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Alaska Statehood Act

Alaska Statehood Act

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The Alaska Statehood Act was signed by President
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight David "Ike" Eisenhower was the 34th President of the United States, from 1953 until 1961. He was a five-star general in the United States Army...

 on July 7, 1958, allowing Alaska
Alaska
Alaska is the largest state in the United States by area. It is situated in the northwest extremity of the North American continent, with Canada to the east, the Arctic Ocean to the north, and the Pacific Ocean to the west and south, with Russia further west across the Bering Strait...

 to become the 49th U.S. state
U.S. state
A U.S. state is any one of the 50 federated states of the United States of America that share sovereignty with the federal government. Because of this shared sovereignty, an American is a citizen both of the federal entity and of his or her state of domicile. Four states use the official title of...

 on January 3, 1959.

History: the road to Statehood


From 1867 to 1884 Alaska
Alaska
Alaska is the largest state in the United States by area. It is situated in the northwest extremity of the North American continent, with Canada to the east, the Arctic Ocean to the north, and the Pacific Ocean to the west and south, with Russia further west across the Bering Strait...

 was considered to be a military district of the United States of America under the control of the federal government. Alaskans had sought statehood since as early as the 1920s though this vision was not realized until the decade after World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...


.

The First Organic Act


In 1884, the government passed the Organic Act which allowed for Alaska to become a judicial district as well as a civil one, with judges, clerks, marshals, and limited government officials appointed by the federal government to run the territory. Furthermore, during the Gold Rush Era
Klondike Gold Rush
The Klondike Gold Rush, also called the Yukon Gold Rush, the Alaska Gold Rush and the Last Great Gold Rush, was an attempt by an estimated 100,000 people to travel to the Klondike region the Yukon in north-western Canada between 1897 and 1899 in the hope of successfully prospecting for gold...

 (1890–1900), over 30,000 people traveled north into the Yukon Territory and Alaska in search of gold. Several industries flourished as a result, such as fishing, trapping, mining and mineral production. Alaska's resources were depleted to the extent that it came to be considered a "colonial economy." Alaska was still just a district, however, and the local government had little control over local affairs.

The Second Organic Act


Several issues arose that made it much more difficult for Alaska to push towards self-government. One of which was the forming of the "Alaska Syndicate" in 1906 by the two barons J. P. Morgan and Simon Guggenheim. Their influence spread and they came to control the Kennecott copper mine, steamship and railroad companies, and salmon packing. The influence of the Syndicate in Washington D.C. opposed any further movement towards Alaskan home rule. James Wickersham, however, grew increasingly concerned over the exploitation of Alaska for personal and corporate interests and took it upon himself to fight for Alaskan self-rule. He used the Ballinger-Pinchot affair
Pinchot-Ballinger Controversy
The Pinchot–Ballinger controversy, also known as the "Ballinger Affair", was a dispute between U.S. Forest Service Chief Gifford Pinchot and U.S. Secretary of the Interior Richard Achilles Ballinger that contributed to the split of the Republican Party before the 1912 Presidential Election and...

 in order to help achieve this. As a result of the affair, Alaska was on the national headlines, and President Taft was forced to send a message to Congress on February 2, 1912, insisting that they listen to Wickersham. In April 1912 Congress passed the Second Organic Act which turned Alaska into a US territory with an elected legislature. The federal government still retained much of the control over laws regarding fishing, gaming, and natural resources and the governor was also still appointed by the President. In 1916, Wickersham, who was now a delegate to Congress, proposed the first bill for Alaskan statehood. The bill, however, failed, partly due to domestic disinterest among Alaskans in gaining statehood.

National and Congressional discrimination


Discrimination against the Alaskan Territory made it difficult for Congress to get much done. Discussion of revising the Second Organic Act took up much time but came to no avail. Instead Congress passed the Jones Act (also known as the U.S. Maritime Act of 1920) and the White Act of 1924 both of which made the fishing problem worse for Alaskans rather than better. Alaskans were angered by these two acts and felt they were discriminatory. Matters were made worse by regional conflicts which drew attention away from the issue of statehood. In the 1930s Alaska was plagued by the Depression. During this time, FDR did two significant things for Alaska. First he allowed for 1,000 selected farmers hurt by the depression to move to Alaska and colonize the Matanuska-Susitna region, being given a second chance at agricultural success. Second and more importantly, Roosevelt appointed Ernest Gruening as governor of Alaska in 1939. Edward Lewis "Bob" Bartlett, who was one of Alaska's territorial delegates to Congress from 1944 to 1958 when he became a US senator representing Alaska, would become one of Gruening's most important allies in supporting the cause for Alaskan statehood.

