Judge Tom Stewart was interviewed on September 20, 2002 by Margaret Russell in Anchorage, Alaska. Tom Stewart was a member of Alaska’s Territorial House of Representatives, was secretary for the Alaska Constitutional Convention in 1955/56, and served as a state senator in the first Alaska Legislature following statehood. He served as Administrative Director of the Alaska Court System in the early 1960’s and on the Juneau Superior Court bench from 1966 until his retirement in 1981. In this interview, Jusdge Stewart talks about his early years as an attorney, the Alaska Constitutional Convention, the judiciary article in the constitution, being a superior court judge, serving on public commissions, and some of the major cases he handled.
Judge Stewart was also interviewed by Margaret Russell on October 25, 2002 in Anchorage, Alaska (tape numbers Oral History 2012-02-13, Parts 1 &2). Judge Stewart also was interviewed on April 22, 1982 by Pamela Cravez where he discusses other parts of his life and career. This interview is available at the Joint Archives of the Alaska Court System and the Alaska Bar Association, Alaska State Court Law Library, Boney Courthouse, Anchorage, Alaska (907) 264-0585/(888) 282-2082 and at the Oral History Collection, Elmer E. Rasmuson Library, University of Alaska Fairbanks, (907) 474-6773.
Digital Asset Information
Project: Judges of Alaska
Date of Interview: Sep 20, 2002
Narrator(s): Judge Thomas Stewart
Interviewer(s): Margaret Russell
After clicking play, click on a section to navigate the audio or video clip.
Taking the Alaska Bar exam
Early legal career
Being in private practice
Becoming the State Court administrator in 1961
Serving as Superior Court judge
Doing settlement conference work
Trial for airplane crash near Dillingham
Work and public service done after retirement
Revising Alaska's negligence law
Governor's Commisson on Tolerance
Including Native Alaskans in state song and seal
Discrimination in Alaska
Becoming involved in Alaska's Constitutional Convention
Appointment of judges instead of elected
Working with the state legislature
Governor Gruening, taxes, and lack of support
The push for statehood in the state legislature
Doing research for drafting the Constitutional Convention bill
Selecting Fairbanks as the location for the Constitutional Convention
Using examples from other state constiutions
The selection of delegates
Getting the constitution bill through the state legislature
Alaska Statehood Committee and obtaining consultants and studies
Use of Constiutional Hall on the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus
Reviewing Hawaii's constitutional effort
Finding experts to consult on Alaska's constitution
The Committee on the Judiciary
Click play, then use Sections or Transcript to navigate the interview.
After clicking play, click a section of the transcript to navigate the audio or video clip.
MS. RUSSELL: This is the oral history of Judge Tom Stewart of Juneau. It is September 20th, 2002.
Judge Stewart’s oral history was taken in 1982 by Pam Cravez.
We are trying not to duplicate too much of the prior oral history,
but hope to build upon what Judge Stewart talked about then. My name is Margaret Russell.
Judge Stewart, I’d like you to just give us kind of an overview of your legal career, which you did somewhat in your personal history as well, and --
but kind of catch us up to date since 1982 in particular, if you would.
JUDGE STEWART: Of course, my career began on graduation from the Yale Law School in June of 1950.
I came back to Juneau and -- to take the bar exam.
And I had a very dear friend who invited me to go out on his boat and I did.
We fished and we hunted and had a lovely time.
And about three or four days before the bar exam, I decided I’d better look at some books, which I did.
And I failed the exam.
And so the next time around, I prepared.
MS. RUSSELL: What was the next time around?
JUDGE STEWART: A year later, because the bar exam was given only once a year.
And so that was 1951.
And I did study and I got the highest grade, so --
MS. RUSSELL: There was a lesson there.
JUDGE STEWART: Right. And for the next approximately four years, three and a half, four years,
I was an assistant attorney general under J. Gerald Williams and my compatriot was John Dimond,
who later became a justice of the Supreme Court and who was a lifetime friend, close friend.
JUDGE STEWART: And then I was elected to the legislature in 1954,
in October of ‘54 because in the territorial days the elections were held in October rather than November.
And so I resigned as an assistant attorney general and
did studies of my own to prepare for the constitutional convention
because I was chairman of the Joint House and Senate Committee on Statehood and Federal Relations.
And I was trying to lay a foundation for writing a constitution.
And so I was in that work until after the adjournment of the convention in April of 1956,
in the meantime having been elected to be secretary of the convention by the delegates.
And in 19 -- in April of ‘56 after the ratification vote by the people on the constitution,
I opened a private law practice in Juneau,
and I practiced privately from actually about June of ‘56 until I became the court administrator in 1961.
So I had a one-man law practice.
My wife accused me of being the first public unpaid defender
because I took a lot of cases where clients couldn’t pay me but needed legal help.
MS. RUSSELL: You concentrated on criminal law, did you?
JUDGE STEWART: Most of the people that came to me for that, not all. There were domestic relations cases and some other cases, but no significant civil cases.
Actually, I began as a private attorney hired by Public Administration Service,
which is the organization from Chicago that gave us advice about the constitution, writing the conven -- writing the constitution.
And I had become friendly with their representative who worked with us at the convention.
MS. RUSSELL: His name, sir?
JUDGE STEWART: John Corcoran. And --
MS. RUSSELL: And this was during the time you were in private practice?
JUDGE STEWART: Pardon?
MS. RUSSELL: This was during the time that you were in private practice?
JUDGE STEWART: No, this was just prior to my being in private practice -- MS. RUSSELL: Oh, okay.
JUDGE STEWART: -- and at the -- after the vote on the ratification of the constitution, which took place in April of ‘56
where the constitution was strongly ratified by the voters, I no longer had any function.
The Statehood Committee was no longer a significant element, I had been its executive director.
And he hired me to go to Tennessee to assist in writing a water law.
The State of Tennessee had a contract with the Public Administration Service to develop a water law and they had a man who was in charge of that project.
And I was the attorney for the project and wrote a proposed water law for the State of Tennessee.
I was in Nashville for probably six weeks, something like that.
