Did you know that Robert Craig Knievel Jr. was born today in 1938? He was a stunt performer. He gained the stunt name he is known by during a short stay in jail. Another prisoner, William Knofel, had the nickname “Awful Knofel”; the jailer gave Knievel the nickname “Evil Knievel”. Robert changed the name to “Evel”, because he did not want to be considered ‘evil’ (he did stop committing crimes and started a career in entertainment). During his stunt career he attempted more than 75 motorcycle jumps. He jumped over boxes of snakes and mountain lions, sharks, rows of cars, fountains, and canyons. His longest jump was more than 140 feet!
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Evel Knievel left high school after his sophomore year. He started work at a local copper mine. He later lost the job when he maneuvered the large earth mover he was operating to do a ’wheelie’. He ended up driving the earth mover into the town’s main power line, causing a power outage that lasted several hours.
Evel Knievel also participated in rodeos, ski jumping, and pole vaulting.
Evel Knievel served in the US Army.
Evel Knievel also worked as a hunting and fishing guide. His business was doing well until game wardens realized that Knievel was taking his clients into Yellowstone Park and poaching; later when Knievel learned that the government was culling herds of elk in Yellowstone, he hitchhiked from Butte to Washington DC with a set of elk antlers and a petition with 3,000 signatures.
After a motocross accident and injury, Evel Kneievel worked as an insurance salesman.
One of the motorcycles Evel Knievel used during one of his stunts is on display at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.
While remembered for his stunt work and somewhat flamboyant character, Evel Knievel was also an advocate for motorcycle helmet safety. He also supported anti-drug campaigns and messages as well as the importance of being honest and keeping one’s word.