Former Alaska Governor and RN Interior Secretary Walter Hickel died today. He was 90.
Hickel was a trail blazer for President Nixon’s environmental agenda early on, leading the cleanup after the 1969 Santa Barbara oil rig explosion and conservation efforts for the Florida everglades . He was also a proponent for the first Earth Day, celebrated 40 years later at the Nixon Library this past April.
The AP has more:
An “Alaska boomer” with complex views on environmentalism and developing the state’s oil-rich resources, Hickel railed against “locking up” the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from oil drilling and used settlement money from the Exxon Valdez oil spill lawsuit to help repair Prince William Sound.
He frequently described Alaska as an “owner state” and advocated that the state’s wild frontier should be developed responsibly to preserve its value.
Hickel’s political career started in the early 1950s as a crusader for Alaska statehood, both at home and in Washington. He was also involved in the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act which helped pave the way for the trans-Alaska oil pipeline.
Hickel’s was a quintessential Alaska rags-to-riches story. Born in Kansas, he arrived nearly penniless in the small city of Anchorage in 1940, taking advantage of the city’s rapid growth following World War II to build a multimillion-dollar construction and real-estate fortune.
“I used to think about all the great countries of the world where I might want to go, because there was no room or opportunity in Kansas for me to do the things I wanted to do,” he wrote in his 1971 book, “Who Owns America.”
Through the years, Hickel never lost the “can-do” attitude that made him a rich man, nor did he stop thinking about ways Alaska could further develop its natural wealth.
Photo: December 11, 1968: RN announces his appointment of Alaska Governor Walter Hickel as Secretary of the Interior.