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Robertson, Ralph Elliott “Bob”

by Alison Eastaugh Browne

Ralph Elliott “Bob” Robertson was born n Sioux City, Iowa, in 1885. He attended the U. of Washington for a brief period of time—perhaps for only one semester, and probably after he became a lawyer.

Bob originally worked as a clerk for the Bureau of Indian Affairs on reservations around Onawa, Nebraska. Upon seeing a list of available positions posted, he applied for, and got, a job as a court reporter in Alaska. He arrived in Juneau in 1906, with 50 cents in his pocket. George Simpkins met the boat Bob arrived on, gave him $5 and directed him to a respectable boardinghouse.

Bob’s mother and sister came to visit and lived in Juneau for a brief time in a house either right across the street from the Catholic Church, or just south of that. Bob’s father was a journalist. Bob went to work as a court reporter and law clerk under Judge Royal Arch Gunnison. In those days, the “dispensing of justice” was done by the court traveling by boat or whatever means necessary to reach Alaska communities. It was called the “floating court.”

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