I don’t really have much recollection and I don’t know whether the State of Tennessee ever adopted that draft or not.
But then I came back to Juneau and opened up a private law practice
and functioned in that law practice until the Chief Justice Buell Nesbett and John Dimond came to me
in the early fall of 1961 and asked me to become the state court administrator.
The first administrator was a man named Dave Luce, L-u-ce, from California,
and he brought his wife to Anchorage and after a winter in Anchorage, she said if you want me, you’ll have to come to California,
I’m not going to stay in Anchorage.
And so he left and Nesbett and Dimond arranged to hire me as the -- as the state court administrator.
So I had five years of private practice, which financially was quite unsuccessful,
but rewarding in terms of the kind of work that I was doing.
So in October of ‘61, I became the second state court administrator
and we moved to Anchorage, moved my family to Anchorage,
and we lived here until -- well, I came alone in the Fall of ‘61 and remained here with my family in Juneau.
My wife was about eight months pregnant when I left Juneau, and so she wanted to remain there for the birth of our seventh child.
And I wanted to arrange for buying a home and accommodating the family.
We had six older children, five of who -- four of whom were in the school system in Juneau.
And so we didn’t want to move them out of the school in the middle of the year.
So my family remained in Juneau until June of ‘62 and then my wife came and we bought a home on
Fifteenth and -- off of Fifteenth and F Street, and we lived there until I was appointed to be the judge in Juneau in December of 1966.
And again, it was the middle of the school year. My wife owned a book store called the Anchor Book Shop,
and she and my older children, the three of the older children at least, were involved in the running of the book shop.
And she was executive director of the Alaska Festival of Music and much involved in the music world in Anchorage
and playing in the symphony and directing the Toss (ph) Singers, the children’s chorus,
and otherwise very active in the Anchorage music world.
And so they stayed on until the Summer of ‘62.
At that point she sold the book store to a man from Sitka who was a prominent lawyer named Warren Christianson,
and he and his wife wanted to set up a book store in Sitka.
So he took -- he bought an old school bus and removed all the seats, drove it over the highway to Anchorage.
In the meantime, the earthquake had done a lot of damage to the book shop,
destroyed about half the books when the street caved in where the shop had been on Fourth and D Streets.
But she had moved it to -- over to the G Street location opposite the old federal building,
and he came there and bought the whole thing, lock, stock, and barrel,
and loaded the bookshelves and business machines, the books and everything, in the back of the bus and drove it down to Haines and took it on the ferry to Sitka
and set up a book shop in Sitka with what had been the Anchor Book Shop in Anchorage.
That was sort of our Anchorage experience when I was the court administrator.
I was much involved in the operations of the courts around the state,
building new buildings, building a new building in Anchorage,
a new building in Fairbanks and in other locations.
And I don’t know how much you want to go into my work as court administrator, but --
MS. RUSSELL: We do want to talk about that, Judge. I think we’ll reserve that for a later time chronologically and --
JUDGE STEWART: All right.
MS. RUSSELL: -- go back to the convention. After you went back to Juneau after you had been court administrator here, what did you do then?
JUDGE STEWART: Well, see, this was ‘66 when I went back. That’s when I was appointed -- MS. RUSSELL: Oh, that’s when you were appointed.
JUDGE STEWART: -- to be the judge. My convention work is in -- primarily in 1955.
MS. RUSSELL: Right. I just wanted to finish the overview kind of. After you were appointed to the bench, how long did you serve as a Superior Court judge?
JUDGE STEWART: Well, technically I served from December 5, 1966 until December 5, 1981. And --
MS. RUSSELL: That was just prior then to when your oral history was previously taken. What have you done since then?
JUDGE STEWART: So I became the court rules attorney beginning in Janu -- beginning in December, December the 6th, 1981.
MS. RUSSELL: That’s what you were doing when your oral history was taken. How long did you continue -- JUDGE STEWART: Well -- MS. RUSSELL: -- in that role?
JUDGE STEWART: So I worked in that position until June of 1983.
MS. RUSSELL: Did you truly retire after that?
JUDGE STEWART: No. For the next nine or ten years, I accepted appointments by the Supreme Court to try cases all over the state.
I tried cases in Barrow, Kotzebue, Nome, Bethel, Anchorage, Fairbanks, Ketchikan, Sitka, some in Juneau.
It was not an every day affair, but I would be gone from Juneau for six weeks,
for example for one case in Fairbanks, one lengthy civil trial.
MS. RUSSELL: So it’s fair to say you know the Alaska bar quite well, not just the Juneau bar?
JUDGE STEWART: Well, back in the ‘80s. It’s changed a lot since then. MS. RUSSELL: Yes.
JUDGE STEWART: But I --
MS. RUSSELL: That takes us to 1993. That’s only 10 years ago.
JUDGE STEWART: At that time I quit trial work basically.
There had been installed a system where judges in order to do trial work had to be approved by the Supreme Court,
and you had to do a certain amount of continuing legal education and that sort of thing.
And I didn’t want to be saddled with that. Because I was --
MS. RUSSELL: So did you continue working then after -- JUDGE STEWART: Yes. MS. RUSSELL: -- 1993?
JUDGE STEWART: Yes, for about the next six years at least,
I did a great deal of settlement conference work, a lot of it the field of domestic relations, child custody, spousal support,
division of property and that sort of thing; but quite a bit of it in the civil field.
I did -- for example, Judge Taylor from Fairbanks and Judge Burke from Anchorage and I sat on a -- what was called a mini trial.
This was the crash of the Fairchild aircraft operated by -- not Reeve, it was the company in --
oh, the company in Fairbanks, I can’t remember the name of it.
The plane crashed down at Dillingham or near Dillingham -- no, I guess it was -- or on the Alaska Peninsula.
MS. RUSSELL: Would it be Alaska International Air or its predecessor?
JUDGE STEWART: No. My memory is not -- is failing me. MS. RUSSELL: Okay.
JUDGE STEWART: I’ll think if it. Anyhow, the wing came off the aircraft
and it crashed and everybody was killed, of course, including the husband of Arliss Sturgulewski.
