The passing of anyone who had been as powerful and influential as Ted Stevens will always bring immediate accounts of triumphs and tragedy.
Stevens had more than a lifetime of both.
From Army Air Corps pilot to lawyer and U.S. attorney, to the state House and then the U.S. Senate, Stevens became a political force of the old school model. Alaskans reaped the benefits.
But Stevens also endured the loss of his first wife. Ann, in another aircraft disaster. As he rose in power, his critics multiplied. And in the end he left the Senate convicted of accepting favors from VECO Corp.
Attorney General Eric Holder would later drop the indictments and the case because of misconduct by federal prosecutors. But that damage to Stevens' legacy had already been done. In his farewell speech to the Senate, he said: "I look only forward and I still see the day when I can remove the cloud that currently surrounds me."
Some among us will never consider his name cleared. Others may think it was never sullied in the first place.
There should be precious few, though, who could deny that Alaska would not be nearly the state it is today without Ted Stevens. There would be precious few who did not benefit from the billions of federal dollars he brought to the state in his 40 years in the Senate.
And there certainly are a few of us who simply feel a deep sadness that Uncle Ted is gone.
In short: No matter what individuals may think of him, Ted Stevens helped build Alaska.
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