Unaka Benjamin Jennette

Unaka Jennette in keeper's uniform, cleaning the Cape Hatteras Fresnel lens
Unaka Jennette cleaning the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse Fresnel lens

National Park Service

Quick Facts

Longest Serving Primary Keeper and Final Keeper of Cape Hatteras Lighthouse
Place of Birth:
Buxton, NC
Date of Birth:
November 30, 1882
Place of Death:
Norfolk, VA
Date of Death:
September 14, 1965

Unaka Benjamin Jennette, a member of the Jennette family of lighthouse keepers, was the longest serving primary keeper of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, serving from 1919 to 1939. In addition, he was the last keeper of the lighthouse, as the U.S. Coast Guard assumed operation in 1939.

Having joined the U.S. Lighthouse Service in 1904, Jennette had 15 years of experience upon assuming the role of primary keeper at the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in 1919. As keeper, he witnessed many technological advancements that would ultimately eliminate the need for lighthouse keepers. Chief among them was the development of radio navigation in the late 1920s, as well as the arrival of electricity at the lighthouse in 1934.

In 1939, Jennette transferred to the Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse in Wanchese, remaining there until his retirement in 1943.

Last updated: September 28, 2016