And this three-judge panel heard -- the mini trial took this format.
The first day, Monday, we sat here in Anchorage and the attorneys presented summary of the case.
They had expert witnesses who summarized the testimony that they would give at trial,
and at the end of that day after getting a summary from both the defense side and the plaintiff’s side,
we retired and reached a tentative decision on whether we would find for the plaintiffs,
who were the families of the 36 people killed, or for the defendants.
And we determined we would find for the plaintiffs.
Came back the next morning and told the attorneys that and the next four days,
or three and a half days, we heard individual testimony from the family members about their losses.
And then we retired again and agreed on what we thought was an appropriate amount for each family.
And one of the critical decisions that we made was that we thought that case justified an award of punitive damages.
Now, punitive damages were not then and not now popularly awarded.
There had been the gun case in Fairbanks, the Ruger case where the court determined an award of punitive damages.
We thought it was due in this case because here’s what happened.
The board of the Fairchild Company that produced this plane produced it on the basis of a Dutch scheme.
And the Dutch people were testing the wings.
They put the wings under a pressure test to determine how many hours of stress on the metal of the wing
would occur before the wing failed from metal stress.
And the wing failed because of access doors on the underside of the wing
where they could do work on the wing internally.
And there -- and those -- the access doors were round and they had built up rings of metal
to strengthen that breaking of the wing surface and it weakened the structure of it.
The Dutch company, which is the Fokker, F-o-k-k-e-r, Company in Holland,
determined that the wing should be replaced.
And advised the Fairchild Company they should replace all the wings on this model of the aircraft throughout the industry.
And they had sold many of them. They were twin prop jet 40-passenger aircraft.
Well, the Fairchild Company, the board made the deliberate decision not to do that because it was very expensive.
It cost a half million dollars per wing
and they would have had to do it at their expense.
And they went to the federal agency that regulated this process and determined to say we will have an inspection process;
we will -- all the planes, when they come in for their annual maintenance, we will x-ray the area
and determine if there are any cracks developing in the wings, and if there’s a crack developing,
then we will make the replacement.
So they were making a management/board decision to put passengers at risk depending upon the results of their surveys.
Now, when they x-rayed the wings when they were in maintenance, those planes were sitting in the hangar
and they were depressed, you know, the wing was flexible, and they were depressed and the compressed evidence of cracks.
And later after the crash, they had some real experts reading those x- rays and determined, yes, there had been cracks.
So we thought that this was a proper case for punitive damages.
The board had put people traveling on the aircraft at deliberate risk to save money.
And so we built in a factor for punitive damages in each recommended judgment,
and then we looked at the evidence on each of the plaintiff parties who had testified and we came up with a recommended settlement.
And all the persons involved settled except one.
And there was a hard-nosed lawyer in Fairbanks who wouldn’t let his client -- his plaintiff settle. MS. RUSSELL: So it --
JUDGE STEWART: They settled on the day of the trial. MS. RUSSELL: Uh-huh (affirmative).
JUDGE STEWART: We -- months and months later for about what we had recommended in the first place. Anyhow --
MS. RUSSELL: So that takes us up to about 1993.
JUDGE STEWART: Yeah. MS. RUSSELL: And -- JUDGE STEWART: I’d --
MS. RUSSELL: -- so that’s just a couple of years ago. Have you done -- have been continuing to work recently?
JUDGE STEWART: Well, I did a lot of settlement cases, both in Juneau and elsewhere in the state until about 1999.
And I was not avid about this and I would warn the litigants and the attorneys
that I had not done a study of the law in the case, that I was mainly there to talk with the litigants about
the hazards of taking the case to trial, about the emotional impact,
and about the desirability in my experience of settling rather than going to trial. MS. RUSSELL: Right.
JUDGE STEWART: And so I did that heavily until 1999.
And then what happened was that Jay Rabinowitz had retired from the Supreme Court
and came to Juneau and was anxious to be involved in court work.
So he not only took over most of the load of the settlement conferences, but also did a lot of trial work right --
as long as he was able to stand on his two feet.
And so my settlement conference workload dropped off,
so I did some, but not at the same number. MS. RUSSELL: You’ve done some --
JUDGE STEWART: And then after he failed, after -- he died a year ago last summer,
I began to get two or three more, but in the meantime, the Supreme Court had set up a system of appointed mediators.
And so many of the bar members were interested in getting younger people than I,
and I don’t do very many conferences anymore. MS. RUSSELL: You’ve done --
JUDGE STEWART: I do some. I have one scheduled when I get back to Juneau.
MS. RUSSELL: You’ve still done some public service work, though, since --
JUDGE STEWART: Well, I have belonged to sort of public service organizations.
I’m a member of the organization called SEAL Trust, which is the organization that deals with property owners
who wish to establish long-term protection of their private property from unwanted development.
And we help them to -- we guide them in establishing conservation easements on their property. MS. RUSSELL: I see.
JUDGE STEWART: And then I’ve been a long time a member of the board of the Juneau World Affairs Council.
I’m no longer a board member, but I am sort of a senior advisor to the board and I go to their meetings and make suggestions.
And I house their visitors. They have a distinguished visitor or an ambassador from some country,
and I have a big old home with seven -- with five bedrooms and I only use one,
so I have house guests almost continually.
MS. RUSSELL: And I understand, if I recall, that Tony Knowles appointed you to a commission sitting on the --
JUDGE STEWART: Well, I served on two commissions.
Originally I served on the commission in his first term, which was the commission that looked at revision of the negligence law.
And I chaired a body that sat here in Anchorage for three or four days on revising the negligence law and the liability of defendants.
I voted no on such propositions as fixing a ceiling on recoveries
because I thought that we have basically, it was fundamental in our constitutional scheme,
the right to jury trial and the jury should be able to determine what size recovery an individual circumstance demanded. And I -- MS. RUSSELL: Who else was on that council?
JUDGE STEWART: Pardon?
MS. RUSSELL: Who else was on that commission?
JUDGE STEWART: Oh, there were about 20 people. MS. RUSSELL: Oh.
