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Happy Birthday, 'Mr. Alaska'

Alaska Dispatch
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Alaska’s most influential statesman, former Sen. Ted Stevens, was born in Indianapolis, Ind., on this date, Nov. 18, in 1923. Known as "Uncle Ted" or "Mr. Alaska," Stevens helped usher Alaska to statehood in 1959, and left an incalculable legacy of support for his adopted home.

Stevens came to Alaska in 1953 with his wife and young children to work at a law firm in Fairbanks. Within 6 months, he was appointed as U.S. Attorney in the Interior city. Over the next 55 years, Stevens’ political career would drastically alter the shape of the state.

From drafting complex laws governing the Bering Sea’s fisheries, to funneling massive sums of federal funds to the state during his years on the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, Sen. Stevens’ influence touched every corner of Alaska.

His political legacy came to an abrupt end in 2008, when a jury convicted him on failure to report gifts as required by law. The conviction cost him his Senate seat in the election just two weeks later, losing to Democratic challenger Mark Begich. The verdict would end up being thrown out for major errors committed by the prosecution.

Just two years later, on Aug. 9, 2010, Stevens died in a plane crash along with four other people, including three other well-known Alaskans. His funeral was attended by over 3,000 people, including current Vice President Joe Biden, who called Stevens a “fierce defender” of Alaska’s way of life.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski visited the Arlington National cemetery in honor of Stevens' birthday, according to a statement from her office. She said Stevens was “A great man who did wonderful things that will live beyond for decades and centuries into the future.  Happy Birthday Ted, we miss you.”

Since his death, a mountain and ice field in Denali National Park have been named in honor of Ted Stevens, a facility at Eielson Air Force Base was dedicated and renamed in honor of Stevens over the summer, and the next U.S. Navy warship will bear his name.

Read a comprehensive account of Stevens’ life and legacy, here.