Thursday, August 18, 2005

Governor Jay Hammond - Tribute to a Great Alaskan

Former Governor Jay Hammond’s humor, poetry, and insight will be missed by Alaskans who were fortunate to watch him evolve from a New York minister’s son, to a Marine pilot in WWII, to an adventurer setting out for Alaska where he had trap line in the winter, and checked the traps by dog team.

He attended the University of Alaska and went to work as a government hunter for U.S. Fish and Wildlife. He left government service in 1956 and flew charter fly-ins, gave flying lessons, became a guide’s assistant, then a commercial fisherman. He was elected to the first Alaska State Legislature in 1959. He served in both the House and the Senate before becoming Governor in 1974.

When serving in the legislature, Hammond and a few other legislators, along with then Governor Keith Miller promoted the idea of investing the oil wealth money and spending only the interest to pay for government. As governor, Hammond championed the cause. Then with the help of Clem Tillion, Hammond promoted the Permanent Fund Dividend concept, got it passed through both houses of the legislature, and signed it into law.

In his autobiography, Tales of Alaska’s Bush Rat Governor, Hammond speculated, “Neither background, aspirations not concept of marl turpitude suggested I’d go into politics. As a young boy growing up in an urban parsonage, I never dreamed my trail would wend its way from a remote cabin in Alaska to the governor’s mansion.�

On August 2, 2005 Alaska lost a great man. It was an honor to know him - A celebration of his life will be held Saturday, August 20th at 2:00 P.M. at the Alaska Performing Arts Center, in Anchorage. A public reception will be held from 3:30-4:00 P.M. in the Atwood Hall.