Notable Deaths ›

Nick Clifford (1921 – 2019), last surviving Mount Rushmore carver

AP Photo / Beth Harpaz

Clifford worked on the monument from 1939 to 1941 and earned 55 cents an hour

Nick Clifford was the last surviving worker from the team that carved the Mount Rushmore National Memorial in the Black Hills of South Dakota. From 1927 through 1941, about 400 people worked to carve the mountainside into the likeness of four U.S. presidents. Clifford was the youngest of the workers, hired at 17 in 1939 and continuing to work on the mountain until 1941. Clifford was hired because the monument’s designer, Guzton Borglum, wanted to put together a baseball team from the crew of carvers. A good ballplayer, Clifford was recruited for the team – and given a job on the monument, earning 55 cents an hour.

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Died: November 23, 2019 (Who else died on November 23?)

Details of death: Died at a hospice facility in Rapid City, South Dakota at the age of 98.


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Later years: After the mountain’s construction came to an end in 1939, Clifford joined the U.S. Army Air Forces, serving overseas throughout World War II. He later came home to operate a number of small businesses, including a laundry and dry cleaning service, an ice cream and sandwich shop, and a woodcutting business. For a time, he operated Sylvan Lake Lodge in South Dakota’s Custer State Park. Clifford wrote the 2004 book “Mount Rushmore Q&A” to tell the story of his time working on the monument.

Notable quote: “I feel like Mount Rushmore was the greatest thing with which I was ever involved. It tells a story that will never go away – the story of how America was made and the men who helped make it what it is today.” —from a 2016 interview with the Rapid City Journal

Full obituary: The New York Times

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