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Longtime Alaska resources and transportation adviser Walter Parker dead at 87

  • Author: Mike Dunham
  • Updated: May 31, 2016
  • Published June 26, 2014

Walter Parker, who played multiple roles in the assessment and development of resources and infrastructure in Alaska from the 1940s until the current century, died at home in Anchorage on Wednesday, according to a Twitter post Thursday by his daughter, Lisa Parker. He was 87.

Parker was born in Spokane, Washington, on Aug. 11, 1926. He served in World War II and came to Alaska in 1946 to work for the Civil Aeronautics Administration. He remained employed with the federal government through 1971 and was involved with developing air transportation routes and services, including providing air support to Prudhoe Bay before construction of the Dalton Highway. Among his final jobs as a civil servant was coordinating and planning federal policy with regard to the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.

In 1971 he joined the University of Alaska, where he taught classes in political science and urban and regional planning until 1980. At the same time, he formed Parker Associates, which supplied consultation to NASA regarding satellites, among other clients and services.

He was elected to the assembly of the Greater Anchorage Area Borough, on which he served from 1971 to 1974.

He was appointed to the staff of the Alaska State Pipeline Office by Gov. William Egan and oversaw construction of the Dalton Highway. He was also a delegate to the Third Law of the Sea Conference.

He became Alaska's highway commissioner under Gov. Jay Hammond and was charged with forming the state's Department of Transportation. He chaired the Alaska Oil Tanker Task Force and the Alaska Telecommunications Task Force, which oversaw the transition from microwave to satellite for the bulk of Alaska's communications system. In 1976 he became state chairman of the Joint Federal/State Land Use Planning Commission for Alaska, which provided input for the Alaska National Interest Lands and Conservation Act signed by President Jimmy Carter in 1980.

In 1989, Gov. Steve Cowper appointed him chairman of the Alaska Oil Spill Commission, charged with examining the causes of the wreck of the Exxon Valdez. He became a member of the Arctic Research Commission under President Bill Clinton and held positions in several other government, quasi-governmental and public interest organizations, including the Northern Forum, the Institute of the North, the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens' Advisory Council, the Bering Sea Forum, the Anchorage Citizens Coalition and the Anchorage Trails and Greenways Coalition.

Walt Parker was preceded in death by his wife of 55 years, Patricia Ertman Parker.

Reach Mike Dunham at or 257-4332.