Tuesday, August 10, 2010

In Memoriam: Ted Stevens Dies in Plane Crash at 86

Love him or hate him, you could not ignore Ted Stevens.

He was an institution in the Senate from the late 60's through the 00's, and, in that time, he became a staunch supporter of his state of Alaska returning billions of dollars in earmarks to his adopted home state helping to improve the lives of countless Alaskans.

Stevens was born in Indianapolis on November 18, 1923. He grew up in Chicago and California. After a semester at Oregon State University, Stevens entered the Air Force earning his wing in 1944. After being decorated for flying behind enemy lines, he was discharged in 1946.

After the Air Force, Stevens earned a Bachelor's Degree from UCLA in 1947 and entered Harvard Law School where he graduated in 1950. He was appointed United States Attorney for Alaska in 1954 by President Dwight Eisenhower.

Stevens was instrumental in getting the Alaska statehood movement over the top, even though United States Attorneys are forbidden from political activity. He served in the Alaska State Legislature and then was elected to the United States Senate in 1968.

In the Senate, Stevens served in various leadership roles within the Republican caucus. From 2003-2007, he served as President Pro Tempore of the Senate which is fourth in the line of succession for the Presidency. Of course, his late time in the Senate was dogged by controversy. He was convicted by a jury of seven felonies. In 2008, he was defeated by Anchorage Mayor, Democrat Mark Begich, by just about 4,000 votes days after the convictions were announced. The conviction and its earlier indictment would later be set aside.

Even the controversy did little to sully the man who was named Alaskan of the (20th) Century in 2000. He was still beloved in his home state, and his name and fingerprints are still all over the culture there. You can make the argument that he is the most influential Alaskan in history.

Ted Stevens is survived by his wife Catherine and several children and grandchildren.

Stevens joins, in death, the longest serving Democrat (and longest serving Senator) in history, Robert Byrd, who died just last month.

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