USA Famous People of Idaho

Idaho Biographies

Joe Albertson  - Joseph Albert "Joe" Albertson (October 17, 1906 – January 20, 1993) was the founder of the Albertsons chain of grocery stores and a notable philanthropist.

Albertson was born in Yukon, Oklahoma Territory. He was one of four sons born to Rhoda and Earl Albertson. Before he was three, the family moved to Caldwell, Idaho, in 1909, where Joe grew up.

After graduating from Caldwell High School in 1925, Albertson studied business for two years at the College of Idaho in Caldwell. While in college in 1927, he began his career in the grocery industry as a clerk at a local Safeway store. In 1930, Joe married his college classmate Kathryn McCurry, of Boise, Idaho. They had one daughter, Barbara Jean Newman.

Albertson quickly moved through the ranks with Safeway, until he was supervising more than a dozen stores. But he was not satisfied and wanted to start his own store—one that he could build to his own specifications and manage his own way. With $5,000 of the money he and Kathryn had saved, and with $7,500 borrowed from his wife's aunt, Albertson formed a partnership with L.S. Skaggs, a former Safeway division manager, and Tom Cuthbert, Skaggs' accountant. At the age of 32, Albertson opened his store in 1939 on three principles: quality, good value, and excellent service. Albertson is credited as being one of the pioneers of the complete one-stop, self-service supermarket concept. • Joe Albertson Books

Ezra Taft Benson (1899 - 1994) Former secretary of Agriculture, prophet of the LDS church.

Born on a farm in Whitney, Idaho, Benson was the oldest of eleven children. He was the great grandson of another Ezra Taft Benson, now known as "Ezra T. Benson", who was appointed by Brigham Young as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles from 1846 on. Beginning his academic career at Utah State University, he was a 1926 graduate of Brigham Young University (after serving a church mission in Britain from 1921 to 1923). He received his masters degree from Iowa State University and did preliminary work on a doctorate at the University of California at Berkeley, but never completed this degree. Benson pursued a career in agriculture and later served in many church leadership positions. Just after receiving his masters he returned to Whitney to run the family farm, but later became the county agriculture extension agent. In 1926 he married Flora Smith Amussen; they had six children. • Ezra Taft Benson Books

Gutzon Borglum (1867 - 1941) The Sculptor of Mount Rushmore; born near Bear Lake.

Former Newsweek editor John Taliaferro calls Mount Rushmore "one of the nation's most luminescent beacons of democracy," ranking up there with the Liberty Bell and the Statue of Liberty. Yet comparatively little is known about its remarkable genesis. Taliaferro wryly notes that pop singer Cher "honestly believed that the sculpture was a natural formation." He tells the story of how Rushmore was conceived and built, and why controversy surrounded the project from the start. Great White Fathers is about the meaning of public art, the rise of automobile tourism, and the development of kitsch culture. At its center is Rushmore's feisty sculptor Gutzon Borglum, who waged an energetic campaign on behalf of his artistic vision and then carved the faces of four presidents into a mountainside. Taliaferro discusses every conceivable aspect of the monument, from the filming of Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest (a minor hullabaloo) to the Native American activists who have threatened it (a more significant one) to recent suggestions by conservatives that Ronald Reagan's image be added (not yet one only because it hasn't approached reality). Great White Fathers is an engaging blend of travelogue and history; vacationers willing to spend umpteen hours driving all the way to the Black Hills of South Dakota would be wise also to invest a few in this fascinating book. --John J. Miller • Gutzon Borglum Books

Carol R. Brink - Carol Ryrie Brink (1895-1981) an American author of over thirty juvenile and adult books. Her novel Caddie Woodlawn won the 1936 Newbery Medal.

Born Caroline Ryrie on December 28, 1895, in Moscow, Idaho, the only child of Alexander and Henrietta (Watkins) Ryrie, Brink was orphaned by age 8 and raised by her maternal grandmother, Caroline Watkins, the model for Caddie Woodlawn. Her grandmother's life and storytelling abilities inspired her writing at an early age.