Breaking down the barriers toward Statehood


Alaska's desire for statehood was much aided by the amount of attention it received during WWII and the Cold War years. As it became an important strategic military base and a key to the Pacific, its population increased with the amount of soldiers sent there and its situation gained nation-wide attention. Yet even so, many barriers stood between Alaska and statehood. Many Alaskans like the Lomen brothers of Nome and Austin E. "Cap" Lathrop, who benefited largely from Alaska's small tax base did not want themselves or their businesses to be hurt financially by the increase in taxes that would result from statehood. Other Alaskans feared that statehood would result in a flood of more people coming to Alaska, which they didn't want. There was enough of a majority, though, that did want statehood so as to be able to pass a Referendum for statehood in Alaska in 1946 by a 3:2 vote.

The opposition


With the help of the Referendum, Bartlett was able to introduce a bill to Congress. The bill, however, was immediately shot down by a coalition of Democrats and Republicans. (Republicans feared that Alaska would be unable to raise enough taxes due to its small population, and end up as a welfare state. The Southern Democrats feared more pro-civil rights congressmen.) To retaliate, Gruening established the "Alaska Statehood Committee" in 1949. He encouraged journalists, newspaper editors, politicians, and members of national and labor organizations to help use their positions and power to make the issue of Alaskan statehood more known. He gathered a group of 100 prominent figures, including Eleanor Roosevelt, actor James Cagney, Pearl Buck, John Gunther, historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. and Reinhold Niebuhr, who all stood for the Alaskan cause. Another bill was introduced to Congress in 1949 and passed in the House by a 186 to 146 vote in 1950. However, the bill was then shot down in the Senate, again for fear of adding more Democrats to the 81st Congress (1949–1951) Democrat (54 seats) Republican (42 seats). February 27, 1952, Senate on one vote margin (45-44) kills statehood bill for another year. Southern Democrats had threatened a filibuster to delay consideration. By 1954 In the State of the Union address, Eisenhower refers to Statehood for Hawaii (then a Republican state) but not Alaska (then a Democratic state). By March Frustrated by Eisenhower refusal to support statehood for Alaska, a Senate coalition led by Democrats ties the fate of Alaska and Hawaii Statehood together as one package. The parliamentary move is backed by some Southern Democrats, concerned about the addition of new votes in the civil rights for blacks movement, in the hope of defeating both measures.

Things begin to turn around


Six Senators from the Senate Interior and Insular Affairs Committee, including Senator Butler went to Alaska in order to hold public hearings and see for themselves what the public sentiment was in Alaska. In response to the visit, Alaskans would not let Americans forget the cause. Citizens sent Christmas cards reading "Make [Alaskans] future bright/Ask your Senator for statehood/And start the New Year right." Women made bouquets of Alaska's flower, the Forget-Me-Not and sent them to members of Congress. Movements such as "Operation Statehood" also put increasing pressure on Congress. "Lack of public interest" could no longer be used as a feasible excuse to prevent statehood.

Gruening and the Constitutional Convention


In interest of the growing fervor and enthusiasm towards the cause, a Constitutional Convention was held at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks in 1955. During this convention, Gruening gave a very powerful speech which compared Alaska's situation to the American struggle for independence. The famous speech was entitled "Let Us End American Colonialism" and had a very influential impact. The Convention was highly praised and very emotional. The Constitution for Alaska was written up and Alaskans voted and passed the Alaska Constitution in 1956 with overwhelming approval. The Constitution was named "one of the best, if not the best, state constitutions ever written" by the National Municipal League.

The Tennessee Plan


Another step forward for the cause was taken by the Alaskan adoption of the "Tennessee Plan" which allowed them to elect their delegates to Congress without having to wait for an official act from Congress. Alaskans therefore elected to Congress Senators Ernest Gruening and William Egan and Representative to the House Ralph J. Rivers. Gruening, Egan, and Rivers attended Congress and were politely received, though they were not officially seated or recognized in any way. The Alaskan delegation did not give up, however, and worked hard with Bartlett to pressure the Congress into action.

