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Walter Joseph Hickel

In office
January 24, 1969 – November 25, 1970
President Richard Nixon
Preceded by Stewart Udall
Succeeded by Rogers Morton

In office
December 5, 1966 – January 24, 1969
Lieutenant Keith H. Miller
Preceded by William A. Egan
Succeeded by Keith H. Miller

In office
December 3, 1990 – December 5, 1994
Lieutenant Jack Coghill
Preceded by Steve Cowper
Succeeded by Tony Knowles

Born August 18, 1919 (1919-08-18) (age 90)
Ellinwood, Kansas
Political party Republican
(c.1940-1990, April 1994-present)
Other political
Alaskan Independence Party (1990-April 1994)
Spouse(s) Ermalee Hickel
Religion Roman Catholicism

Walter Joseph "Wally" Hickel (born August 18, 1919) is an American Republican and Alaskan Independence Party politician who served as the second and eighth Governor of Alaska. His first term as governor was from 1966 to 1969, and ended with Hickel's resignation upon his confirmation in the position of United States Secretary of the Interior in the Cabinet of President Richard Nixon. He then served a complete term from 1990 to 1994.


Early life and career

Born in Ellinwood, Kansas, Hickel relocated to Alaska in 1940, going into the local real estate industry. By 1947, Hickel had formed a successful construction company. While some fellow Republicans in the Alaska Territory opposed statehood, Hickel joined Democrats in calls for joining the Union during the late 1940s and into the 1950s. Using his growing popularity among Alaskan Republicans and growing political clout in Washington, Hickel was able to travel to the nation's capital to engage in talks with key Republicans in both the U.S. Congress and within the Eisenhower Administration to speak about Alaskan statehood. Thanks in part to his efforts, Hickel's debates with Congressional leaders led to enough initially hesitant Republicans voting in favor of the Alaska Statehood Act in 1958.

Political career


First governorship

Hickel was elected as Alaska's second governor in the 1966 state general elections, defeating his Democratic rival and incumbent governor William Egan. Hickel's first governorship, the second in the young state's history as well as Alaska's first Republican governorship, oversaw the discovery of oilfields at Prudhoe Bay in 1968, a factor that would prove politically decisive in later years. Hickel, a moderate Republican and environmentalist, did not push for heavy oil exploitation. In 1968, Hickel appointed Ted Stevens to the United States Senate to replace the recently deceased Bob Bartlett.

Like his predecessor Egan, Hickel sought to improve relations with Alaskan Natives in seeking resolutions on Native land claims.

Interior Secretary

Following Richard Nixon's win to the Presidency in late 1968, the President-elect asked Hickel to serve within the United States Cabinet as Interior Secretary. Initially, Hickel declined the cabinet offer. Nixon replied that his decision was final. Hickel would recall years later that he cried afterwards, and announced he would be resigning from the governorship to go to Washington.

Hickel's nomination was met with what Hickel later wrote was a newspaper "smear" campaign of "false" and "crazy accusations" that he had a corrupt and anti-environmetalist record as governor.[1] Opposition to his nomination was led by influential columnists Drew Pearson and Jack Anderson. Newspapers opposing his nomination included the New York Times[2] and the Los Angeles Times. In the Senate, his confirmation was opposed by, among others, Democratic senators Walter Mondale and George McGovern. Sierra Club director David Brower testified in opposition to Hickel. The Senate confirmed his nomination on 23 January 1969.[3]

Upon becoming the federal Secretary of the Interior, Hickel proved to be a strong environmentalist, supporting liberal Congressional laws that put liabilities on oil companies operating offshore oil rigs, as well as demanding environmental safeguards on Alaska's growing oil industry.[4]

Hickel's centrist-liberal voice inside the Nixon Administration eventually led to confrontations with the President. In 1970 following the shooting of college students at Kent State University by the Ohio National Guard, Hickel wrote a letter critical of Nixon's Vietnam War policy and urging him to give more respect to the views of young people critical of the war. This dissent garnered worldwide media attention, and on Nov 25, 1970, Hickel was fired over the letter.[4]

Second governorship

In 1990, an open primary nominated Alaska State Senator Arliss Sturgulewski as the Republican candidate for Governor of Alaska, facing the Mayor of Anchorage, Tony Knowles, a Democrat, in the general election.[5] Sturgulewski was criticized by many Republicans for her positions on issues such as abortion and capital punishment. Alaskan Independence Party chairman Joe Vogler seized on this discontent to offer the seats on the AIP ticket to Hickel and Jack Coghill, who had been nominated as the Republican candidate for Lieutenant Governor of Alaska. John Howard Lindauer and Jerry Ward, the previous AIP candidates, stepped aside, citing the illness of Lindauer's wife[6], and Hickel and Coghill prevailed in the general election.

Although he had common ground with the Alaska Independence Party in fighting restrictions on land use imposed by federal environmentalism, Hickel had been one of the most influential historical proponents of Alaska statehood and never endorsed the AIP's secessionism, prompting some party faithful to petition for his recall. He rejoined the Republican Party in April 1994, near the tail end of his term.[7]

Since 1994

Wally Hickel and his wife, Ermalee Hickel, outside the Egan Center in Anchorage.

In 2006 he supported Sarah Palin in her bid to become governor of Alaska;[8] however, in 2009, he stated that he now doesn't "give a damn what she does".[9]

In 2008, he called for the resignation of U.S. Senator Ted Stevens, whom he appointed to the Senate in 1968 in light of his indictment related to the alleged receipt of improper gifts from the VECO Corporation, an Alaskan pipeline service and construction company. (Stevens' conviction was later expunged after he was cleared by a federal judge over the issue of prosecutorial misconduct.) [10]


Hickel is also a real estate developer and chairman of Hickel Investment Company.

External links


  1. ^ Walter J. Hickel, Who Owns America?, New York: Paperback Library, 1971, p.25, 31.
  2. ^ New York Times (editorial), "The Hickel nomination", 22 January 1969.
  3. ^ Walter J. Hickel, Who Owns America?, New York: Paperback Library, 1971, p.22-41.
  4. ^ a b "TOPICS OF THE TIMES; Wally Redux". New York Times. 1990-11-08. Retrieved 2008-09-05.  
  5. ^ "The 1990 Elections: State By State; West". New York Times. 1990-11-07. Retrieved 2008-09-05.  
  6. ^ AIP website
  7. ^ "Two in the House Advance In Drive for Senator's Seat". New York Times. 1990-08-25. Retrieved 2008-09-07.  
  8. ^ Support for Sarah Palin
  9. ^ "It Came from Wasilla", by Todd S. Purdum (Vanity Fair, August 2009
  10. ^ CBS News story on Hickel
Political offices
Preceded by
William A. Egan
Governor of Alaska
Succeeded by
Keith Miller
Preceded by
Stewart Udall
United States Secretary of the Interior
Succeeded by
Rogers Morton
Preceded by
Steve Cowper
Governor of Alaska
Succeeded by
Tony Knowles


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