She started writing for her school newspapers and continued that in college. She attended the University of Idaho for three years (1914-17) before transferring to the University of California in 1917, where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1918. On June 12 of that year, she married University of Minnesota instructor Raymond Woodard Brink, a young mathematics professor she had met in Moscow. They made their home in St. Paul for forty-two years, where they raised a son and a daughter, spending summers in the Wisconsin backwoods, although they did traveled for several years in Scotland and France.

Anything Can Happen on the River, her first novel, was published in 1934. She wrote fiction throughout her life, and added poetry and painting to her later accomplishments. She was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from the University of Idaho in 1965. . Brink Hall, which houses the UI English Department and faculty offices, is named in her honor. The children's section of the Moscow, ID Carnegie public library is also named after her.  • Carol R. Brink Books

Frank F. Church senator  Frank Forrester Church III (July 25, 1924 – April 7, 1984) was a United States Senator from Idaho, serving four terms from 1957 to 1981. Church was a member of the Idaho Democratic Party.

Frank Church was raised in Boise, Idaho. In his youth, Church admired William E. Borah, who then represented Idaho in the United States Senate. Church graduated from Boise High School in 1942, where he served as student body president. As a junior in 1941, he won the American Legion National Oratorical Contest. The prize was sufficient to provide for four years at the college of the winner's choice. Church chose Stanford University, enrolling in 1942.

In 1943, Church enlisted in the U.S. Army and served as a military intelligence officer in the China-Burma-India theater. Following his discharge in 1946, he returned to Stanford to complete his education, receiving his bachelor's degree in 1947.

Also in 1947, he married Bethine Clark, daughter of Chase A. Clark, a former Democratic governor of Idaho, and entered Harvard Law School. After one year at Harvard, Church transferred to Stanford Law School, when he thought the cold Massachusetts winter was the cause of a pain in his lower back • Frank F. Church Books

Lou Dobbs - Anchor and managing editor of CNN's Lou Dobbs Moneyline; grew up in Rupert

Dobbs, cable TV anchor and journalist, offers strong opinions on what he terms the war on the middle class, America's "working men and women." From corporate ownership of our political system to the near extinction of labor unions and the outsourcing of many jobs, the author paints a grim picture indeed. He is critical of churches that favor social issues under the banner of "family values" rather than promoting the common good, and decries the state of America's health-care system and education. The author's recommendations include individuals' changing their voter registration from Democrat or Republican to Independent, public financing of elections, and promoting voter initiatives and referenda. He wants to reform the lobbyist system in Washington, impose ethical standards on Congress, change the process of trade negotiations, and strictly protect our borders from illegal immigrants. Dobbs is a controversial figure. Although he correctly identifies important national issues in this book, his perspective will be embraced by his supporters and rejected by critics. Mary Whaley • Lou Dobbs Books

Fred Dubois (1851 - 1930) Senator, born in Crawford County. Fred Thomas Dubois (May 29, 1851 in Palestine, Illinois – February 14, 1930 in Washington, D.C.) was a controversial American politician who served two terms in the United States Senate from Idaho. He was best-known for his opposition to the gold standard and his efforts to disenfranchise Mormon voters.

Dubois was of French-Canadian descent. His paternal grandfather, Toussaint Dubois, was an immigrant who distinguished himself at the Battle of Tippecanoe. Dubois' father, Jesse K. Dubois, was an official at the United States Land Office in Palestine, Illinois, a former judge and state legislator, an early supporter of the Republican Party, and a close friend of fellow Illinois Republican Abraham Lincoln. In 1856 the elder Dubois was elected Illinois State Auditor and moved the family to the state capital, Springfield.

