Alaska Native leader and former Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott dies at 77

Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott speaks in Sitka in 2018. (Photo by Katherine Rose/KCAW)

Byron Mallott, the Alaska Native leader who served as lieutenant governor under former Gov. Bill Walker, has died unexpectedly at age 77.

Walker confirmed Mallott’s death in a phone interview Friday, saying he’d been in touch with Mallott’s family. The Anchorage Daily News reported that Mallott suffered a heart attack in Juneau late Thursday before being flown to Anchorage.

Mallott, a Democrat, and Walker, an independent, were both running for governor in 2014 before they merged their campaigns and went on to defeat the Republican incumbent.

“You don’t see that in partisan politics,” Walker said on Friday. “He loved Alaska much more than he loved politics.”

During their term in office, Walker and Mallott developed a close personal relationship. Mallott resigned from his job shortly before the 2018 election after making what Walker described as inappropriate overtures to a woman. Walker suspended his reelection campaign shortly after.

Despite the way their campaign ended, Walker said he and Mallott remained close, regularly talking on the phone and having dinner with one another’s families. He remembers Mallott as a tireless advocate for equality, justice and public safety in rural Alaska.

“After all he has done for Alaska, Alaska is a better place because of him,” Walker said.

Mallott, a Tlingit Native, was raised in the coastal village of Yakutat and held an array of high-profile positions in business and government. He was president of Sealaska Corp., Southeast Alaska’s regional Native corporation. He was also the director of the state-owned corporation that runs the Alaska Permanent Fund and served on the board of directors of Alaska Air Group.

KTOO’s Adelyn Baxter contributed to this report.