Libby Casey, APRN – Washington DC
Alaskans – and national leaders – are reacting with shock and sadness at the death of former Senator Ted Stevens. The White House released a statement in which President Obama praised Stevens for devoting his career to serving Alaskans, “fighting for our men and women in uniform.”
Former President George H.W. Bush put out a comment saying he and his wife Barbara are mourning Stevens’ loss. He said the former Senator “loved the Senate, Alaska, and his family.”
Stevens longtime colleague in Congress, Representative Don Young, called the crash that claimed his life an “absolute tragedy” and said in a statement that Stevens was his mentor.
Senator Lisa Murkowski says Alaska lost a “hero” and she lost a “dear friend.” The senator who defeated Stevens in the 2008 election, Mark Begich, called his
predecessor one of Alaska’s “greatest statesmen” and a “true pioneer.”
Stevens served Alaska for forty years in the U-S Senate. As an Interior Department official in the 1950s, he helped Alaska become a state. And after he became a U.S. senator, he shaped most of the federal laws, policies and programs that now define Alaska–from the Trans-Alaska oil pipeline authorization, to the Native Claims
Settlement Act, to fisheries to the 1980 Alaska Lands Act.
Stevens lost reelection after being convicted of lying on senate disclosure forms in October of 2008 – but the case was thrown out five months later due to prosecutorial misconduct.
Stevens said farewell to the Senate in December of 2008 in a floor speech: “My motto has been here, to hell with politics. Just do what’s right for Alaska. And I’ve tried every day to live up to those words.”
Stevens was 86 years old, and grew up during the Depression era. He served during World War Two in the Army Air Corps, flying missions to China in support of the Flying Tigers. He worked his way through college and Harvard Law School before making his way to Alaska as a lawyer.
Stevens told his senate colleagues in 2008 that serving among them was
a dream come true:
“I really must pinch myself to fully understand that I’m privileged to speak on the floor of the US Senate. Coming from the boyhood I’ve had, I could never dream to be here today. And home is where the heart is, Mr. President. If that is so, I have two homes. One is right here in this chamber. And the other is in my beloved state of
Stevens survived a plane crash in 1978 in Anchorage that killed his first wife Ann. He later remarried, and is survived by Catherine Stevens. He has six children and numerous grandchildren.