Last Living Mount Rushmore Worker Turns 98

KOTA TV

Between October 4, 1927 and October 31, 1941, 400 men and women worked tirelessly to create the incredible monument Mount Rushmore. They worked as call boys, carvers, drillers, blacksmiths, and housekeepers.

Millions upon millions of people over the years have flocked to the South Dakota memorial to see Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln’s faces carved into the granite.

Photo by flickr user: http://flickr.com/photos/jamiedfw/ (Creative commons)

Posted by Mount Rushmore on Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Of those 400 workers, only one remains – and his name is Nick Clifford. He was a driller and has been the last living Mount Rushmore driller for 12 years.

They’re all gone now. I’m the last one so I’m happy that my health is good and I plan on living to quite a while yet,” Clifford told KOTA News.

Clifford spent most of the three years he worked on Mount Rushmore (1938, 1939, and 1940) dangling 5,000 feet in the air. According to Dennis McCarthy at the Los Angeles Daily News, he worked “a jackhammer under Teddy Roosevelt’s chin, and just to the [left] of Lincoln’s beard.”

He was hired at 17 years old as a winch man, and later promoted to driller.

“It took about 15 minutes to walk up the wooden stairs to the top of the mountain, and we weren’t paid for the time going up and down,” Clifford told McCarthy. “We worked 8-hour days, six days a week for 65 cents an hour.”

Nick Clifford, 97, one of the last surviving drillers on Mount Rushmore – 1938 to 40. He drilled under Teddy Roosevelt chin and to the right of Lincoln’s beard. Three days a week, he’s in the gift shop selling his book. (Photo by Norma Meyer)

Clifford is making headlines because he just celebrated a monumental birthday, and had news cameras there to capture it. His friends and family from all over the country traveled to Keystone, South Dakota for a birthday celebration. The former Mount Rushmore driller turned 98 years old!

Clifford plans to live for much longer, which means if you plan on visiting Mount Rushmore, there’s a good chance you might see him! He and his wife of 45 years, Nancy, are still involved with the National Monument, and often answering questions people have about it. They even self-published a book and sign it for fans.

It makes me feel really good that all those people come and I get to talk to them and tell them the story about Mt. Rushmore,” Clifford added.

Wishing Mr. Clifford a very happy birthday, and many more!