truck from Utah to Washington when he moved to take over the U.S. Department of Education in 1981.
Ezra Taft Benson (1899-1994) served in both public office and national religious positions. He was born in Whitney, just over the border from Utah. He was a farm economist and Boise church leader. He served as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture from 1953 to 1961 in the Eisenhower Administration. He was named the 13th President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1985, and served in that position until his death in 1994.
William E. Borah (1865-1940) is well-known for his public service to Idaho. Idaho's tallest mountain peak, Borah Peak (elevation 12,662) in the Sawtooth National Forest, is named for him. He was born in Illinois and moved to Boise at age 35, in 1890, and worked as a lawyer. He was elected in 1907 to represent Idaho in the U.S. Senate, a position he held until he passed away in 1940.
Frank Church (1924-1984) was born in Boise and served for many years as a U.S. Senator (1957-1981). He was a leading opponent of the Vietnam War. He also worked on behalf of U.S. schools and the elderly. He worked to protect Idaho's wilderness, and the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area in central Idaho is named for him.
Larry EchoHawk (1948-) was born in Wyoming in 1948. He moved to Idaho when he was 30 years old and served as an attorney for the Shoshone-Bannock Indian Tribe in Eastern Idaho. In 1991, he was elected Idaho's Attorney General, making him the first Native American attorney general of any state. In 2009, President Barack Obama nominated EchoHawk to run the Bureau of Indian Affairs. EchoHawk is a Pawnee Indian.
Willam Mark Felt, Sr. (1913-2008 ) is a former FBI agent who was revealed in 2005 to be "Deep Throat," the secret source of information on Watergate for Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. Felt was the second-ranking man at the FBI when he provided Woodward and Bernstein with critical leads on the story that eventually led to the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon. For more than thirty years, Felt denied involvement with Woodward and Bernstein. Felt was born in Twin Falls and graduated from Twin Falls High School. He also graduated from the University of Idaho.
Joseph Garry (1910-1976) was born on the Coeur d'Alene Reservation in Idaho. He was a schoolteacher and became the Tribal Chairman of the Coeur d'Alene Tribe. He served in that position for 20 years. He also served as president of the National Congress of American Indians, which is the nation's largest Native American group. In 1956, he was elected as a state representative, making him the first Native American in Idaho's legislature. He was named Outstanding Indian in North America twice during his lifetime.
Howard W. Hunter (1907-1995) served as the 14th President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, following fellow Idahoan Ezra Taft Benson. He served the shortest amont of time of any Church president--just nine months. Hunter was born in Boise.
Sarah Heath Palin (1964- ) is the first woman nominated to share a Republican presidential ticket. She was selected by John McCain as his running mate for the 2008 presidential election. Palin, who in 2006 was the first female elected as the Governor of Alaska, was born in Sandpoint, and graduated from the University of Idaho.
Gracie Bowers Pfost (1906-1965) was born in Arkansas; her family moved to a farm near Boise a few years later. She ran as a Democrat for the U.S. House of Representatives in 1950, but lost to John T. Wood, the Republican incumbent. In 1952, she ran again and, this time, was elected. She was the first woman to represent Idaho in the U.S. House of Representatives. She served five terms (1953-1963) and played a key role in making Alaska the 49th state.