OPINION: Celebrating Ted Stevens’ 100th birthday

On Nov. 18, 1923 — 100 years ago — Theodore Fulton “Ted” Stevens was born, marking the start of an extraordinary life defined by service to our nation and accomplishment for Alaska.

That service began during World War II, when Ted enlisted in the Army Air Corps as a pilot. He supported General Chenault’s “Flying Tigers” in the China-Burma-India Theater, flying C-46s and C-47s on missions “over the Hump” behind enemy lines.

After the war, Ted completed law school and moved “north to the future,” serving as a U.S. Attorney in Fairbanks.

A few years later, he joined the Department of the Interior, where he served as the Eisenhower administration’s point person in the successful fight for Alaska’s statehood.

After statehood, Ted was elected to the Alaska House of Representatives in 1964 and then appointed to the U.S. Senate in 1968. He would go on to win re-election seven straight times, serving Alaska for a total of 40 years and 10 days.

During that span, Ted chaired four committees, including Appropriations. His colleagues chose him to be their Assistant Republican Leader for multiple Congresses. He led the Senate’s Arms Control Observer Group, the U.S.-China Interparliamentary Group, and ultimately served as President Pro Tempore.

Ted was powerful, but he used his power for a single purpose — to help our country and our state.


Through the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, he helped settle aboriginal land claims and create Alaska Native Corporations.

He secured the authorization to build the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System, which remains our state’s economic backbone and a key pillar of our nation’s energy security.

Ted loved the outdoors, especially fishing, and fittingly wrote the framework that continues to guide federal fisheries management, the Magnuson-Stevens Act.

He championed our national defense and international competitiveness, took care of our military and their families, and funded breast cancer research and promoted women’s participation in sports.

Ted also brought home crucial funding to build basic infrastructure and meet community needs all across our young, rugged state — from ports and airports, to water and sewer systems in rural villages, to bypass mail and telemedicine.

Through it all, Ted was a patriot and a statesman. He was a force to be reckoned with, known for having a bit of a temper on the Senate floor and in committees, to powerful effect. He put on his Incredible Hulk tie when he meant business.

But he also worked across party lines, often with Sen. Dan Inouye of Hawaii. His motto was “to hell with politics, do what’s right for Alaska” — words many Alaskans continue to live by.

There was no one like Ted. He had a vision and was determined to reach it, no matter who or what stood in his way. He earned medals for his distinguished military service, and he was chosen as Alaskan of the Century for his remarkable achievements at statehood and in the Senate.

We tragically lost Ted in a plane crash in August 2010 — but in so many ways, he’s still with us.

We visit his portrait in the Capitol, his grave in Arlington National Cemetery and his statue at the Anchorage airport every chance we get.

We also see the lasting impacts of his life’s work — his enduring legacy — everywhere we go: the communities he helped, the lives he improved, the infrastructure he made possible, the jobs he helped create, and the resources he worked to produce and conserve. It’s hard to find a place in Alaska that Ted didn’t better in some way.

Ted sometimes referenced the “pace of forgetting” — his recognition that times change, people come and go, and that how things happen and why things matter aren’t always passed on. But while Ted may be gone, he is not forgotten.

We will never forget Ted, because Ted was Alaska.

It was an honor to know him. It is a blessing that he chose to live in and serve our state for so many decades. On his 100th birthday, we thank Ted Stevens for all he did, and we join Alaskans in remembering and celebrating this great man.

Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan represent Alaska in the U.S. Senate.

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