Members of Congress finally change their minds


Eventually, with the help of Bartlett's influence, the Speaker of the House, Sam Rayburn, who up until 1957 had been an ardent opponent of the Alaskan statehood cause, changed his mind and when Congress reconvened in January 1958, President Eisenhower fully endorsed the bill for the first time. Senator Lyndon B. Johnson promised his commitment to the bill but others still stood in the way, such as Representative Howard W. Smith of Virginia, Chairman of the powerful Rules Committee, and Thomas Pelly of Washington State who wanted the Alaskan waters to be open to use by Washingtonians. Eventually, though, such resistance was able to be bypassed and the House passed the statehood bill. The senate, which had had its own version of the bill as well as the House's version, finally managed to pass the House's bill through the fervent urging of Bartlett by a 64-20 vote. On January 3, 1959, after much struggle and through the efforts of many, Alaska finally became the 49th state of the United States of America after President Eisenhower's signing of the official declaration.

Civil Rights, Alaska, & Hawaii


In the late 1950s Civil Rights Bills were being introduced to the Congress. To overcome the Southern Democrats’ suppression of the pro-Republican African-American vote Hawaii’s (Then Republican) prospects at statehood were tied to Alaska’s, which many thought would be more Democratic. Hawaii Statehood was expected to result in the addition of two pro-civil-rights Senators from a state which would be the first to have majority non-white population. This would endanger the Southern minority segregationist Democrat Senate by providing two more Republican votes to invoke cloture
Cloture
In parliamentary procedure, cloture is a motion or process aimed at bringing debate to a quick end. It is also called closure or, informally, a guillotine. The cloture procedure originated in the French National Assembly, from which the name is taken. Clôture is French for "ending" or "conclusion"...

 and halt a Senate filibuster
Filibuster
A filibuster is a type of parliamentary procedure. Specifically, it is the right of an individual to extend debate, allowing a lone member to delay or entirely prevent a vote on a given proposal...

. The Congressional vote totals show a proportionally larger support for the 1964 Civil Rights Act by the Republican Party. The House of Representatives’ vote by party was 136 to 35 (80% support) by Republicans, but only 153 to 91 (63% support) by Democrats.

Opponents of Alaska Statehood

  • Alaskan Independence Party
    Alaskan Independence Party
    The Alaskan Independence Party is a political party in the U.S. state of Alaska that advocates an in-state referendum which includes the option of Alaska becoming an independent country...

  • Hugh A. Butler
    Hugh A. Butler
    Hugh Alfred Butler was a Nebraska Republican politician.He was born on a farm near Missouri Valley, Iowa on February 28, 1878. He graduated from Doane College at Crete, Nebraska in 1900. he became a construction engineer with the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad from 1900 to 1908...

     — Senator from Nebraska (1941–1954)
  • Austin E. Lathrop
    Austin E. Lathrop
    Austin Eugene "Cap" Lathrop was an industrialist and outspoken opponent of Alaska statehood. He has been called "Alaska's first home-grown millionaire."-Early life:...

     — American industrialist
  • Emery Fridolf Tobin — Founder/publisher of Alaska Sportsman magazine
  • John E. Manders
    John E. Manders
    John E. Manders was Mayor of Anchorage, Alaska from 1945–1946 and a leading voice among opponents of Alaskan statehood.-Biography:...

     — Mayor of Anchorage (1945–1946) and tax protester
    Tax protester (United States)
    A tax protester is someone who refuses to pay a tax on constitutional or legal grounds, typically because he or she believes that the tax laws are unconstitutional or otherwise invalid...

  • John R. Pillion
    John R. Pillion
    John Raymond Pillion was a Republican member of the United States House of Representatives from New York....

     — Representative from New York (1953–1965)
  • Joe Vogler
    Joe Vogler
    Joseph E. "Joe" Vogler was the founder of the Alaskan Independence Party, and either its chair or gubernatorial nominee for most of its first two decades of existence...

     — founder of the Alaskan Independence Party

Proponents of Alaska Statehood

  • Wayne N. Aspinall
    Wayne N. Aspinall
    Wayne Norviel Aspinall was a lawyer and politician from Colorado. He is largely known for his tenure in the United States House of Representatives, serving as a Democrat from 1949-1973 from Colorado’s Fourth District. Aspinall became known for his direction of the House Interior and Insular...

     — Representative from Colorado (1949–1973)
  • Robert Atwood
    Robert Atwood
    Robert Bruce Atwood was the long-time editor and publisher of the Anchorage Times, and a proponent of Alaska statehood.-Biography:...

