The Baby Name Rockne

Knute Rockne
Knute Rockne
In 1931, the baby name Rockne debuted on the SSA’s baby name list. It was the top debut name for baby boys, in fact.

  • 1933: 9 baby boys named Rockne
  • 1932: 14 baby boys named Rockne
  • 1931: 17 baby boys named Rockne [debut]
  • 1930: not listed

The number of babies named Knute increased that year as well:

  • 1933: 8 baby boys named Knute
  • 1932: 10 baby boys named Knute
  • 1931: 19 baby boys named Knute
  • 1930: 8 baby boys named Knute

If you know college football, you already know where these comes from: Knute [kah-NOOT] Rockne.

Rockne, who was born in Norway in 1888, became the head football coach at the University of Notre Dame in 1918. Today he’s considered one of the greatest coaches in college football history.

On March 31, 1931, 43-year-old Rockne was killed when the Fokker Trimotor* he was flying in crashed in Kansas.

Rockne was the first American celebrity to die in a commercial airplane crash, and news of his death stunned a Depression-mired nation. The ensuing mourning was truly a national event.

Also named for Rockne in 1931 was Rockne, Texas. Several months after the crash, the local schoolchildren were asked to vote between the potential community names Rockne (for Knute Rockne) and Kilmer (for poet Joyce Kilmer):

The boys voted for the football coach and the girls voted for the poet resulting in a tie. The next day Edith Goertz changed her vote giving the community its name, “Rockne”.

Where does the surname Rockne come from? Originally spelled “Rokne,” it’s a locational name that refers to the family’s farmland in Voss, Norway.

*Airlene was born in a Fokker Trimotor in late 1929.

Sources:

  • Coughlin, Dan. “Now He Tells Me.” Cleveland Leader 22 Oct. 2009.
  • Davies, Richard O. Sports in American Life: A History. 2nd ed. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011.
  • Marks, Paula Mitchell. “Rockne, TX.” Handbook of Texas Online. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
  • Nelson, Marian H. Early History of Rockne, Texas.

Image: Knute Rockne, George Grantham Bain Collection, LOC


2 thoughts on “The Baby Name Rockne

  1. Huh, there was a little boy named Rockney at the park the other day, I wonder if it was after the coach…I do live around the university. At first I thought they were saying Rocky, which is unusual enough, but it was definitely Rockney.

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