JUDGE STEWART: Among them was Bill Allen who owned VECO and there were people from the business side and there were people from --
and there were lawyers and there were probably at least 20 of us.
And I was the chairman of the committee and I was astounded.
At the end of the gatherings, there was a woman who represented the State Chamber of Commerce and was
very much on the conservative side and wanted to cut back on the --
on what were reputedly overly large awards.
And she came to me after we adjourned, she said that’s the best run meeting I’ve ever been to.
MS. RUSSELL: Do you remember her name?
JUDGE STEWART: I don’t. But --
MS. RUSSELL: What was the outcome of the commission’s work?
JUDGE STEWART: Well, the commission did impose a ceiling on judgments and especially on punitive damages.
I didn’t see the evidence that -- I mean, you know, there were notorious cases nationally,
you know, the woman that had the coffee spilled on her genitals and got some millions of dollars --
MS. RUSSELL: The McDonald’s case.
JUDGE STEWART: Yeah, against McDonald’s and there were some other notorious national cases of exceedingly large judgments.
And there -- and if you will, there was the Exxon Valdez judgment that has never been paid for $5 billion in punitives.
But I didn’t see the evidence in the Alaska court history of excessive judgments.
And I felt that litigants had the right to a jury trial to decide how much that litigant
had been damaged by the circumstances that were developed at trial.
And I -- so I voted against fixing a limit.
I was a little bit more liberal than the majority of the people that voted there.
But anyhow, their recommendations were adopted by the governor and by the legislature and a result of --
apparently of my work as chairman of that commission and after the unfortunate incident in Anchorage where --
the paintball incident, there were a lot of publicity across the state, especially in Anchorage.
MS. RUSSELL: For future reference, tell us a little about the paintball incident and then what --
JUDGE STEWART: Well, the paintball incident -- MS. RUSSELL: -- Governor Knowles did about that.
JUDGE STEWART: -- was a circumstance where some young teenagers, high school people, thought it was a big joke and fun to
fire paintballs at Native people who were drunk on the streets, staggering down the streets and so forth.
And I wasn’t here, but what I read in the newspapers, they drove down the street and fired paintballs at these
hapless victims and videotaped what they were doing and boasted about it on the videotape.
And the police learned about the existence of the videotape and quickly identified the individuals who were responsible for the incident,
and which was clearly severe discrimination against people of Native origin.
And so the governor created this Commission on Tolerance and I was one of 14 members who were appointed to that commission.
And we were appointed I think in July and we were asked to report the results of our study of intolerance by November.
And we had several public hearings, although those were limited by a limited budget for the commissions’ work.
And I was not the chairman of the commission. The chairman of the commission was the Reverend Chuck Eddy, a retired Episcopal minister.
MS. RUSSELL: Were there other lawyers on the commission?
JUDGE STEWART: I don’t remember. There were some legislators.
There was Senator -- oh, the lady from Rampart. MS. RUSSELL: I can’t help you out. UNIDENTIFIED VOICE: Georgianna Lincoln. JUDGE STEWART: Huh? UNIDENTIFIED VOICE: Georgianna Lincoln?
JUDGE STEWART: Georgianna Lincoln. And there was the young woman from Bethel.
I can’t remember the names readily. I could remember if I considered it for a while.
This is what happens to the brain as it gets -- MS. RUSSELL: I know all about that. JUDGE STEWART: -- as it gets older. MS. RUSSELL: What they --
JUDGE STEWART: Anyhow, we -- we did report the results and made recommendations.
I contributed a couple of specific things.
The governor -- well, there was another commission as well besides that one on tolerance.
This was a governor’s leadership conference on subsistence.
And he assembled a body of 40 people in Anchorage for about three days
to consider what could be done about overcoming legislative senatorial objections
to providing for subsistence benefits for rural peoples.
And both he and the attorney general sat me down in his office and said
we want you to be the chairman of this,
apparently looking back to my experience as the chairman of the commission on negligence.
So I chaired that commission and they produced a report by an almost unanimous vote, not quite but almost.
But it didn’t move the opposition.
And after that failed the legislature, the governor was nearing the end of his term and he gave up that fight.
But I did work on that and then I worked on the tolerance commission.
And with the tolerance commission, I indicated to you that I contributed a couple of things because in that meeting on subsistence,
one of the leaders who was present was a man named Byron Mallot.
Byron is the son of a Caucasian named Jay Mallot, who was -- who ran the community store in Yakutat.
And his mother was a full-blooded Tlingit from Yakutat.
And I went to Yakutat in about 1958 when I was -- no -- yeah, ‘58 when I was running for the first state senate.
And I came home and told my wife there are some young people in Yakutat who are likely to go a long way;
one of them was a man named Byron Mallot and he’s -- I think he’s 21 years old and he’s the mayor of Yakutat.
I was very impressed with his abilities and his conduct of the office of mayor, and he did go a long way.
He became the chairman of Sealaska Corporation and led them well for years.
And then he became a member of the permanent fund dividend board --
the permanent fund board, not the dividend board.
Dividends are only one aspect of their work.
And then now he’s the head of the Alaska Native Foundation and has a huge grant of millions and millions of dollars from
various corporations that enable them to do studies about the Native background.
Anyhow, he was a member of the subsistence commission.
At the opening of -- just before the opening of the public leaders meeting,
the woman who was going to play Alaska’s flag song on the piano came to me and said, do you want one verse or two verses?
And I said, well, I don’t know the second verse and it was written long afterwards.
I knew Marie Drake well, she wrote the original words, she was my neighbor in Juneau.
And so I said I just don’t -- one verse is plenty and that’s all that had been printed for people to sing from.
Well, after that opening, we went around the room and had each delegate to the gathering introduce themselves.
And Byron Mallot came up and made a stinging indictment of the Alaskan Caucasian majority.
He said, I’m sick and tired of the way the Natives are treated.
You sing only one verse in Alaska’s flag song and there’s nothing in it about Natives.
The second verse has a recognition of the Natives and the Natives were the first people here.
There’s nothing in the great seal of Alaska about Natives.