     — editor and publisher of the Anchorage Times
    Anchorage Times
    The Anchorage Times was a daily newspaper published in Anchorage, Alaska that became known for the pro-business political stance of longtime publisher and editor, Robert Atwood. Competition from the McClatchy-owned Anchorage Daily News forced it out of business in 1992.-History:The Anchorage Times...

  • Bob Bartlett
    Bob Bartlett
    Edward Lewis "Bob" Bartlett was an American politician and a member of the Democratic Party.Bartlett was born in Seattle, Washington. After graduating from the University of Alaska in 1925, Bartlett began his career in politics...

     — delegate to the US House of Representatives from the Alaska Territory
    Alaska Territory
    The Territory of Alaska was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from August 24, 1912, until January 3, 1959, when it was admitted to the Union as the State of Alaska...

     (1945–1959) and Senator from Alaska (1959–1968)
  • Frank Church
    Frank Church
    Frank Forrester Church III was an American lawyer and politician. A member of the Democratic Party, he served as a United States Senator from Idaho from 1957 to 1981....

     — Senator from Idaho (1957–1981)
  • Anthony Dimond
    Anthony Dimond
    Anthony Joseph Dimond was an American Democratic Party politician who was the Alaska Territory Delegate in the United States House of Representatives for many years...

     — delegate to the US House of Representatives from the Alaska Territory
    Alaska Territory
    The Territory of Alaska was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from August 24, 1912, until January 3, 1959, when it was admitted to the Union as the State of Alaska...

     (1933–1945)
  • William Allen Egan
    William Allen Egan
    William Allen Egan was an American Democratic politician. He served as the first Governor of the State of Alaska from January 3, 1959 to 1966, and the fourth Governor from 1970 to 1974...

     — Governor of Alaska (1959–1966, 1970–1974)
  • Edna Ferber
    Edna Ferber
    Edna Ferber was an American novelist, short story writer and playwright. Her novels were especially popular and included the Pulitzer Prize-winning So Big , Show Boat , and Giant .-Early years:Ferber was born August 15, 1885, in Kalamazoo, Michigan,...

     — novelist, author and playwright
  • Ernest Gruening
    Ernest Gruening
    Ernest Henry Gruening was an American journalist and Democrat who was the Governor of the Alaska Territory from 1939 until 1953, and a United States Senator from Alaska from 1959 until 1969.-Early life:...

     — Governor of the Alaska Territory
    Alaska Territory
    The Territory of Alaska was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from August 24, 1912, until January 3, 1959, when it was admitted to the Union as the State of Alaska...

     (1939–1953) and Senator from Alaska (1959–1969)
  • Benjamin Franklin Heintzleman
    Benjamin Franklin Heintzleman
    Benjamin Franklin "Frank" Heintzleman was an American forester who spent much of his career supporting the development of Alaska Territory. Following a career with the United States Forest Service he was appointed Governor of Alaska Territory, a position he held from 1953 till 1957...

     — Governor of the Alaska Territory
    Alaska Territory
    The Territory of Alaska was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from August 24, 1912, until January 3, 1959, when it was admitted to the Union as the State of Alaska...

     (1953–1957)
  • Walter Joseph Hickel
    Walter Joseph Hickel
    Walter Joseph "Wally" Hickel was an industrialist, focused mostly on construction and real estate development, and a politician of the Republican and Alaskan Independence parties from the U.S. state of Alaska. Hickel served as the second and eighth Governor of Alaska...

     — Governor of Alaska (1966–1969, 1990–1994) and Secretary of the Interior
    United States Secretary of the Interior
    The United States Secretary of the Interior is the head of the United States Department of the Interior.The US Department of the Interior should not be confused with the concept of Ministries of the Interior as used in other countries...

     (1969–1970)
  • Henry M. Jackson
    Henry M. Jackson
    Henry Martin "Scoop" Jackson was a U.S. Congressman and Senator from the state of Washington from 1941 until his death...

     — Representative from Washington (1941–1953) and Senator from Washington (1953–1983)
  • William F. Knowland
    William F. Knowland
    William Fife Knowland was a United States politician, newspaperman, and Republican Party leader. He was a U.S. Senator representing California from 1945 to 1959. He served as Senate Majority Leader from 1953-1955, and as Minority Leader from 1955-1959. He was defeated in his 1958 run for...

