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Who's Who in 1962?

The events of any year are driven by people, and 1962 was no exception. Because Roadtrip-'62 ™ focuses on that year, today I’m going to sharpen the focus by discussing people of 1962. We’ll take a look at the movers and shakers of the year, celebrities, people born in 1962 who we know today or made a significant contribution to our world, and even people who died during 1962 and how they helped build the world of that point in history. I’ll close with a look at people of note from along our route down US-23.

Movers and Shakers: People of 1962

President John F. Kennedy
President John F. Kennedy (public domain, from WPClipart)

Of the people responsible for events that shaped the year, some remain famous today and some are nearly forgotten. Let’s begin by looking at some world events and the people associated with them. In any year, the President of the United States makes news. President John F. Kennedy was president in 1962, though he would be tragically assassinated the next year. A poll taken the week of February 22, 1962 found that 78% approved of the way President Kennedy was doing his job as President. Today we think a president is popular if he can squeak out a 50% rating! Times do change. During 1962, his most famous act was the showdown with the Soviet Union’s Premier Nikita Khrushchev over the Soviet missile installations in Cuba. In the end, Khrushchev ordered the missiles removed from such close proximity to Florida, but only after President Kennedy had begun a complete naval blockade of Cuba.

President Kennedy was also involved in other actions of lasting importance in 1962, one of which was convincing steel companies to roll back sharp price increases they had attempted. In April, after signing new labor union contracts, the largest US steel companies raised prices. The President deemed this a threat to the public interest because it interfered with price stability, and convinced the corporations to rescind the increase, resulting in a new uneasiness about the relationship between industry and government. A third crisis for the President occurred when James Meredith registered to attend classes at the then all-white University of Mississippi. The state had blocked his admission but the Supreme Court overturned the decision. Mississippi Governor Ross Barnett was found guilty of civil contempt of court for defying the Supreme Court, and President Kennedy ordered federal marshals to escort and protect Mr. Meredith so that he could attend the university. Two people died in the rioting that accompanied the forced entry to the school.

former Vice President Richard Nixon
former Vice President Richard Nixon (public domain, from WPClipart)

Others active in the fight for desegregation in the United States included the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., who was arrested in July in Albany, Georgia, along with other protesters. In October, Dr. King met with President Kennedy and the next year he would deliver his most famous speech with the message "I Have A Dream", in Washington, DC. The Archbishop of New Orleans, Joseph Francis Rummel, ordered his Catholic schools to be desegregated and actually ex-communicated three local Catholics for defying church authority with their continued segregationist activities. Archbishop Rummel had been following a regime of slowly desegregating church activities since at least 1948, when he admitted two black students to the Notre Dame Seminary.

Former Vice President Richard Nixon fought a hard campaign for Governor of California, losing to Edmund G. Brown, the father of today’s California Governor Jerry Brown. At the time, Nixon declared he would retire from public life and gave a bitter post-election speech largely blaming the press for his defeat and claiming, "you won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore." However, he returned in 1968, winning the Presidency and even winning re-election four years later.

Mercury Capsule US postage stamp
Mercury Capsule US postage stamp

Other people on the American stage in 1962 included Colonel John Glenn, the first American astronaut to orbit earth. His spaceflight of February 20th took only about 4 hours, 46 minutes, which seem tiny compared to the months in space that the crew of the International Space Station spends in orbit today. Astronaut M. Scott Carpenter followed in May, and Walter Schirra, Jr. completed 6 orbits in October, 1962. In August, Soviet cosmonaut Major Andrian Nikolayev made an astounding 64 orbits of the planet! This feat was further amazing because fellow cosmonaut Colonel Pavel Popovich occupied another orbiting craft at the same time and the two passed within about 4 miles of each other.


Supreme Court Justice Byron White was appointed to the court in 1962, one of two appointments by President Kennedy that year. He had previously been Deputy Attorney General. Justice White served until his retirement in 1993. The other appointment to the Supreme Court was Justice Arthur Goldberg. He had served as United States Secretary of Labor from January 1961 to September 1962. Goldberg was acclaimed for an active role in assisting labor negotiations between big industries and their labor unions. He is credited with behind-the-scenes work in steel, airline, and railroad disputes that kept 1962 relatively stable on the labor front. Later in 1962 the Supreme Court ruled that New York state’s policy of reading an official prayer in schools violated the Constitution.

Pope John XXIII Time Magazine cover
Pope John XXIII (Time Magazine cover, from Time Magazine)

In news of people around the world, Pope John XXIII was named Time Magazine's Man Of The Year for 1962. You can read the article at the link above, or the entire magazine at Time Magazine. The Pope convened an Ecumenical Council in October, after several years of preparation. It was the first since 1870 and one of only twenty-one during the entire history of the Catholic Church. Additionally, he was active during the year pleading the cause of peace in situations such as the Algerian civil war and the Cuban Missile Crisis.


