Captain "Hell Roaring" Mike Healy:
From American Slave to Arctic Hero

Dennis L. Noble and Truman R. Strobridge

Foreword by James C. Bradford and Gene Allen Smith, Series Editors
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United States Maritime Literature Award

"This is a book of adventure that tells how one man shaped the Alaskan frontier at a crucial time in American history."--Vincent William Patton, Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard, retired

"Diligent research and precise writing reveal the realities of race relations in nineteenth-century America, as well as the dangers, loneliness, and complex relationships of life at sea in that era."--Bernard C. Nalty, author of Strength for the Fight: A History of Black Americans in the Military

In the late 1880s, many lives in northern and western maritime Alaska rested in the capable hands of Michael A. Healy (1839-1904), through his service to the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service. Healy arrested lawbreakers, put down mutinies aboard merchant ships, fought the smuggling of illegal liquor and firearms, rescued shipwrecked sailors from a harsh and unforgiving environment, brought medical aid to isolated villages, prevented the wholesale slaughter of marine wildlife, and explored unknown waters and lands.

Captain Healy's dramatic feats in the far north were so widely reported that a New York newspaper once declared him the "most famous man in America." But Healy hid a secret that contributed to his legacy as a lonely, tragic figure.

In 1896, Healy was brought to trial on charges ranging from conduct unbecoming an officer to endangerment of his vessel for reason of intoxication. As punishment, he was put ashore on half pay with no command and dropped to the bottom of the Captain's list. Eventually, he again rose to his former high position in the service by the time of his death in 1904. Sixty-seven years later, in 1971, the U.S. Coast Guard learned that Healy was born a slave in Georgia who ran away to sea at age fifteen and spent the rest of his life passing for white.

This is the rare biography that encompasses both sea adventure and the height of human achievement against all odds.

Dennis L. Noble retired from the U.S. Coast Guard as a senior chief petty officer and is the author of Rescue of the Gale Runner. Truman R. Strobridge's many positions in the federal government included command historian of the joint-service Alaska Command and also the U.S. Army, Alaska, and he has coauthored two books with Noble.
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Awards
UNITED STATES MARITIME AWARD - 2010

"Highly instructive for Guardians of today and particularly relevant for those who ply Alaskan waters or protect the states vast coastline. A thoroughly researched effort. It is high time for today's modern guardians, the Healy family, and the nation to embrace Captain Healy as the complex, heroic, and enduring figure that he is." USCG: Commandant's Corner - Journal

"This is the rare biography that encompasses both sea adventure and the height of human achievement against all odds." United States Navy Memorial

"An extraordinary tale of a nautical prodigy. Enthusiastically recommended to lay readers, naval historians, and public library collections." The Midwest Book Review

"There are a number of reasons to read this engrossing and well-written book. It can be read simply as a tale of Artic adventure, and even more as a story of one family's mostly successful attempt to free themselves from the constraints of draconian racial laws. Finally, it is also the story of a man who, if he really achieved heroic status, did so not only because of the physical hardships he endured, but also because of the tremendous psychological burden that he had to overcome to succeed in his chosen career." International Journal of Maritime History

"Thoroughly researched and annotated and is likely to remain the definitive biography of Healy and his siblings." Naval History Magazine

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