Fred Dubois studied at Yale from 1870 to 1872, where he was elected to Scroll and Key. He then participated in business until 1875, when he was appointed to the board of railroad and warehouse commissioners of Illinois. He held this position for one year, resigning shortly before the death of his father. In 1880, he moved to Idaho Territory with his brother, Jesse Dubois, Jr. (1850-1908), a doctor. • Fred Dubois Books

Philo T. Farnsworth (1906 - 1971) Inventor of television.  He first came up with the idea when he was only 14 years old.  Emigrated to Rigby in 1919 at the age of 11. Many inventors had written about, worked on, or built various electro-mechanical television systems prior to Farnsworth's seminal contribution, among them John Logie Baird, Paul Nipkow, Aleksandr Stoletov, Karl Ferdinand Braun, Boris Rosing, Herbert E. Ives, Leon Theremin and Alexander Bain.

Several inventors also wrote about, devised, or built electronic apparatus prior to Farnsworth, including Boris Rosing, Alan Archibald Campbell-Swinton, Shelford Bidwell, Kalman Tihanyi, Vladimir Zworykin, and Kenjiro Takayanagi. But Farnsworth designed and built the world's first working fully electronic television system, employing electronic scanning in both the pickup and display devices, which he first demonstrated to news media on September 1, 1928, televising a motion picture film, and to the public at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia on August 25, 1934, televising live images • Philo T. Farnsworth Books

Vardis Fisher author, Annis Vardis Alvero Fisher (March 31, 1895, in Annis, Idaho – July 9, 1968, in Hagerman, Idaho) was a well respected writer best known for historical novels of the old West and the monumental 12-volume Testament of Man series of novels, depicting the history of humans from cave to civilization.

Vardis Fisher's novel, Mountain Man (1965), was the basis for Sydney Pollack's film, Jeremiah Johnson, nominated for a Golden Palm award at the 1972 Cannes Film Festival. The Mothers: An American Saga of Courage told the story of the Donner Party tragedy. His historical novel, Children of God, tracing the history of the Mormons, won the 1939 Harper Prize in Fiction. Tale of Valor is a novel recounting the Lewis and Clark Expedition. God or Caesar? is his non-fiction book on how to write.

Vardis Fisher was born near present-day Rigby, Idaho of a Mormon family and descent. After graduating from the University of Utah in 1920, Vardis acquired a Master of Arts degree (1922) and a Ph.D. (1925) at the University of Chicago. Vardis was an assistant professor of English at the University of Utah (1925-1928) and at New York University (1928-1931), where he was friends with Thomas Wolfe. Vardis also taught as a summer professor at Montana State University (1932-1933). Between 1935 and 1939, he was the director of the Idaho Writer's Project of the WPA, writing several books about Idaho. He was also a newspaper columnist for the Idaho Statesman and Idaho Statewide (which later became the Intermountain Observer). • Vardis Fisher Books

Jon Meade Huntsman, Sr. (born 1937 in Blackfoot, Idaho) is an American businessman and philanthropist. He is the founder of Huntsman Corporation. Huntsman is a member of the Forbes 400, where he is currently ranked the 47th richest man alive. He is the father of current United States Ambassador to China and former Governor of Utah Jon Huntsman Jr.

Jon Huntsman grew up in poverty, but went on to attend the University of Pennsylvania. There he majored in business at the Wharton School. His alma mater would later name one of the school's signature buildings, Huntsman Hall, in his honor. An interdisciplinary dual-degree program melding international relations and business, taught through the College of Arts & Sciences and Wharton School, also bears Huntsman's name.

Huntsman worked for Dow Chemical Company then as a staff member in the Nixon administration and before starting his own business in 1971 Huntsman Container. Huntsman served as Mission President for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Washington DC from 1981 to 1983. He then founded Huntsman Chemical, which grew into a multi-billion dollar company. In 2001, Huntsman announced that his companies could not make their interests on junk bonds. In 2007, Huntsman co-founded a new private equity firm, Huntsman Gay Global Capital, joining former Bain Capital executive Robert C. Gay to focus on investments in middle market companies. Among Huntsman's partners is Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young. • Jon Huntsman Sr Books

Harmon Killebrew (1936 - )Played baseball for the Minnesota Twins and was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame; born in Payette.