The seal ought to reflect some presence of the Native peoples in Alaska.
And went on fairly briefly, but strongly about his feelings.
So in the recommendations, I suggested that whenever the Alaska flag song is performed in public, both verses should be performed.
The governor introduced that meeting on the first day.
On the second day, Fran Ulmer, the lieutenant governor, introduced it, and she sang both verses.
And I also got a recommendation in the list of -- the many that we gave the governor,
that he and the legislature should consider doing something like the way Alaska’s flag was designed by Benny Benson.
They had a contest of school children about the design of the flag.
Subsequently, my wife and I became very close friends of Benny Benson.
He used to spend a lot of time in her book store here and inscribed his books, "Benny’s Flag," to my children.
But I said there should be a contest to redesign the great seal of Alaska
and design something that includes some tribute to and recognition of the Native peoples.
I don’t think the legislature did that, but I think it should be done.
And there were numbers of other recommendations because we found discrimination in many areas, not just against Native peoples.
But we had some telling testimony by high school students about discrimination because of sexual preference,
especially a young woman who came from a Native village, came to a high school in Anchorage, I can’t tell you which one it was,
and was homosexual and objected to the discrimination of Natives that she experienced in the school
and against people because of their sexual preference.
So we heard a lot of testimony about that.
We heard testimony about discrimination against immigrants, about discrimination in the immigration policies
and making immigrants new citizens;
a whole wide range of areas, you might say, of discrimination,
not just against Natives that -- like was evidenced by the paintball incident.
So we made quite a good many recommendations and I think by and large they’re good recommendations.
You’re never going to wipe out discrimination, you know.
Look at the history between the Jews and the Arabs.
Look at the discrimination against the blacks in America, the African Americans.
MS. RUSSELL: And your recommendations went to the governor -- JUDGE STEWART: We went to -- MS. RUSSELL: -- and the legislature?
JUDGE STEWART: It went to -- a lot of it went to education and working with children when they’re very young
to recognize that according to our constitution, all men, and it should have said all men and women, are created equal.
But you have to begin at the youngest stage to educate people to recognize those problems.
We made quite a few recommendations that would have required legislative action.
As far as I know, none of them was adopted by the legislature.
It’s a somewhat conservative body.
MS. RUSSELL: Let’s go back talking about the constitution now and how that all came about.
How did you end up being so fundamentally involved in the constitutional convention process
and when did you first begin to become involved in that process?
JUDGE STEWART: Well, when I got back from law school in 1950, within the year I became interested in the political process.
And I went to the -- and I was a Democrat, an outspoken Democrat.
I don’t participate in party affairs, I haven’t since the day I went to work for the court system.
But I register as a Democrat and I believe in the fundamental principles that they stand for In my view.
Although some of my very closest friends are Republicans.
Anyhow, when I got back from school, I got into party politics
and I went to the caucus in Juneau and I was elected to be a delegate to the divisional convention of the party.
And eventually I went to the territorial-wide conventions
and got very interested in the political process and
was deeply concerned about the failure of territorial government.
We were -- we paid federal income taxes,
but we had no voting representation in the Congress.
We had an elected delegate who -- the first one I knew was Tony Dimond, and then Bob Bartlett, ‘30 and ‘40s and the ‘50s.
They had a seat on the -- in the House of Representatives. They could introduce legislation.
They could speak to the merits of legislation.
But they could not vote.
I once knew a professor at law school at Yale who did a study of the Congress. And he said that
he found that Bob Bartlett was the single most popular member of the entire House of Representatives.
And he attributed it not only to Bob’s warm and appealing personality,
but the only way he could effectuate action was to be friendly with all the members
and try to persuade them to support his causes.
He couldn’t vote for it -- he couldn’t trade a vote with somebody else, you vote for my proposition and I’ll vote for yours,
which is the way the Congress operates.
So I became very interested in statehood. Now, in territorial days,
the discrimination against Alaska was much more severe than most of the residents were conscious of. MS. RUSSELL: In what way?
JUDGE STEWART: The court system.
The judges were appointed by the president.
The last territorial judge in the First District was Raymond J. Kelly.
Kelly had been an unsuccessful candidate for governor in the state of Michigan where he lived and practiced.
He had been the national president of the American Legion.
He had run against G. Mennen Williams,
who was a very popular figure as governor in Michigan, and he had lost.
And he’d been a staunch member of the Republican Party.
When Eisenhower was elected to be the president, all of the judges in Alaska became Republicans
or were appointed because of their Republican background.
And Raymond J. Kelly was not a significant enough figure in the national scene to get a real plum
to be a cabinet secretary or something, but he was appointed as judge in Alaska where he had never been.
MS. RUSSELL: And this was in the mid-1950s almost, is that correct?
JUDGE STEWART: This was -- well, this was when it was -- let’s see, Eisenhower was elected in ‘52 wasn’t he?
Truman was elected in ‘48 -- MS. RUSSELL: Uh-huh (affirmative).
JUDGE STEWART: -- then Eisenhower and Adlai Stevenson ran in ‘52. MS. RUSSELL: Uh-huh (affirmative).
JUDGE STEWART: And so after -- so beginning in ‘53, all the judges in Alaska became Republican appointees.
MS. RUSSELL: How many judges were there then?
JUDGE STEWART: Four. Only four.
And this was one of the reasons for statehood
and for writing a constitution towards getting statehood, because in the meantime, World War II had occurred.
Fort Richardson had been built. Elmendorf Field has been built.
Eielson Field had been built in Fairbanks.
But Anchorage had burgeoned from a town of 3500 people in the ‘30s
to a town of a hundred or two thousand people in the ‘50s and ‘60s after the war.
And there was one judge.
When I was law clerk to Judge Folta in 1951, we spent the winter in Anchorage helping out poor Judge Tony Dimond because he just couldn’t keep up with the caseload.
And criminal cases lapsed for two or three years with the people in jail because they couldn’t get to trial.
And he was so burdened with criminal cases that he couldn’t get to the civil cases.
So the court system was in shambles, the federal court system.
