Tower, Elizabeth, Alaska’s Homegrown Governor: a biography of William A. Egan. Post Office Box 221974, Anchorage, Alaska 99522-1974. Softbound. $14.95.
Bill Egan was born and reared in Valdez, Alaska’s first homegrown governor. Born in 1915, he was six when his father was killed by an avalanche while working for a mining company. His mother, Cora, was left with six children to raise. Valdez was a played-out mining camp and did not get the rail terminus, so life was hard. Bill earned his school clothes when he was ten by working in a fish processing plant.
However, young Bill had one good thing going for him; his godfather was Anthony Dimond, then a rising young lawyer in town and later delegate to the U.S. Congress. He was to prove a wonderful political mentor to Egan. Even though Valdez was down to 400 inhabitants, it still was the seat of the Third Judicial Division Court so lawyers and judges were commonplace.
Depression Alaska was a place where everyone worked at whatever would keep them going. Bill worked for Bob Reeve’s airline, but never became a top pilot.
At 25 he got into politics, following the advice of the highly popular Dimond, a New Deal Democrat. In 1937 Bill married the lovely young teacher, Neva McKittrick and in 1941 was elected a representative to the Alaska Territorial Legislature. He was a strong supporter of statehood for Alaska as well as all for the bounty on eagles the territory paid at the time.
Egan joined the Army Air Corps during World War II, but was stationed only in Alaska. Afterwards he returned to Valdez and found he had been elected mayor, then representative again in 1947. His life in politics was then assured.
The fight for statehood occupied much of Egan’s career. The Territory was almost evenly split about the necessity of joining; a major factor was the lack of money. However, all the fishermen hated the absentee owners of the fish traps, and all Alaskans loathed not being able to manage their own fish and game, so Egan, Gruening, and other strong leaders kept up the drumbeat in Washington.
Finally Eisenhower, then President, was convinced