Every summer since 1961, the Minnesota Twins have brought countless thrills, and a few spills, to baseball fans throughout Minnesota and the Upper Midwest. From the much-anticipated debut at Metropolitan Stadium through the final days at the Metrodome, Minnesota Twins: The Complete Illustrated History takes you through each season of Twins baseball, profiling the teams, players, managers, and front-office personnel who have provided a half century of great moments and cherished memories. Each generation has boasted its own lineup of diamond heroes--from Harmon Killebrew, Tony Oliva, Zoilo Versalles, and others in the team's first decade to the stars of today (and tomorrow) in Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, and Michael Cuddyer. In between, the Twins have been graced by Hall of Famers Rod Carew and Kirby Puckett, superstar and hometown hero Kent Hrbek, and fan favorites from Bombo Rivera to Lew Ford. On the mound, Minnesota baseball fans have been awed by the dominating Camilo Pascual, the versatile Jim Kaat, the quirky Dave Boswell, the crafty Bert Blyleven, the menacing Jeff Reardon, the clutch Jack Morris, the loyal Brad Radke, and the untouchable Joe Nathan--not to mention Cy Young Award winners Jim Perry, Frank Viola, and Johan Santana. • Harmon Killebrew Books

Patrick McManus (1933 - ) Author, born near Sandpoint. McManus writes mostly about his outdoor adventures from his childhood with semi-fictional characters such as his old woodsman mentor Rancid Crabtree and his childhood friends. The stories' humor is mostly based on elaborate exaggerations of his surreal adventures into the outdoors. McManus's writing is characterized by a dry wit that has drawn comparisons to Mark Twain and Robert Benchley.

As of 2007, his most recent work is Avalanche, the second in a series of mystery novels starring the character Sheriff Bo Tully. Other departures from his column-collections include Kid Camping From Aaaaii! To Zip (1979, an alphabetized, and partially serious, listing of useful tips and concepts for beginning campers); Whatchagot Stew (1989, both a cookbook and a less-fictionalized memoir of his childhood); and The Deer On A Bicycle (2000, a discussion of the art of humor writing.)

