Stevens looking for a permanent home for his public papers

Posted: Monday, March 06, 2000

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Sen. Ted Stevens is looking for a home for his public papers, and the University of Alaska Anchorage appears to be the most likely site.

Stevens is 76 and at the peak of his 32-year career in the U.S. Senate. He has been mulling where to send the mountain of memos and notes and letters on matters that have shaped lives, fortunes and laws in Alaska.

Stevens wants to build a permanent library for the collection. No final decisions have been made. But Stevens is considering having the papers housed at UAA, probably at a privately financed wing of a proposed new library complex. The papers reside now in boxes stored at the National Archives' records center in Suitland, Md.

Stevens has been reluctant about talking publicly of the final resting place for his papers. But there have been private meetings with friends and supporters about their final disposition, and Stevens told the Anchorage Daily News last week that a plan is taking shape.

Stevens said his will directs that upon his death, custody of his papers will fall to his wife, Catherine. In the meantime, Stevens said he plans to build a place for the collection.

''While I'm alive, I will try to raise some money to help my wife so that she will have a place to put them,'' Stevens said. ''I hope to find a way to raise the money to build a library.''

The university has asked the state for $30 million as its share of that structure, with another $10 million or so to come from Stevens through congressional appropriations. But Stevens said private money would pay for the space for his personal papers.

He would have to create a nonprofit corporation or foundation to accept such contributions, which, unlike campaign money, would not be limited. As chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, one of the most powerful jobs in the nation, he would have little trouble raising large sums.

One model is under study: the Jackson Foundation, created by the friends and family of former Washington Sen. Henry ''Scoop'' Jackson after his unexpected death in 1983. Jackson's widow, Helen, chairs that nonprofit foundation, with assets of about $22 million.

Jackson's papers are at the University of Washington, where the Jackson Foundation has helped establish the Jackson School of International Studies.

A replica of Jackson's congressional office was built in the public library of his hometown of Everett, where the furnishings of his Washington office are on permanent display.

Foundation money also is used to promote other Jackson goals, including better understanding of Asian cultures, careers in public service and improved government land-use planning, said foundation president Bill Van Ness. A Stevens foundation may take on Alaska projects in a similar way.

Stevens' records are among the most extensive in Congress.

He has served in the Senate since December 1968, when Gov. Walter J. Hickel appointed him to fill the seat after Bob Bartlett died. During his tenure, Stevens has been a force in shaping most of the major laws affecting Alaska, including the 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, federal fisheries programs, the Alaska pipeline authorization act and the 1980 Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act.

Before his Senate career, Stevens worked in the Eisenhower administration during the debate over Alaska statehood, and he was a federal prosecutor in Fairbanks during the rough-and-tumble 1950s.

Most of Stevens' papers from the Eisenhower administration, where he rose in the Interior Department to become solicitor, were destroyed when the basement of his Anchorage house flooded many years ago.

''I have very few Eisenhower records left,'' Stevens said.

But what records survived those early years also are in storage at the National Archives.

The collection will be enormously useful to historians researching the private thoughts and maneuverings of the Republican senator.

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