Prince Juan Carlos of Spain and Princess Sophia of Greece were wed in May, 1962. At the time, Spain was ruled by the dictator Generalisimo Francisco Franco, so the prince did not have any power. However, during the later years of Franco’s rule, he set up a method of succession, and Juan Carlos was named King just 2 days after Franco’s death in 1975. Three years later the Spanish people formally acknowledged him as King in a referendum, as Spain is a constitutional monarchy. Juan Carlos continues to rule today with Sophia as Queen, and they have three children.

Dr. Frances O. Kelsey
Dr. Frances O. Kelsey (public domain, from Wikimedia Commons)

Dr. Frances O. Kelsey was awarded the Civilian Service Medal by President Kennedy, for blocking the sale of the drug thalidomide in the United States. This drug had first been sold in West Germany in 1957 as a sedative and was proven to be very effective, with few side effects. However, by 1960-61 reports had come into the Food And Drug Administration, which was studying allowing sale in the US, of birth defects in children of women using the drug during pregnancy. Dr. Kelsey’s actions in denying clearance for its sale saved thousands in this country.


India lost over 5,000 square miles of territory and 2,000 men in an armed border conflict with China. In October, Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru dismissed his Minister of Defense, publicly blaming him for India’s lack of preparation for such a conflict. During the fighting, India requested and was promised weapons from the United States. Nehru was India’s first Prime Minister, serving from the country’s independence in 1947 until his death in 1964. He was the father of Indira Gandhi, India’s third Prime Minister, and the maternal grandfather of Rajiv Gandhi, who served as Prime Ministers of India from 1984 to 1989.

Lev Davidovic Landau monument, Baku, Azerbaijan
Lev Davidovic Landau monument in Landau's home town of Baku, Azerbaijan (public domain, from Wikimedia Commons)

Among Nobel Prize winners for 1962 was Lev Davidovic Landau. He was awarded the prize in Physics for his pioneering theories for condensed matter at very low temperatures, especially liquid helium. Mr. Landau, of the Soviet Union, published most of his theoretical work in the late 1940s to 1950s. His works influenced many other fields of theoretical physics. He died six years after the award. Other Nobel Prize winners were Francis Crick and James Watson, both of the United States, and Maurice Wilkins of Great Britain, for their work on the structure of DNA. The DNA molecule is the carrier of all genetic information in organisms and had been identified in 1946. The three men’s work in the early 1950s identified its structure and won them the prize in Medicine And Physiology. The Chemistry Prize was shared by John Kendrew and Max Perutz of Great Britain for their work on the structure of proteins in blood and pigments.


Long time host of the Tonight Show, Johnny Carson, began his run in 1962. Carson had begun his broadcasting career in 1950 at WOW radio and television of Omaha, Nebraska. Immediately prior to beginning at the Tonight Show for NBC, he had been a regular panelist on "To Tell the Truth" and hosted "Who Do You Trust?" on ABC. Johnny’s long-time partner, Ed McMahon, also worked on the latter show.

album cover for The Beatles with Tony Sheridan: First Recordings
album cover for The Beatles with Tony Sheridan: First Recordings

The Beatles were still just an obscure group in Liverpool, England in 1962. In 1961, they had recorded with Tony Sheridan as the Beat Brothers. The Beatles came to their final form the next year when they fired drummer Pete Best and replaced him with Ringo Starr in December, 1962. They released "Love Me Do" in England shortly thereafter and within two years would take the United States by storm.


Elizabeth Taylor was filming "Cleopatra" in 1962, with her co-star Richard Burton. The movie was released in 1963. The film won 4 Academy Awards but is actually best known for being the most expensive film ever made (adjusted for inflation). Elizabeth Taylor married Burton, one of her eight marriages, in the following year. They appeared together in 11 films. Elizabeth Taylor died March 23, 2011, at the age of 79. You can learn more about the movies of 1962 at our "What’s Playing?" page.

Maury Wills 1962 Fleer baseball card
Maury Wills, National League Most Valuable Player for 1962 (Fleer baseball card, from Maury Wills official site.)

As always, sports and entertainment celebrities made the news. Los Angeles Dodgers’ shortstop Maury Wills stole 104 bases during the major league baseball season, breaking a record set by Ty Cobb 47 years ago. His efforts included 2 steals of home. Many today credit Wills for reviving the stolen base as a baseball strategy. He continued to play through the 1969 season, ending with the Montreal Expos. In other baseball news, major league baseball reached a new high of over 21 million spectators at the ballparks in 1962. The New York Yankees won their 20th World Series. During 1961, the American League had expanded its number of teams, and this year it was the National League’s turn, as new teams the New York Mets and Houston Colt .45s (later to become the Astros) were created. The Mets’ first manager was Casey Stengel, who helped the team post a record of 40-120, which was the worst regular season record since the 162-game season was created. The Colt .45s were lead by Harry Craft.