Not only that, the appointment of the territorial judges, who were mind you statutory judges, were not constitutional judges.
They had a four-year term and they would be reappointed.
And if the presidency changed, their political stripes changed.
They’ve got a new judge. Well --
MS. RUSSELL: So there was a trend towards statehood by the time you became active in politics?
JUDGE STEWART: Yeah, and I became an assistant attorney general after I was a law clerk to Judge Folta and active in the Democratic Party.
And in 1953, the legislature was shameful.
There were individual members that were very dear friends, like Fred Estaugh,
one of the founders of Robertson Monagle and Estaugh, married to a high school classmate of mine, Carol Robertson.
But this -- it reflected the McCarthy era, that legislature.
They established a legislative investigating committee to look for Communists in the government of Alaska.
They found one Communist in all of Alaska.
He was not in the government. But he was a longshoreman in Skagway
who professed the ideals of the Communist Party,
or eliminate economic classes, social classes, everybody’s equal.
MS. RUSSELL: In what forum did he express that?
JUDGE STEWART: Well, he was a member of the Communist Party and he expressed his beliefs,
but he had absolutely no impact on the territorial government.
But at that time, there was no such thing as the Legislative Affairs Agency,
and the assistant attorneys general wrote the bills basically.
The legislators had no staff, had no office. They only had a desk in the House or Senate, as the case may be.
And so they came to the attorney general’s office and said I want a bill on this subject or that subject,
and John Dimond and I would sit down and draft the bill to reflect what that legislator wanted.
The attorney general was a man named J. Gerald Williams.
And while J. Gerald Williams was a popular figure, he was an elected attorney general.
He was independent of the governor and of the legislature.
And he loved meetings.
He was constantly traveling all over the nation to meetings,
and did not do a great deal of the detailed work that the office demanded.
John and I wrote legislation.
So I was close to that legislature and on the last night of that legislature,
the speaker of the house was a man named Miscovich from Fairbanks. It went all night.
There was a limit expressed in there,
in the organic act that created the congress, they could only meet for 60 days.
And they used to stop the clock so that the 60th day would last for 48 hours or something.
But anyhow, that last night I went into the men’s room.
There was a waste disposal can in the men’s room, tall and about a foot and a half square, you know, like that.
It was filled to the brim with whiskey bottles.
Most of the legislators were under the influence.
George Miscovich, the speaker, had his desk drawer and he would pull open his desk drawer and get his cup of coffee, which was mostly bourbon.
And he was drunk in the chair.
And the House never did adjourn.
They just walked off.
MS. RUSSELL: What was it like in the session under those circumstances?
JUDGE STEWART: Well, I told you it was a McCarthy session.
They were looking for evildoers.
MS. RUSSELL: They weren’t really doing legislation?
JUDGE STEWART: They -- in the House, there were either 20 or 21 Republicans and three Democrats.
And on the Senate side, they met for two weeks before they could elect a president of the Senate.
They finally elected a very decent fellow who was from Anchorage and there’s a campus named for him out here.
I can’t remember his name at the moment, I wish I would remember it.
And they finally compromised on him as the president of the Senate.
But and they -- on the Democratic side in the Senate, there was 16 members of the Senate, eight Republicans and eight Democrats.
And one of the Democrats was a man named Howard Lyng, L-y-n-g, from Nome.
And he was a bitterly anti-Gruening Democrat.
Gruening was a very controversial figure as governor. MS. RUSSELL: Why?
JUDGE STEWART: Well, for example, he initiated and got passed in the ‘49 session, after he had been governor since ‘39, an income tax.
And it taxed the gold mining industry and the salmon industry and all other businesses and all of the people of Alaska
because it was -- we didn’t have enough money to do the governmental work.
And it was a very simplified version of an income tax.
It -- you used your state -- federal tax return
as the basis and you paid a percentage and it was 14 percent of what you paid to the federal government.
That’s the way it was measured.
Well, he was very much opposed to that because Nome was living on gold mining
and the gold mining industry was severely opposed to a position of additional taxes.
And the same thing in Southeast Alaska.
Throughout Southeast Alaska there was the newspaper generally,
not all of them but mostly, the Empire in Juneau and the Daily News in Ketchikan
were very bitterly opposed to statehood because they were salmon capitals.
And the salmon industry stood to be taxed where they had not been before.
Anyhow, Gruening was leaving office, this was 1953.
And at that time, the president didn’t take office until March the 4th, instead of in January as he does now.
So Eisenhower didn’t become president until March.
But that meant that Gruening was going to leave because he was appointed by Franklin Roosevelt.
And he was succeeded naturally by a man named Frank Heintzleman,
who was the former head of the Forest Service in Alaska and a staunch Republican.
Gruening wanted to make a final appearance and he --
I was there all night with the body and I was on the phone with him
to advise whether or not he was going to be invited to speak to the Senate as a farewell.
And Howard Lyng, a Democrat, got up and objected to the governor addressing the Senate.
MS. RUSSELL: Did he say why?
JUDGE STEWART: He just was opposed.
I don’t know -- he probably did, but I don’t remember that detail.
But there was a Republican legislator from Anchorage, a lawyer,
who got up and said that’s shameful,
the governor of Alaska should be able to address this body.
And I called Gruening at his home and he came down and he gave a final -- a farewell address to the leg -- to the Senate.
But anyhow, the legislature generally was a debacle and the people recognized that.
And the Democratic Party was rejuvenated.
And in the ‘54 elections, which elected the legislature that would serve in ‘55,
there were 20 Democrats and four Republicans elected to the House.
And the majority in the Senate was about 11 -- no, about 13 to three.
So it was a heavily Democratic session.
And there was a meeting of the Democratic leadership in Fairbanks right after the election,
and I was the chairman of the Democratic Party in the Southeast Alaska and I went to that meeting,
which was held in the home of a man who was the
chairman of the central committee of the Democratic Party. And -- MS. RUSSELL: You don’t recall his name, or do you?
JUDGE STEWART: I’ll remember it in a minute. I know him well. He grew up in Juneau,
and he was a longtime leading lobbyist in the legislature in the years after that.