Some of his stories have been adapted as stage-plays. • Patrick McManus Books

Ezra Pound (1885 - 1972) Poet; born in Hailey. In the early teens of the twentieth century, he opened a fruitful exchange of work and ideas between British and American writers, and was famous for the generosity with which he advanced the work of such major contemporaries as Robert Frost, William Carlos Williams, Marianne Moore, H. D., Ernest Hemingway, and especially T. S. Eliot. Pound also had a profound influence on the Irish writers W. B. Yeats and James Joyce. His own significant contributions to poetry begin with his promotion of Imagism, a movement in poetry which derived its technique from classical Chinese and Japanese poetry—stressing clarity, precision, and economy of language, and forgoing traditional rhyme and meter in order to, in Pound's words, "compose in the sequence of the musical phrase, not in the sequence of the metronome." His later work, spanning nearly fifty years, focused on his epic poem The Cantos. • Ezra Pound Books
Paul Revere (1938 - ) Musician, raised in Caldwell. Initially located in Boise, Idaho, the Raiders started as an instrumental rock outfit led by organist Paul Revere (born Paul Revere Dick on January 7, 1938). In his early twenties, Revere owned several restaurants in Caldwell, Idaho. and first met singer Mark Lindsay (born March 9, 1942, Eugene, Oregon) while picking up hamburger buns from the bakery where Lindsay worked  (this circumstance was later referred to in the tongue-in-cheek song "Legend of Paul Revere"). Lindsay joined Revere's band in 1958. Originally called The Downbeats, they changed their name to Paul Revere & The Raiders in 1960 on the eve of their first record release for Gardena Records. The band scored their first Pacific Northwest hit in 1961, with "Like, Long Hair." The song had enough national appeal that it peaked at #38 in the Billboard charts on April 17, 1961. When Revere was drafted for military service, he became a conscientious objector and worked at a mental institution for a year-and-a-half of deferred service as a cook, while Mark Lindsay pumped gas in Wilsonville, Oregon. Lindsay, on the strength of their Top 40 hit, toured the U.S. in the Summer of 1961 with a band that featured Leon Russell filling in for Revere on piano. • Paul Revere Books • Paul Revere Discography
Sacagawea (c. 1790 -1812 or 1884) The Shoshone Indian that interpreted for explorers Lewis and Clark; born in eastern Idaho.Sacagawea, kidnapped as an adolescent and sold as a slave to a French-Canadian fur trader, is best known for her role as interpreter and symbol of goodwill for Lewis and Clark on their journey west. Despite her pivotal role in this era of Manifest Destiny and blending cultures, much of her ensuing life story remains uncertain, thanks to a larger focus on Lewis and Clark themselves, as well as the perpetuation of legend over fact in several 20th century movies and publications. This concise and readable biography offers an objective treatment of Sacagawea's childhood, her journey with Lewis and Clark, her later life, her explorer son, and the mythology surrounding her death and legacy. As the Lewis and Clark expedition is heavily represented in the U.S. history curriculum, this much-needed volume fills a gap on the reference shelves and supplements American history and Native American studies curricula. Lively narrative chapters are supplemented with a timeline, photos, print and nonprint bibliography, and an index • Sacagawea Books
John Richard “Jack or J.R.” Simplot (January 9, 1909 – May 25, 2008) was the founder of the J. R. Simplot Company, an agricultural supplier specializing in potato products. In 2007 he was estimated to be the 89th-richest person in America, at $3.6 billion. At the time of his death in May 2008, at age 99, he was the oldest billionaire on the Forbes 400.

When I first moved to Idaho in 1998 that's all I heard about was J.R. Simplot. He's not only Idaho's wealthiest resident, he also owns more private land in the state than anyone else. And his name is everywhere: There's the Simplot Games, Simplot Stadium, and Simplot Center for Decision Support, and the Esther Simplot Performing Arts Academy, just to name a few.

I write these things to let people unfamiliar with the man know what a giant he is in this state. He's is--and ought to be--an inspiration to many. • J.R. Simplot Books

Robert E. Smylie political leader

Robert Eben Smylie (October 31, 1914 in Marcus, Iowa – July 17, 2004 in Boise, Idaho) was a politician and attorney from Idaho. He served as governor of Idaho from 1955 to 1967. He was a member of the Idaho Republican Party. He is a graduate of the College of Idaho and The George Washington University Law School. Smylie began practicing law in Washington, D.C. but left his practice in 1942 to join the United States Coast Guard. He returned to practice in 1946.

In November 1947 Smylie was appointed Idaho attorney general by Governor C. A. Robins to fill a vacancy. He was elected to a full term in 1950. Smylie was elected governor in 1954 and re-elected in 1958 and 1962. He is the only person in Idaho history to win three consecutive four-year terms as governor. Smylie was the first Governor of Idaho born in the 20th century. While governor, Smylie served as chair of the Western Governors Association (1959-1961). He also served as chair of the Republican Governors Association. Smylie ran for reelection in 1966, but was defeated in the Republican primary by Don Samuelson. Afterwards he returned to the practice of law. He served as Trustee, Chair of Trustees, and as acting President of the College of Idaho. • Robert E. Smylie Books

Henry Spalding missionary, Lapwai Valley Henry Harmon Spalding (1803 - 1874), and his wife Eliza Hart Spalding (1807 - 1851) were prominent Presbyterian missionaries and educators working primarily with the Nez Perce in the U.S. Pacific Northwest. The Spaldings and their fellow missionaries were among the earliest Americans to travel across the western plains, through the Rocky Mountains and into the lands of the Pacific Northwest to their religious missions in what would become the states of Idaho and Washington. Their missionary party of five, including Marcus Whitman and his wife Narcissa and William H. Gray, joined with a group of fur traders to create the first wagon train along the Oregon Trail. 

