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 1987
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.