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Famous Merchant Mariners

Merchant Mariners

Captain Leonard LaRue (1914 – 2001): Larue was captain of the Meredith Victory during the Korean War. He commanded the vessel in December 1950, when it evacuated 14,000 Korean refugees from Hungnam, Korea. This was the largest humanitarian evacuation ever recorded by a single vessel.

Captain Hugh Nathaniel Mulzac (1886 – 1971): Mulzac received the first United States Ship Masters License ever issued to an African American. He also served as captain of the Liberty Ship Booker T. Washington, making him the first African American to command a fully integrated vessel in United States history. He became a prominent labor leader and advocated for racial equality in the merchant marine.

Merchant Mariners who achieved fame in other pursuits include:

Artists, Poets, Authors, and Journalists

Nathaniel Bowditch (1773 – 1838): Mathematician and Author. Bowditch wrote the book, The New American Practical Navigator in 1802. It remains in use today on United States Navy vessels. The Department of Marine Transportation at the United States Merchant Marine Academy is named Bowditch Hall in his honor. 

Richard Henry Dana Jr. (1815 – 1882): Lawyer, Politician, and Author. Dana wrote extensively on maritime matters. He is best known for his memoir Two Years Before the Mast (1840) and his book The Seaman’s Friend: Containing a Treatise on Practical Seamanship, with Plates; A Dictionary of Sea Terms; Customs and Usages of the Merchant Service; Laws Relating to the Practical Duties of Master and Mariners (1841).

Eugene O’Neill (1888 - 1953): Playwright and Author. O’Neill wrote the play Long Day’s Journey into Night (1956) and was a Nobel Laureate in Literature (1936) and Pulitzer Prize recipient in Drama (1920, 1922, 1928, 1957). 

Irwin Allen Ginsberg (1954 – 1997): Poet and Author. Ginsberg contributed to the Beat Generation literary movement. He is best known for his poem Howl (1956). 

Herbert Edwin Huncke (1915 – 1996): Poet and Author. Huncke is best known for his contribution to the Beat Generation literary movement. 

Irving McClure Johnson (1905 – 1991): Lecturer, Sailing Pioneer, and Author. Johnson achieved fame circumnavigating the globe on sailboats and making amateur films on the subject. During WWII, he commanded the U.S. Navy survey vessel, USS Sumner.  

Jean-Louis Lebris de Kérouac, “Jack Kerouac” (1922 – 1969): Author. Kerouac contributed to the Beat Generation literary movement. He is best known for the novel On the Road (1957).

John Griffith Chaney, “Jack London” (1876 – 1916): Journalist and Author. London wrote prolifically and achieved fame for his journalism, short stories, and novels. He is best known for the novels The Call of the Wild (1903) and White Fang (1906) 

Herman Melville (1819 – 1891): Philosopher, Poet, and Author. Melville wrote poetry, short stories, and novels. He is best known for his novel Moby Dick (1851).  

Louis Dearborn L’Amour (1908 – 1988): Author. L’Amour wrote prolifically and is known for his bestselling novels about frontier life in the United States.  

Richard Scott Prather (1921 – 2007): Author. Prather wrote mystery novels for over 50 years and is best known for his Shell Scott novel series.

Hubert “Cubby” Selby, Jr. (1928 – 2004): Poet, Screenwriter, and Author. Selby is best known for his novels Last Exit to Brooklyn (1964) and Requiem for a Dream (1978).  

Gary Snyder (1930 – Present): Poet and Author. Snyder received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry (1975) and contributed to the Beat Generation literary movement. 

Nedd Willard (1926 – 2018): Author. Willard taught at the University of New Hampshire and Columbia University. He later served as a journalist and writer with the United Nations and World Health Organization.

Robin Wilson (1928 – 2013): Professor and Author. Wilson wrote science fiction novels and served as President of California State University, Chico, from 1987 to 1993.

Harvey Cox Jr. (1929 – Present):  Theologian, Educator, and Author. Cox taught at the Harvard Divinity School. He is best known for his work The Secular City: Secularization and Urbanization in Theological Perspective (1965).

Johnny Craig (1926 – 2001): Author, Illustrator, and Artist. Craig wrote and illustrated comic books from 1947 to 1980. 

