Former Gov. Jay Hammond monitors proceedings at the Conference of Alaskans in February 2004 in Fairbanks, Alaska. Hammond, a bush pilot and hunting guide who served two terms as Alaska's governor during a period that helped define modern Alaska, died Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2005, at his Lake Clark home, police said. He was 83.
AP Photo/Anchorage Daily News, E
JUNEAU Jay Hammond, a bush pilot and hunting guide who served two terms as governor during the pivotal years that helped define modern Alaska, died Tuesday. He was 83.
Hammond was found in bed Tuesday morning by his wife, Bella, in their homestead some 185 miles southwest of Anchorage, according to Alaska State Troopers. He died of natural causes, troopers said.
Hammond, a Republican and a conservationist in a pro-development state, served in the Alaska Legislature for 12 years and was governor from 1975 to 1982.
He oversaw the first flow of oil through the trans-Alaska pipeline in 1977 and was a champion of creating the Alaska Permanent Fund, the oil-royalty fund that dispenses annual dividend checks to nearly everyone in the state.
Also during his time in office, federal land reserves grew vastly, fishery stocks revived and Alaska’s broad-based tourism industry was born.
Republican Gov. Frank Murkowski told a news conference that in Hammond’s death, Alaska had lost a giant who believed in the traditions of the state. He said he valued the friendship and opinions of Hammond, who epitomized ‘‘that group that lives on that rugged frontier.’’
Hammond was born July 21, 1922, in Troy, N.Y. The son of a Methodist minister, he briefly attended Penn State University before enlisting in the Marine Corps during World War II and serving as a fighter pilot in the Pacific.
He moved to Alaska in 1946 to work as a pilot. It was the first of many jobs for Hammond trapper, wildlife biologist, government hunter, hunting guide, commercial fisherman and later, according to his 1994 autobiography, a reluctant politician.
‘‘When it came to politics, as in many other of life’s activities, I preferred to be a loner,’’ he wrote. ‘‘Political power or leadership positions simply didn’t entrance me not because of selfless humility. I simply didn’t want to bear the burdens of hard work and the responsibilities that come with such jobs. Some folks thrive on pressure; I wither.’’
After 12 years in the Legislature, six each in the House and the Senate, Hammond retired in 1972 and returned home to Naknek to resume life as a fishermen.
That retirement lasted only two years. In 1974, Hammond defeated former Govs. Walter Hickel and Keith Miller in the Republican primary and upset three-term Gov. William Egan in the general election by just 220 votes.
He campaigned as a proponent of ‘‘healthy growth’’ but quickly picked up the derisive nickname ‘‘Zero-Growth Hammond’’ for his opposition to a variety of controversial proposals favored by pro-development forces.
Hammond opposed the 800-mile route selected for the trans-Alaska oil pipeline, oil lease sales in Kachemak Bay and the massive Rampart hydroelectric project. He lost on the pipeline, which was completed during his first term, but he prevailed on the other two.
In 1978, Hammond again faced Hickel in the Republican primary. He won by only 98 votes before racking up a 16,000-vote margin in November.
He said in his autobiography that he ran for the second term to create the permanent fund to keep all the oil wealth generated on the North Slope from being spent by eager politicians. The fund, which pays most Alaskans a much-prized annual dividend, is now worth more than $31 billion.
Bearded and barrel-chested, Hammond looked every bit the typical rugged Alaskan to the outside world. In the state, his style combined folksy speech and self-deprecating humor.
Hammond’s sense of humor was on display at one of his last public appearances, a July 6 luncheon put on by the Alaska Conservation Foundation to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, the sweeping 1980 federal law signed by President Jimmy Carter that added more than 100 million acres of Alaska into new or expanded national parks or refuges.
Carter was the featured speaker. Hammond recalled meeting him and speaking about flying.
‘‘When I told him I had a little Cessna 170, he said, 'Don’t Alaskans worry about you flying around in an old single-engine aircraft?’ I said, 'No. As a matter of fact, many Alaskans encourage me.’’’
Even after leaving office, Hammond remained a much-admired public figure. For years he hosted a popular television program, ‘‘Jay Hammond’s Alaska.’’ He stayed in touch with what was happening around the state and rarely hesitated to weigh in on issues.
Hickel said Tuesday that Hammond knew how to communicate with Alaskans, which helped establish him as a champion of rural Alaska.
‘‘He always expressed his opinion and I had a lot of respect for him because he spoke what he truly believed,’’ Hickel said.
Hammond is survived by his wife and three children. Murkowski said the family planned a private burial service Wednesday and a memorial was planned for a later date.
Associated Press writer Dan Joling contributed to this story.
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