But there we planned to reorganize the legislature, reduce and simplify the number of committees,
write new rules, and to make a real push for statehood.
And I had appeared before a United States senate committee that came to Alaska in 1954,
was chaired by Senator Butler from Nebraska who was a Republican because the Senate was Republican at that time.
And I testified before that committee and
Butler had been on the minority on a senate committee that had been in Alaska about four years earlier.
And a minority report recommended against statehood until Alaska had shown itself capable of managing its affairs
individually, and set out some criteria to determine that.
Well, I testified at that hearing and I looked Senator Butler squarely in the eye.
I said, Senator, you are the one that has to call the shot, you are the chairman of this committee;
and the power of the Senate chairman is known.
Here is what you said five years ago
and here are the ways in which we have met what you said we had to demonstrate.
So if we’re going to get statehood, you have to change your vote.
Well, I became known at that point as a voice for statehood.
So at that meeting in Fairbanks, we decided that there should be a committee called the Committee on Statehood and Federal Relations.
We also decided that there should be the same committee structure in the Senate as in the House
so that when a piece of legislation that dealt with a particular subject was referred to a particular substantive committee,
it would go to the identical committee in the Senate, or vice versa.
It simplified the procedures.
So there was a Committee on Statehood and Federal Relations in the House and there was one in the Senate.
And the one in the Senate was chaired by a fellow named Bill Egan from Valdez.
He was a longtime member of the legislature.
And he and I met together and we agreed that we should jointly meet;
we shouldn’t do a bill on a convention in the House and then do a separate one over in the Senate,
that the two committees should meet jointly.
And I became the chairman of the Joint Committee on Statehood and Federal Relations
and Bill Egan was the deputy chairman, or whatever, I've forgotten what the title was.
So I decided I had a big responsibility to draft the bill to call the convention.
And I didn’t know anybody in Alaska or elsewhere
who really knew anything substantively about how to structure and operate a constitutional convention.
So I resigned my job.
I was not married and I had no responsibilities beyond my own.
I resigned my job as assistant attorney general and I set out on a six-week trip across the nation.
I went to the political science department at the University of Washington where I had my undergraduate degree.
I went to Public Administration Service in Chicago that was well known for doing studies
of -- of -- for state and local and nat -- international governments -- on government problems.
I went to the University of Chicago.
I spent some time with Adlai Stevenson because I had traveled with him the summer before and gotten well acquainted with him personally
and respected his judgment about governmental matters.
I went to Northwestern University in Evanston.
I went to Harvard University, to Yale University where I -- which was my graduate school.
I went to Columbia. I went to Princeton.
I went to New York University.
I went to the Institute for Judicial Administration in New York.
I went to the Institute for -- I’ve forgotten the name of it, but general state government affairs in Washington.
I went to the Library of Congress.
And everywhere I went, how do you set up a constitutional convention?
What do you do to get it going? What do you do after you get there to write a constitution?
I asked in each of these institutions, give me the name of a professor who is experienced in state government affairs,
and those are the people that I talked with at these places.
And I got lots of recommendations about how to structure a constitutional convention.
I got seven bills that had called constitutional conventions in other jurisdictions;
New York, Missouri, Texas, New Jersey,
and the bills that were pending in the Congress that were -- called for statehood for Alaska and for Hawaii that had failed in the 1950 session.
They’d both passed the House, but failed in the Senate where the old entrenched Democratic southern senators,
didn’t want to dilute their authority by having four more senators of unknown political stripe.
At that time, Alaska was solidly Democrat.
Hawaii was solidly Republican.
Anyhow, one of -- amongst the people I talked with was Mrs. Katzenbach,
the mother of Nick Katzenbach who was the -- who was in law school just ahead of me.
He was -- graduated in the class before I entered law school in Yale;
distinguished student and later attorney general of the United States in the Johnson administration.
And Mrs. Katzenbach had been vice -- a vice president of the New Jersey convention of 1946,
which was a very successful constitutional -- state constitutional convention.
And she gave me a piece of advice that resulted in I think the best public decision that I ever made.
She said, hold your convention at the state university, do not hold it in the state -- in the territorial capitol.
She said, we had our convention of ‘46, which was very successful, rewriting the state constitution,
totally restructuring the court system in New Jersey, at Rutgers,
the state university instead of at Trenton, the state capitol.
And what that did was it set the convention in an academic atmosphere
where there were good library facilities available
and there were no entrenched lobbying interest that were -- existed in the capitol. MS. RUSSELL: Uh-huh (affirmative).
JUDGE STEWART: So I came back and we had our meeting, our first meeting of the Committee
on Statehood and Federal Relations, which I chaired,
and among the recommendations I made was have the convention at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks, not in Juneau.
Now, I was elected a member of the House from Juneau
and the Juneau people were extremely jealous of Juneau’s posture as the capitol of Alaska.
And I could envision that the delegates would be overwhelmed by local people
pressing on that one that little issue, when the constitution had broad, far -- much more far-reaching issues.
And so I led the move in the legislature to designate the site of the convention at Fairbanks at the university.
And I remember going to a meeting of the Juneau Chamber of Commerce,
and sitting opposite me across the table was a man that I had -- he was older than I --
he had been my Boy Scout master when I was 13 years old.
And he had been a member of the House and was active as an anti-Gruening Democrat.
MS. RUSSELL: Do you remember his name?
JUDGE STEWART: I do remember his name.
He’s dead now, so I’ll use it. His name was Curtis Shattuck.
His father was Allen Shattuck and his father had written a pamphlet called "The Case Against Statehood."
And Curt was opposed to statehood.
And he kicked my shin violently under the table, because I had advocated having the convention in --
at the university in Fairbanks instead of in Juneau. Anyhow --
MS. RUSSELL: The legislature went along with you on that --
JUDGE STEWART: Yes, they did. MS. RUSSELL: -- apparently and --
JUDGE STEWART: And what -- the way it worked was I had these seven bills from other jurisdictions
where constitutions had been called, one of the being the bills pending in the Congress at the time that had failed in 1950.