Jerry Marcus (1924-2005): Cartoonist and Illustrator. Marcus wrote and illustrated the syndicated newspaper cartoon Trudy from 1963 to 2005.

James Nachtwey (1948): Photojournalist. Nachtwey is best known for his work photographing conflict zones. 

Douglass North (1920 – 2015): Economist and Historian. North received the Nobel Prize for research in economic history and applying economic theory and quantitative methods to explain economic and institutional change.

Ernie Schroeder (1916 – 2006): Artist and Illustrator. Schroeder illustrated comic books from the 1940s through the 1960s. 

Business and Labor Leaders

Joseph Curran (1906 – 1981): Labor Leader. Curran founded the National Maritime Union. He served as president of the union from 1937 to 1973.

Robert Kiyosaki (1947): Businessman and Author. Kiyosaki authored the personal finance guide Rich Dad, Poor Dad (2000).

Paul Teutul Sr. (1949): Businessman, Motorcycle Designer, and Television Producer. Teutul produced and appeared in the television show American Chopper from 2003 to 2019. He is also the owner of the Orange County Choppers, a motorcycle company. 


Sydney “Joe” Gold (1922 – 2004): Bodybuilder and Businessman. Gold founded Gold’s Gym and popularized weightlifting in the United States.

Cornelius Otis Johnson (1913 – 1946): Track and Field. Johnson won the Gold Medal in the High Jump at the 1936 Olympics.

Charlie Ernest “King Kong” Keller (1916 – 1990): Baseball Player. Keller played Major League Baseball from 1939 to 1952 and distinguished himself as a hitter.  

Robert Lawrence “Bobby” Layne (1926 – 1986): Football Player. Layne played Quarterback in the National Football League from 1948 to 1962. In 1967, he was inducted into the Professional Football Hall of Fame.

Sidney “Sid” Luckman (1916 – 1998): Football Player, Coach, and Executive. Luckman played professional football in the National Football League and later became a team executive and coach from 1939 to 1953. In 1965, he was inducted into the Professional Football Hall of Fame.  

Frank Francis Sinkwich Sr. (1920 – 1990): Football Player and Coach. Sinkwich received the NCAA Most Valuable Player Heisman Trophy in 1942. He went on to play in the National Football League from 1943 to 1947. 

Jim Francis Thorpe (1888 – 1953): Track and Field, Baseball Player, Basketball Player, Football Player and Coach. Thorpe was an American Indian and a Fox and Sax Nation member. He attended the Carlisle Indian School in Carlisle, PA, from 1903-1909. Thorpe distinguished himself as a collegiate and professional athlete in track and field, baseball, basketball, and football. He won two gold medals at the 1912 Olympics in track and field. From 1912 to 1928, he played professional baseball, football, and basketball. In 1963, he was inducted into the Professional Football Hall of Fame. The town of Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, is named in his honor.

Ewell Doak Walker II (1947 – 1998): Football Player. Walker played halfback and punter in the National Football League from 1950 to 1955. In 1986 he was inducted into the Professional Football Hall of Fame. 


Raymond Thomas Baily (1904 – 1980): Actor. Baily is best known for playing Mr. Drysdale on The Beverley Hillbillies from 1962 to 1971.

Odie Alex Bonner (1926 – 2003): Radio and Television Executive. Bonner worked for RKO radio and ABC television networks in Memphis, Tennessee, for 40 years. 

Leonard Alfred Schneider, “Lenny Bruce” (1925 – 1966): Comedian. Bruce was a prominent comedian and free speech activist in the 1950s and 1960s.

Peter Michael Falk (1927 – 2011): Actor and Comedian. Falk is best known for playing Lt. Frank Columbo on the television series Columbo from 1968 to 2003.

James Scott Bumgarner, “James Garner” (1928 – 2015): Actor, Producer, and Voice Artist. Garner is best known for playing Bret Maverick in the television show Maverick from 1957 to 1962 and Jim Rockford in The Rockford Files from 1974 to 1980.

Woody Wilson Guthrie (1912 – 1967): Musician. Guthrie was a prominent folk musician from the 1930s through the 1960s. He is best known for writing the song “This Land is Your Land.”

Gilbert Vandin “Cisco” Houston (1918 – 1961): Musician. Houston wrote and performed folk music from the 1930s until his death in 1961. He performed with Woody Guthrie and other prominent folk musicians in the Almanac Singers band.   

