How popular is the baby name Camala in the United States right now? How popular was it historically? Use the popularity graph and data table below to find out! Plus, see all the blog posts that mention the name Camala.

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Popularity of the baby name Camala

Posts that mention the name Camala

What gave the baby name Gordon a boost in 1963?

The Cooper family -- Camala, Janita, Trudy, and Gordon -- with Jacqueline and John F. Kennedy (May, 1963)
The Coopers and the Kennedys

The name Gordon, after ranking as one of the top 100 boy names in the nation from the early 1910s to the early 1940s, began to decline in usage. Amid that decline, Gordon saw a conspicuous uptick in 1963:

  • 1965: 1,445 baby boys named Gordon [rank: 178th]
  • 1964: 1,770 baby boys named Gordon [rank: 167th]
  • 1963: 2,084 baby boys named Gordon [rank: 158th]
  • 1962: 1,783 baby boys named Gordon [rank: 173rd]
  • 1961: 1,990 baby boys named Gordon [rank: 165th]

What caused it?

Astronaut Leroy Gordon Cooper (who went by Gordon, or “Gordo”).

Cooper learned to fly planes during his childhood in Oklahoma. After joining the Air Force in 1949, he worked first as a fighter pilot, then as a test pilot.

In 1959, he was selected by NASA to fly spacecraft for the country’s first human spaceflight program, Project Mercury.

In May of 1963, he piloted Mercury’s final crewed mission — which nearly ended in disaster when the spacecraft’s autopilot system failed while Cooper was preparing to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere:

After being strapped in the 6-ft.-wide Faith 7 for nearly a day and a half, he had to take over when the best equipment that the best of science could provide failed. He had to respond with incredible precision to directions from earth; he had to show a kind of skill and nerve and calm that no man has ever had to demonstrate.

Cooper performed a risky manual re-entry and returned to Earth unharmed.

Speaking of Earth, he’d orbited the planet 22 times during the 34 hours and 20 minutes he’d spent in space. (Cooper logged “more spaceflight time than the other five Mercury flights combined.”)

The success of the mission made Gordon Cooper a celebrity. He was honored with several parades (including a ticker-tape parade in New York City), featured on the cover of both Life and Time magazines, and given a number of awards (such as the NASA Distinguished Service Medal, presented by President John F. Kennedy).

The surname Cooper also got a slight boost (as a baby name) in the early ’60s, reaching then-peak usage in 1964:

  • 1966: 15 baby boys named Cooper
  • 1965: 26 baby boys named Cooper
  • 1964: 30 baby boys named Cooper
  • 1963: 18 baby boys named Cooper
  • 1962: 8 baby boys named Cooper

Even Gordon Cooper’s family — his wife Gertrude (“Trudy”) and teenage daughters Camala Keoki (“Cam”) and Janita Lee (“Jan”) — influenced the baby name charts.

Gertrude, Janita, and Camala Cooper on the cover of Cosmopolitan magazine (Sept. 1963)
Trudy, Jan, and Cam Gordon

The baby name Trudy saw its last prominent spike in usage in 1963, and the uncommon names Camala (pronounced CAM-uh-luh) and Janita (pronounced jah-NEE-tuh) both peaked that year as well:

Girls named TrudyGirls named CamalaGirls named Janita
1965584 [377th]2238
1964672 [365th]936
1963851 [325th]37†57†
1962717 [355th]6*26
1961682 [367th].32
*Debut, †Peak usage

(The name Kamala peaked around the same time, but for a different reason.)

Gordo and Trudy met while attending the University of Hawaii. According to one source, they named their daughters “with a Hawaiian nostalgia.”

Ironically, the couple had long been estranged by 1963. They presented themselves as happily married to NASA — and to the public — because the space agency would only work with pilots who had stable home lives.

What are your thoughts on the names of Gordon Cooper’s daughters, Camala and Janita? Which name do you prefer?

P.S. A month after Cooper’s flight, the Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman (and first civilian) in space.