How popular is the baby name Gordon 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 Gordon.

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Popularity of the baby name Gordon

Posts that mention the name Gordon

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.



Baby born in England, named after entire soccer team (1973)

soccer game

In November of 1973, the Oatway family of London welcomed a baby boy.

The Oatways were big fans of Queens Park Rangers Football Club, so they decided to name the baby “Anthony Philip David Terry Frank Donald Stanley Gerry Gordon Stephen James” after QPR’s entire first team squad.

I wasn’t able to find any QPR players from 1973 named Stephen or James, but I did find players with the other names:

Tony Hazell
Phil Parkes
Dave Clement or Dave Thomas
Terry Venables or Terry Mancini
Frank McLintock
Don Givens
Stan Bowles
Gerry Francis
Gordon Jago (manager)

Ironically, the baby was never known by any of those 11 given names. He simply went by “Charlie.” As he later explained,

Charlie is just a nickname. An aunt told my parents they couldn’t name me after the QPR team because I’d look a right Charlie — and the name just stuck.

Charlie Oatway — unlike the other people I know of who were named after soccer teams (Liverpool F.C., Leeds United F.C., Burnley F.C.) — grew up to become a professional footballer. He played on various teams during the 1990s and 2000s, though, unfortunately, he never played for Queens Park Rangers.


Image: Adapted from Portugal 2-3 Denmark, Football by José Goulão under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Baby name story: Tex

Saxophone player Tex Beneke (1914-2000)
Tex Beneke (in 1947)

Tex Vertmann was born in Estonia in the mid-1970s. The very American-sounding first name “Tex” is unusual in Estonia — how did he come to have it?

Vertmann said his parents used to spend the best moments of their life together at the cinema, watching all kinds of foreign movies that had either been left behind by the Germans or bought by the Soviet Union from the U.S.

Estonia was part of the USSR from 1940 to 1991, and for several years during WWII it was occupied by Nazi Germany.

Among these were the Italian film “Return to Sorrento” and “Waterloo Bridge” […] But Vertmann’s parents just adored “Sun Valley Serenade,” in which the famous Glenn Miller conducted his orchestra.

These films were released in 1945, 1940, and 1941, respectively.

The name of one of Miller’s band players, the tenor-sax, was Tex Beneke. Vertmann remembered [his] parents also liked the Miller song “Chattanooga Choo-Choo,” which begins with the line “Hello Tex!” That’s how Vertmann got his very original name in the times of “deep socialism.”

The movie Sun Valley Serenade, which starred Sonja Henie, includes a sequence in which Texas-born Gordon Lee “Tex” Beneke both sings and whistles “Chattanooga Choo Choo.” The lyrics begin: Hi there Tex, whatchu say?

Americans of the early 1940s (but not the 1970s!) would have agreed with the Vertmanns about the song: a whopping 1.2 million copies of “Chattanooga Choo Choo” were sold by early 1942.

In recognition of this accomplishment, Miller’s record label presented him with a framed, gold-plated copy of the single — the very first gold record. This paved the way for RIAA-issued gold records in the late 1950s.


Juneteenth as a baby name?

Birth certificate of June Tenth (?) Anderson (1930-1999)
June Tenth (?) Anderson, b. 1930

A year ago today, Juneteenth (a contraction of “June 19th”) became a federal holiday.

The holiday marks the date (in 1865) that U.S. Army officer Gordon Granger read General Order No. 3 to the people of Galveston, Texas. The order reinforced the Emancipation Proclamation, which had been issued two and a half years earlier, by asserting that “all slaves are free.”

This mattered because Texas still had about 250,000 slaves. Why? Because “the state never had the large Union army presence necessary to enforce the proclamation.”

Intriguingly, a baby born in nearby Harris County, Texas, in 1930 — long after the Civil War was over — may have been named “Juneteenth.”

I first discovered her a few years ago, while doing research for a post about unusual names in Harris County. She was born into an African-American family on June 26th — a week after Juneteenth — but “June tenth” is the name that appears to be written on her birth certificate (above).

In later records, on the other hand, she’s consistently listed as “Juneteena” or “June Teena.” I even found her mentioned in a 1980s cookbook:

This is one of my personal favorites, the peach pie-cobbler from June Teena Anderson, one of the Panhandle’s finest cooks.

She died in 1999, and on her gravestone her name is written “June T. Anderson.”

It’s impossible to know the original intentions of her parents (who were named Allen and Margie Anderson, btw). But it does seem plausible — given their cultural heritage, their location, and the baby’s birth date — that they had wanted to name her Juneteenth.

What are your thoughts on this?