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Alaska News

US presidents who visited Alaska while in office

  • Author: Mike Dunham
  • Updated: September 28, 2016
  • Published July 17, 2015

The White House announced on Friday that President Barack Obama will visit Alaska at the end of August. It'll be the first time since he was elected that he has visited Alaska beyond Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

The visit raises the question: What other sitting presidents have visited the 49th State? Here's our quick stab at a history:

Warren Harding, 1923

Franklin Roosevelt, 1944

Dwight Eisenhower, 1960

Lyndon Johnson, 1966

Richard Nixon, 1971

Gerald Ford, 1974 and 1975

Ronald Reagan, 1983 and 1984

Bill Clinton, 1994

George W. Bush, 2004 and 2005

The above list refers to visits where the president made a public appearance, not refueling stops or trips where the president may have briefly left his plane to address military personnel, as Obama did in 2009, but was separated from the general public during the stopover.

Two of the trips involved meeting other international leaders in Alaska; Nixon met Japanese Emperor Hirohito in Anchorage and Reagan met Pope John Paul II in Fairbanks in 1984.

Eisenhower had previously been in Alaska as a general to inspect military facilities and, some say, fish.

John Kennedy visited Alaska twice as a senator, campaigning for Alaska Democrats and in his own campaign for president. Nixon campaigned here for Republicans when he was vice president. George W. Bush lived in Fairbanks briefly before pursuing politics. Herbert Hoover, then secretary of commerce, toured Alaska with Harding. Jimmy Carter has come to Alaska to fish since leaving office.

Roosevelt was the only presidential visitor whose itinerary did not include either Anchorage or Fairbanks. He traveled by ship to Southeast, Kodiak and the Aleutians.

The most ambitious trip to Alaska, by far, was Harding's. He departed from Seattle on July 5, 1923, and returned to Vancouver, British Columbia, on July 16, 1923. During his tour he spoke in Metlakatla, Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Valdez, Seward, Anchorage, Nenana and Fairbanks, among other stops.

Alaska's first brush with presidential hopefuls came in 1869 when William Seward, a leading contender for the Republican nomination in 1860, traveled to Sitka and delivered a speech. Seward became the secretary of state for the man who defeated him for the nomination, Abraham Lincoln, and is credited with arranging the purchase of Alaska from Russia.

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