The First Alaska State Legislature
On January 26, 1959, the first Alaska state legislature convened in Juneau. Forty representatives and twenty senators were elected from all over the state. The majority were Democrats, which was true for many Alaskan politicians until the pipeline brought many people up from the “oil patch” states and our demographics shifted toward the conservative side. The legislators passed 187 bills during their term, including the creation of the organization of the Alaska legislature and the state public education system.
Many legislators were well-known at the time or later in life. Alaska Native elders were well-represented, including Eben Hopson of Barrow (now called Utqiagvik) who founded the North Slope Borough, and Frank Peratrovich of Klawock who had a long history of public service including on the Alaska Territorial Legislature. Our first female state legislators, constitutional convention delegate Dora Sweeney of Juneau, and constitutional convention delegate and activist Helen M. Fischer and aviator/geologist Irene Ryan of Anchorage, continued the tradition that began with Nell Scott of Seldovia (the first territorial one in 1937). Jay Hammond of Naknek later became governor and founder of the Alaska Permanent Fund, which preserved much of our state oil money for future generations.
I am grateful for these public servants, and all the others who have served since then. Thanks to everyone who prioritizes the general good before their individual concerns.
To learn more about Alaska State Legislature history, check out these websites:
The Alaska Legislature history site
The UAA/APU Consortium Library site at https://libguides.consortiumlibrary.org/ASClegislativecollections