American pole vaulter John Uelses became the first to clear the 16-foot mark, when he bested it by ¼ inch at Madison Square Gardens in New York City. The jump was during the Millrose Games in February, 1962. John later held the world record in the pole vault for a short time, clearing 16 feet ¾ inches at the Santa Barbara Easter Relays. His use of a fiberglass pole in his record jumps led to that style of pole becoming standard.

cover of Gene Autry Comics #99
cover of Gene Autry Comics #99 (from the Grand Comics Database, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License)

Gene Autry (born Orvon Grover Autry) had been known throughout the 1940s and 1950s as "America’s Favorite Cowboy." His television show had ended in 1955, but he was still recording music in 1962, releasing "Gene Autry's Golden Hits." He was also embarking on a career change when he acquired ownership of the new Los Angeles Angels Major League Baseball team in 1961. He would retire from show business in 1964.


Jacquelyn Mayer of Ohio was crowned Miss America at the age of 20. Only eight years later, she suffered a stroke. After extensive rehabilitation, she has worked for over 20 years assisting stroke survivors and their families. In recognition of her work, Ohio named a section of Ohio Route 2 that runs through Erie County as "Jackie Mayer Miss America Highway."


Fox Trot comic strip panel, by Bill Amend

Fox Trot comic strip panel

Here’s a look at some people we are familiar with today who were just born in 1962, just to see who is that old! There is a long list of entertainers, including this sample:

  • Trace Adkins - January 13, 1962 - singer
  • Jim Carrey - January 17, 1962 - actor
  • Axl Rose - February 6, 1962 - guitarist
  • Steve Irwin - February 22, 1962 – deceased naturalist
  • Darryl Strawberry - March 12, 1962 – baseball player
  • Mike Rowe - March 18, 1962 – television personality
  • MC Hammer - March 30, 1962 - Born Stanley Kirk Burrell, Hammer rose to fame in the 1980s for his music and dance and fashion style. BET has ranked him as #7 in their "Best Dancer Of All Time" category.
  • Craig Ferguson - May 17, 1962 – television personality
  • Paula Abdul - June 19, 1962 - television personality
  • Tom Cruise - July 3, 1962 - actor
  • Alton Brown - July 30, 1962 – television personality
  • Bill Amend - September 20 , 1962 - creator of the comic strip Fox Trot
  • Joan Cusack - October 11, 1962 - actress
  • Mike Judge - October 17, 1962 – film director/creator
  • Demi Moore - November 11, 1962 – actress born as Demi Gene Guynes
  • Jodie Foster - November 19, 1962 - actress
  • John Stewart November 28, 1962 - comedian host of The Daily Show

There’s also a few world political figures, such as:

  • John Sarbanes - May 20, 1962 – Congressman from Maryland
  • Kim Jong Il - September 11, 1962 – recently deceased North Korean dictator
  • Felipe Calderón - August 18, 1962 – president of Mexico
  • King Abdullah II - January 30, 1962 – King of Jordan
  • Christopher Christie - September 6, 1962 - Current Governor of New Jersey

And a few people from the world of business:

  • Rob Glaser – January 16, 1962 - founder of RealNetworks
  • Earl G. Graves, Jr. – January 16, 1962 – founder of Black Enterprise Magazine
  • Eddie Lampert - July 19, 1962 - Billionaire Chairman and CEO of ESL Investments, which owns both Sears and Kmart. He currently ranks #264 on the Forbes 400 richest people
  • Sanjay Kumar – 1962 – former CEO of Computer Associates


Madeline in London book cover
Madeline in London book cover

Some people who had been movers and shakers in previous years, died in 1962. Here are a few to consider:

  • Eleanor Roosevelt - Wife of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and head of the United Nations Human Rights Commission.
  • Marilyn Monroe – Actress, was found dead at her home of an apparent overdose of sleeping pills.
  • The Flying Wallendas - On January 30, 1962, this high wire performing troupe suffered tragedy, with 2 members falling to their deaths. You can find more information at Mr. Pop Culture. Later in his career, the surviving Karl Wallenda performed at Tallulah Falls Gorge in Georgia, which we visit on US-23.
  • Frederick Maytag II - President and chairman of the Maytag Corporation, and son of the founder.
  • Ludwig Bemelmans - creator of the "Madeline" children’s books. His non-Madeline "On Board Noah's Ark" was published in the year of his death. Madeline in LondonMadeline in London was the last of the Madeline books published during his life, in 1961.
  • Jay Norwood "Ding" Darling - Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist for the Des Moines Register. Darling also designed the first Federal Duck Stamp in 1934. Sale of the duck stamps to hunters continues to raise money for the purchase of wetlands in the National Wildlife Refuge System.
  • Ernie Kovacs - Television comedian killed in a traffic accident in Los Angeles on January 13th.
  • August Picard - A pioneering explorer of both the stratosphere and ocean depths, died at the age of 78. Early in hhis career, he designed a pressurized aluminum gondola for ballooning that allowed ascent to high altitudes without the use of a pressure suit. He eventually set setting a record of 75,459 ft. August was the inspiration for character Professor Cuthbert Calculus by Tintin cartoonist Hergé.
  • E. E. Cummings – Poet whose body of work includes approximately 2,900 poems. He is perhaps best know for his unusual typographic style, with words, parts of words, or punctuation symbols seemingly scattered across the page, and especially for use of lower case letters where sentences normally would begin.
  • Two Nobel prize winners died in 1962. William Faulkner, an American writer who was honored for his unique contribution to the modern American novel, died in July, and Niels Bohr, a Danish physicist who had been honored for his contributions to understanding atomic structure and quantum mechanics, passed away in November.

People Along US-23

Gary Powers in flight suit
Gary Powers in flight suit (RIA Novosti archive, image #35172 / Chernov / CC-BY-SA 3.0, from Wikimedia Commons, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license)

And finally, here’s some people of note along our Roadtrip-’62 ™ route down US-23. Most are probably little known outside their home towns, but they made a difference in those places in 1962. They show a good cross-section of what was happening during the year.

Tawas City, Michigan - July 22, 1962 - Two members of the Tawas Bay Yacht Club, Herm Nicholls and Ed McKinley, qualified for the North American Regatta races to be held in Buffalo, New York. They qualified in the Michigan District Lighting Sailboat Regatta held at Tawas City, a four-day event. Herm Nicholls was a former national champion.

Portsmouth, Ohio – August 11, 1962 – Carol Ann Martin, Miss Portsmouth of 1962, becomes a finalist in the Miss Ohio Pageant.

Paintsville, Kentucky - October 6, 1962 - Elmon Davis, an officer at Citizens National Bank and apple orchard owner, had successfully guided the creation of the first Kentucky Apple Festival, known then as "Apple Day". Davis worked to create the festival to promote the county's apple production, and to compete with the Johnson County Fair. Eventually, the Johnson County Fair ceased to be held.

Pound, Virginia - March 12, 1962 – Francis Gary Powers, returned to his parents’ home and was given a hero’s welcome in Big Stone Gap a few days later. Mr. Powers had been exchanged in February for a Soviet agent, after two years in captivity. He was a civilian pilot flying for the Central Intelligence Agency when he was shot down in a high altitude U-2 espionage plane over the Soviet Union.

Kingsport, Tennessee - The Monzas were a beach music band that formed in 1962 in Kingsport. Members included Jimmy Lane (keyboards), Bobby Cooper (sax), Jerry McIntosh (lead guitar), Jack Ferrell (bass), Phil Mullins (drums), and Al Wilkes (vocals). They played for several summers at the Rathskeller in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and at the Safari Beach Motel in Daytona, Florida. They were largely unknown outside the Carolinas and East Tennessee, except for a following on WLS radio of Chicago in 1965 and some recent fame in England.

"You Know You Turn Me On", The Monzas

Waynesville, North Carolina - February 11, 1962 - Technical Sergeant Floyd Milton Frazier, a Waynesville native, was one of the early casualties of the War in Vietnam. He was killed in action at the age of 34 in Lam Dong Province, when his plane crashed. He is memorialized on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, DC at Panel 01E Line 006.

Jackson, Georgia - November 8, 1962 – Joe Brown, Butts County Civil Defense Director, gave a presentation on the threat of nuclear war because of the Cuban Missile Crisis and what it means for Georgians, because they live so close to Cuba. He recommended that people build fallout shelters, and his assistant, Billy Leverette, gave an accounting of the emergency supplies on hand in the county including three 2-way radios and four Geiger counters.

Jacksonville, Florida – September 22, 1962 – Rutledge Pearson was president of the local NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) branch during 1962. The organization held public meetings that year to revive voter registration, plan selective buying, and discuss equal job opportunities and the current civil rights programs.


All photos by the author and Copyright © 2012 - Milne Enterprises, Inc., except as noted.

All other content Copyright © 2012 - Milne Enterprises, Inc.

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What's the weather in 1962?

Weather on September 6, 1962 for Newark, NJ, from the National Climatic Data Center:

  • Low = 54°F
  • High = 69°F
  • Precipitation = no data
  • Mean Wind Speed = 13mph

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