Henry Spalding was born in Bath, New York, in either 1803 or 1804. He graduated from Western Reserve College in 1833, and entered Lane Theological Seminary in the class of 1837. He left, without graduation, upon his appointment in 1836 by the Boston-based American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM) as a missionary to the Nez Perce Indians of Idaho.

Eliza Hart was born August 11, 1807 to Levi Hart and Martha Hart (they were first cousins) in Kensington, Connecticut. In 1820 the family moved to Oneida County, New York. She was introduced to Henry from a mutual acquaintance who said that Henry "wanted to correspond with a young lady.". • Henry Spalding Books

Frank Steunenberg governor (August 8, 1861 – December 30, 1905) was the fourth Governor of the State of Idaho, serving from 1897 until 1901. He is perhaps best known for his 1905 assassination by one-time union member Harry Orchard, who also admitted to being a paid informant for the Cripple Creek, Colorado, Mine Owners' Association. Orchard attempted to implicate leaders of the radical Western Federation of Miners in the murder. The labor leaders were found not guilty in two trials, but Orchard spent the rest of his life in prison.

Steunenberg attended Iowa State at Ames and then went on to become a printer's apprentice, and publisher. In 1881 he was hired by the Des Moines Register in Des Moines, Iowa. Steunenberg later published a newspaper in Knoxville, Iowa, before finally settling in Caldwell, Idaho where he joined his brother taking over the Caldwell Tribune for six years

In Caldwell Steunenberg became active in politics and was elected to the first Idaho Legislature in 1890 as a fusion candidate endorsed by both the Democratic and Populist Parties. • Frank Steunenberg Books

Picabo Street (1971 - ) skier, 2-time Olympic medallist, born in Triumph. After her silver medal performance in the downhill at the 1994 Winter Olympics, a run was named after her at Sun Valley. On the Warm Springs side of Bald Mountain, the expert run formerly known as "Plaza" became "Picabo's Street." Street joined Christin Cooper and Gretchen Fraser as Sun Valley Olympic medalists (their named runs are on Seattle Ridge). She appeared on the TV shows Nickelodeon GUTS in 1994, and Pyramid 2002

By winning the 1995 downhill title, she became the first American ever to win a World Cup season title in a speed event. Shortly after her gold medal win in the Super-G at the 1998 Winter Olympics, Street careened off course while racing in Switzerland. She crashed, snapping her left femur, and tearing the ligament in her right knee. She was in rehabilitation for two years following the accident. • Picabo Street Books

Lana Turner actress, Wallace Lana Turner (February 8, 1921 – June 29, 1995) was an American actress.

Discovered and signed to a film contract by MGM at the age of sixteen, Turner first attracted attention in They Won't Forget (1937). She played featured roles, often as the ingenue, in such films as Love Finds Andy Hardy (1938). During the early 1940s she established herself as a leading actress in such films as Johnny Eager (1941), Ziegfeld Girl (1941) and Somewhere I'll Find You (1942), and her reputation as a glamorous femme fatale was enhanced by her performance in the film noir The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946). Her popularity continued through the 1950s, in such films as The Bad and the Beautiful (1952) and Peyton Place (1957), for which she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress.

In 1958, her daughter Cheryl Crane stabbed Turner's lover, Johnny Stompanato to death. A coroner's inquest brought considerable media attention to Turner and concluded that Crane had acted in self defense. Turner's next film, Imitation of Life (1959), proved to be one of the greatest successes of her career, but from the early 1960s, her roles were fewer. She gained recognition near the end of her career with a principal role in the television series Falcon Crest during 1982 and 1983.  Turner made her final television appearance in 1991, and died from throat cancer in 1995. • Lana Turner Books • Lana Turner Movies