Jack Roderick grew up in Seattle. He studied and played football at the University of Washington and at Yale University and served in the Navy Air Corps in World War II. In 1954, he traveled to Alaska where he drove a truck and moved furniture to earn money for law school. During four decades in Alaska, he started an oil reporting service, a title insurance company, and an oil exploration firm, practiced law, worked with Alyeska Pipeline Service Company to help enact the Native Claims Settlement Act, served as mayor of the Anchorage Borough, and was a resources and energy administrator for the state. As a fellow of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, he researched Alaska's oil history and he taught the subject in the 1980's at Alaska Pacific University.