Dubuque County Historical Society Images

Achievement Award Winners

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Noble Gordon

Captain Noble Gordon’s fifty-year river career spanned the twilight years of the steamboat and the beginning of the modern diesel towboat. He began as all steamboat people did, with an abiding love of the river.

At the age of 15 he left home at Paducah, Kentucky, with his parents’ permission, and traveled to New Orleans looking for a possible berth, which he found as a wiper on Standard Oil’s S. S. W. H. Libby. At 17, he was daylight man on the steamer Capitol of the Streckfus line. In his early years, Captain Gordon served on the Jane Rhea, the Steamer Annie I. Baker, the steamer Destrehan, the Sara McDonald and the Lucindina Clark.

He stood his first pilot’s watch on the Upper Mississippi River before the present lock and dam system was completed. Captain Gordon went on to pilot the Husky, the Minnesota Husky, the steamer Wood River, the E.B. Ingram, the Nelson Boradgoot and the Arthur Dyer. Captain Gordon was instrumental in the establishment of the Potter Company, the Mid American Transportation Company, Midsouth Towing Company and the Gulf Coast Transit Company, Power Transportation Company and Energy Transportation and the Electro-Coal Transfer Corporation.

Before his retirement, his companies were moving millions of tons of coal from the heartland of the U.S. to Florida and returning with phosphate rock fertilizer. His boats moved 45,000-ton tows regularly. Still, he is the Old Steamboat Captain, a rugged individualist who got the job done his way.

Honored in 1987.

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