Ferlin Eugene Husky (1925 – 2011): Musician. Husky wrote and sang country music. He is best known for the songs “Wings of a Dove” and “Gone.” He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2010.

John Joseph Patrick Ryan, “Jack Lord” (1920 – 1998): Actor, Director, and Producer. “Jack Lord” is best known for playing Steve McGarrett on the television show Hawaii Five-O from 1968 to 1980.  

Terrance Stephen “Steve” McQueen (1930 – 1980): Actor. McQueen was a prolific film actor and Academy Award nominee. He is known for his roles in many films, including The Thomas Crown Affair (1968), Bullitt (1968), The Magnificent Seven (1960), and The Great Escape (1963). 

John Carroll O’Connor (1924 – 2001): Actor, Director, and Producer. O’Connor is best known for playing Archie Bunker on the television show All in the Family from 1971 to 1979.

David Alan Mamet (1947): Author, Playwright, Screenwriter, and Director. Mamet is a prolific author, playwright, and screenwriter and is best known for his Pulitzer Prize-winning play Glengarry Glenn Ross (1984).  

Denver Dell Pyle (1920 – 1997): Actor and Director. Pyle had a 50-year career acting in film and television. He is best known for playing “Uncle” Jesse Duke on the Dukes of Hazzard from 1979 to 1985. 

Nelson Smoke Riddle Jr. (1921 – 1985): Musician, Composer, and Arranger. Riddle was a prolific composer and arranger who worked with Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra and Ela Fitzgerald. He also scored numerous television series and films. He won three Grammy Awards. 

Geraldo Michael Rivera (1943): Journalist, Talk Show Host, Writer, and Attorney. Rivera is best known for his televised talk show, Geraldo, which aired from 1987 to 1998. 

William Oliver Stone (1946): Director, Screenwriter, and Producer. Stone is a prolific screenwriter and director. His film credits include Platoon (1986), Wall Street (1987), and Born on the Fourth of July (1989). He has won three Academy Awards.

Norman Eugene “Clint” Walker (1927 – 2018): Actor and Singer. Walker is known for his roles in Western films and television shows. He is best known for playing Cheyenne Brody on the television show Cheyenne from 1955 to 1963.

John Warden Lebzelter Jr; “Jack Warden” (1920 – 2006): Actor. Warden acted in films and television for 50 years and received two Academy Award nominations. 

William Theodore “Ted” Weems (1901 – 1963): Musician. Weems directed big bands during the 1920s and 1930s. In 1942, he joined the United States Merchant Marine and led the United States Merchant Marine Band for the duration of WWII. 

Haskell Wexler (1922 – 2015): Cinematographer, Director, and Producer. Wexler is known for his cinematography of the films Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1966), In the Heat of the Night (1967), Medium Cool (1969), American Graffiti (1973), and Days of Heaven (1978).

Military Leaders

David Haskell Hackworth (1930 – 2005): United States Army Officer, Author, and Journalist. Hackworth was a decorated veteran of the Korean War (1950 – 1953) and Vietnam War (1955 – 1975). He subsequently wrote articles focusing on military matters for Newsweek Magazine. Hackworth was the Vice-Presidential candidate for the Independent Party in 1991. 

George Herman O’Brien Jr. (1927 – 2005): United States Marine Officer and Medal of Honor Recipient. Second Lieutenant O’Brien received the Medal of Honor during the Korean War. He was cited for conspicuous gallantry in leading a platoon of United States Marines during an assault on an enemy position on 27 October 1952.


Alvin James Baldus (1926 – 2017): Baldus served as a U.S. Congressman for Wisconsin from 1975 to 1981.

Gordon Canfield (1898 – 1972): Canfield served as a U.S. Congressman for New Jersey from 1941 to 1961. He is considered the Father of the United States Coast Guard Reserve.

Alfonso Juan Cervantes (1920 – 1983): Cervantes was mayor of St. Louis from 1965 to 1973. 

Joseph Yale Resnick (1924 – 1969): Resnick founded the company Channel Master after inventing a marketable and inexpensive television antenna. He served as a U.S. Congressman for New York from 1965 to 1969.

Last updated: Tuesday, July 12, 2022