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People & Peoples

Verda James, First Full-term Woman Speaker of Wyoming's House of Representatives

Verda James, a schoolteacher, deputy director of public instruction for the state of Wyoming, assistant superintendent of the Natrona County schools, and later a faculty member at Casper College, was first elected to the Wyoming House in 1954. She served eight terms. During the last term, 1969-1970, she was elected House speaker, the first woman to serve in that position for a full term.

Robert Roripaugh, Wyoming Poet Laureate 1995-2002

The clear, quiet poetry and fiction of Robert Roripaugh, poet laureate of Wyoming from 1995 through 2002, has long been informed by his youth on his family’s ranch near Lander. In the early 1950s, Roripaugh won bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of the Wyoming before spending two years with the U.S. Army in Japan, where he met and married his wife, Yoshiko. In 1958, the Atlantic Monthly published a short story, and Roripaugh has been publishing and winning prizes on a national level ever since. Also that year he began teaching in the English department at the University of Wyoming, rising to the rank of full professor before retiring in 1993.

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Encyclopedia | Emma Knight, the University of Wyoming’s first dean of women, bore four children and served seven years as the Albany County, Wyoming superintendent of schools before she finally graduated from the university in 1911, the same year as her daughter. The wife and mother of UW professors of geology—Wilbur and Samuel H. Knight—she was highly regarded by her students and colleagues. Knight Hall on the UW campus is named in her honor.
Encyclopedia | The Finley Site, located near Eden in Sweetwater County, Wyo., was used by early American Indians to trap and kill bison. The Finley Site is an early Holocene Paleo-Indian bison-kill and processing area, dating back about 7,500 to 12,500 years before the present. This was the first place where Eden points and two kinds of Scottsbluff projectile points were found together, showing that the three were contemporaneous. The Finley Site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Encyclopedia | Stephen Wheeler Downey was a prominent Laramie lawyer active in public life in Wyoming for more than 30 years beginning in 1869. He served in the territorial and state legislatures where he was an early supporter of votes for women and introduced legislation to found the university of Wyoming. He served in the U.S. Congress as Wyoming’s territorial delegate, as a member of the convention that drew up the state constitution in 1889, as president of the University of Wyoming trustees, and, at the beginning and end of his career, as Albany County’s prosecuting attorney. He died in 1902 and is buried in Laramie.
Encyclopedia | Bill Carlisle robbed passengers on the Union Pacific Railroad three times in 1916 and once more in 1919, after escaping from the state penitentiary in a box of shirts. In 1936 he was paroled and opened a café and tourist court in Laramie, and later wrote a book about his remarkable life.
Encyclopedia | Gerry Spence, born, reared and educated in Wyoming, is recognized nationwide for his powerful courtroom victories.
Encyclopedia | W. Edwards Deming grew up in difficult financial circumstances in Powell, Wyo., early in the 20th century. Still, he worked his way through the University of Wyoming and Yale and became absorbed by statistics as a way to solve problems. After World War II, he shared his ideas on efficiency with Japanese manufacturers eager to rebuild their shattered economy. The Japanese used that knowledge to flip the global economy on its head and beat U.S. industry at its own game.
Encyclopedia | President Grant appointed John Thayer Governor of the Wyoming Territory in February 1875 and he took the oath of office March 1, 1875.
Encyclopedia | The JC Penney Company, long among the world’s largest department store chains, traces its roots to a one-room shop in a small Wyoming coal-mining town at the turn of the last century. Penney’s career in Wyoming lasted just a decade, but in 1902, Wyoming provided exactly what young Penney needed to found a chain that has survived, as of 2011, for 109 years.

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