     — Senator from California (1945–1959)
  • Richard L. Neuberger
    Richard L. Neuberger
    Richard Lewis Neuberger was a U.S. journalist, author, and politician during the middle of the 20th century. A native of Oregon, he would write for The New York Times before and after a stint in the United States Army during World War II...

     — Senator from Oregon (1955–1960)
  • Elmer E. Rasmuson
    Elmer E. Rasmuson
    Elmer E. Rasmuson was an Alaskan banker and philanthropist. He was Mayor of Anchorage from 1964 to 1967.-Origins and education:...

     — Alaskan banker and philanthropist and Mayor of Anchorage (1964–1967)
  • Ralph Julian Rivers
    Ralph Julian Rivers
    Ralph Julian Rivers was a Democratic U.S. Representative from Alaska.-Biography:Born in Seattle, Washington, Rivers attended grammar school in Flat, Alaska, and Franklin High School in Seattle. He worked as a gold miner in Flat from 1921 to 1923, and then earned an LL.B. from the University of...

     — Representative from Alaska (1959–1966)
  • Fred Andrew Seaton
    Fred Andrew Seaton
    Frederick Andrew Seaton was United States Secretary of the Interior during Dwight Eisenhower's administration.-Biography:Seaton was born in Washington, D.C., but grew up and attended high school in Manhattan, Kansas...

     — Senator from Nebraska (1951–1952) and Secretary of the Interior
    United States Secretary of the Interior
    The United States Secretary of the Interior is the head of the United States Department of the Interior.The US Department of the Interior should not be confused with the concept of Ministries of the Interior as used in other countries...

     (1956–1961)
  • Charles Willis Snedden — publisher of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner
    Fairbanks Daily News-Miner
    The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner is a morning daily newspaper that serves the city of Fairbanks, Alaska, the Fairbanks North Star Borough, the Denali Borough, and the Yukon-Koyukuk Census Area in the United States state of Alaska. It is the farthest north daily newspaper in the United States, and...

  • Ted Stevens
    Ted Stevens
    Theodore Fulton "Ted" Stevens, Sr. was a United States Senator from Alaska, serving from December 24, 1968, until January 3, 2009, and thus the longest-serving Republican senator in history...

     — former United States senator
  • Michael Anthony Stepovich
    Michael Anthony Stepovich
    Michael Anthony "Mike" Stepovich is an American lawyer who, from 1957 to 1958, served as the last Governor of Alaska Territory. Following his education and military service during World War II, Stepovich established a law practice in his home town of Fairbanks, Alaska and began his political...

     — Governor of the Alaska Territory
    Alaska Territory
    The Territory of Alaska was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from August 24, 1912, until January 3, 1959, when it was admitted to the Union as the State of Alaska...

     (1957–1958)
  • Nathan Farragut Twining
    Nathan Farragut Twining
    Nathan Farragut Twining, KBE was a United States Air Force General, born in Monroe, Wisconsin. He was Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force from 1953 until 1957...

     — Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force
    Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force
    The Chief of Staff of the Air Force is a statutory office held by a four-star general in the United States Air Force, and is the most senior uniformed officer assigned to serve in the Department of the Air Force, and as such is the principal military advisor and a deputy to the Secretary of the...

     (1953–1957) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
    Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
    The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is by law the highest ranking military officer in the United States Armed Forces, and is the principal military adviser to the President of the United States, the National Security Council, the Homeland Security Council and the Secretary of Defense...

     (1957–1960)
  • James Wickersham
    James Wickersham
    James Wickersham was a district judge for Alaska, appointed by U.S. President William McKinley to the Third Judicial District in 1900. He resigned his post in 1908 and was subsequently elected as Alaska's delegate to Congress, serving until 1917 and then being re-elected in 1930...

     — district judge and delegate to the US House of Representatives from the Alaska Territory
    Alaska Territory
    The Territory of Alaska was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from August 24, 1912, until January 3, 1959, when it was admitted to the Union as the State of Alaska...

     (1909–1917, 1919, 1921, 1931–1933)

See also

  • Hawaii Admission Act
    Hawaii Admission Act
    The Admission Act, formally An Act to Provide for the Admission of the State of Hawaii into the Union is a statute enacted by the United States Congress and signed into law by President Dwight D. Eisenhower which dissolved the Territory of Hawaii and established the State of Hawaii as the 50th...

  • Enabling Act (United States)
  • Legal status of Alaska‎

External links