The National Achievement Award is the highest honor presented by the National Rivers Hall of Fame to those people who are making significant contributions to America’s waterways. The National Rivers Hall of Fame with members in 36 states is the only national museum telling the stories of the people of America’s rivers.
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Honored in 1991
Captain Poe was a riverboat captain for over thirty-five years, traveling the Mississippi and other rivers continually for companies such as Ingram Barge Line and the Crounse Corporation. He also was vice president of operations for Nilo Barge Line, which towed products throughout the United States.
Captain Poe began his career on the river at the age of six weeks. His father was a towboat captain and the family used to live on board the towboats during the summer. When he was thirteen, he received his first job on the river as a cabin boy. His duties included waiting on tables, shining the captain’s and chief engineer’s shoes, and making their beds. “I really thought I was somebody,” Captain Poe says. “The next summer I got to go deck hand. Then I was REALLY working on the boat!”
In 1985, Captain Poe became the captain of the General Jackson, the $12 million excursion boat operated by the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee. Captain Poe epitomized the image of the riverboat captain as a natural storyteller, and he appeared many times on TNN Nashville Now program. He worked on the film “This land Is Your Land” with his father for Southern Illinois University Productions, the Ted Turner Production of “Missouri” and the network TV show “Mississippi” starring Ralph Waite.
Captain Wamp Poe (the Wamp is short for “Wampus Cat”) was the coordinator for the ice breaking operation between St. Louis and Cairo in 1978. He directed an attack of 22 towboats on a wall of ice that had dammed the river. According to Captain Poe, the ice dam “had an 11 foot wall of water behind it and, when it busted, it was absolutely one of the most awesome sights I’ve ever seen. Chunks of ice four times as big as the General Jackson literally just going down the river rolling like marbles, and the noise and just the sheer power. It was almost like an explosion.”