And I outlined all the topics that were created in all of those bills
and used that outline as a disscussion outline for our committee work;
do we want a provision on this topic,
do we want to pattern it after the one from New Jersey or Missouri or whatever.
MS. RUSSELL: Can you give me an example? Would you say like executive,
do we want an executive branch that’s going to be like this?
JUDGE STEWART: Yeah, do we want -- MS. RUSSELL: Is it substantive things?
JUDGE STEWART: Do we want elected department heads, which Alaska as a territory had had,
and I might say very unsuccessfully,
because there’s no control of them. The governor has no authority to tell them what to do because they’re independent.
That doesn’t work.
If you look at the Federalist Papers written by Hamilton and Madison, have a single executive.
Make him responsible, him or her, for the operation of the executive branch.
Don’t deprive him of the authority to be responsible,
accountable for what happens in the executive branch.
Anyhow, that was the way we built that bill.
And when we got a bill written, we ran into opposition from Wendell Kay,
who was the speaker of the house
who at that time was also suffering from alcoholism
and sometimes showing up and sometimes not.
And he wanted a rotten borough system.
He wanted the delegates, for example for him as an Anchorage resident,
to be able to run from Kodiak as a delegate to choose the form in which he would run his election.
We managed to work out a compromise and the compromise did something that you couldn’t do today.
The compromise assured that every community of about a thousand people or more
around the Territory would have representation at the convention.
At that 1955 session of the legislature that was writing this bill,
as I say, there were 24 members of the House.
I think about either five or six of them were from Southeast Alaska.
All of those except one were from Juneau.
Nobody from Ketchikan, nobody from Wrangell,
nobody from Haines, nobody from Skagway, nobody from Sitka.
In the third judicial division, there were 10 members.
All 10 of them of them were from Anchorage.
Nobody from Valdez, nobody from Cordova, nobody from Seward,
nobody from Kodiak, nobody from any other community in the Third District.
MS. RUSSELL: How did that come about?
JUDGE STEWART: Because the apportionment that the congress fixed in fixing the number of legislators
had them elected at large from the judicial divisions.
So all 10 from Anchorage because Anchorage far overwhelmed the small communities.
And from the Second Judicial Division, Nome and Kotzebue and Unalakleet,
there were as I recall three members and they were all from Nome, nobody from anywhere else.
And the Fourth Judicial Division, of course the only substantial community
in the Fourth Division was Fairbanks, so they were all from Fairbanks.
Well, our bill that determined the delegates, and I’ll show you it,
there’s a list of delegates right here.
We wanted to assure representation from around the state.
And what we decided was in terms of cost factors and adequate representation,
that there should be 55 delegates, 48 of whom would come from the --
would be elected in the respective judicial divisions,
but not at large.
And seven of whom would be at large in the whole territory,
because there were figures who were prominent enough in territorial affairs that they could --
all of the people in the territory could vote on them.
One was my father who had been the head of the Department of Mines for years.
He was retired, living in Sitka, but he ran at large.
And one was Mildred Hermann who was the first woman lawyer in Alaska. From Juneau.
She took the bar exam three times and the Bar Committee --
the Bar examiners rejected her twice,
but she wrote such a perfect paper the third time that they finally admitted her to the Bar.
MS. RUSSELL: Why was she well known at large?
JUDGE STEWART: She was the chairman of the Republican Party, or had been.
She went to high school with Wendell Willke.
She was a very active and strong Republican, very outspoken person,
excellent on her feet, good trial lawyer with the juries.
She was a very dear friend of mine and I worked closely with her.
But anyhow, seven of them were large, and I think Bill Egan might have been one at large.
But anyhow, as it resulted, there was a representative from --
there were several representatives from Anchorage, but there was a -- a delegate, I should say,
there was a delegate from -- in southeastern Alaska from Ketchikan,
from Wrangell, from Petersburg, from Haines,
nobody ran from Skagway, but from Juneau and from Sitka.
And in the Second Division, there was a delegate from Unalakleet who was going to be at this meeting.
Maynard Londborg, on the 25th of October.
And there was a delegate from Kotzebue, John Cross.
There was a delegate from Nome.
The delegate who -- the man who was running dropped out
and the delegate from Nome was Mike Walsh, the old Walsh family in Nome.
And he was elected on five votes write-in.
And of course, the one from Fairbanks, they were all from Fairbanks.
But in the Third District, there was a delegate from Valdez, from Cordova, from Anchorage, from Seward, from Kodiak, from Dillingham,
with the net result that was representation more broadly in the constitutional convention from across the territory than had ever existed in the legislature.
And it was one of the factors, in my judgment, that helped the people to adopt the constitution,
to accept it, because people from their communities had been there and came --
we had a 15-day recess from -- over the Christmas holidays and New Years.
And the delegates by that time, from November the 8th until December 20th or whenever it was they went home --
MS. RUSSELL: This was in 1955, correct?
JUDGE STEWART: Yes. The propositions had been pretty well developed and they were able to go home and say here’s what we’re looking at
and here’s why I think it should be or shouldn’t be.
And then they came back and they had -- they had had these -- in effect these public hearings
in their home communities and representatives from their home communities.
MS. RUSSELL: That was a short time for those different sections to be developed at that level.
Did you have suggested provisions ready for the delegates to --
JUDGE STEWART: Well -- MS. RUSSELL: -- examine? JUDGE STEWART: -- yes and no.
For example, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee at the convention was a lawyer from Anchorage named George McLaughlin.
The McLaughlin Institute is named for him.
George died tragically of heart attack fairly soon after the convention,
but he had been a very prominent lawyer in Anchorage.
He came to the convention with his idea of what the judicial article ought to be.
In the meantime, after that -- after we wrote the bill that called the convention,
among other things I worked closely with Ken Johnson.
Ken Johnson was the Johnson Insurance Agency here in Anchorage,
and he was the chairman of the House Finance Committee and basically controlled the purse strings for the territory.
And in drafting the bill calling the convention, which was House Bill Number 1,
I had prepared a proposed budget trying to keep it --
the cost of the convention in control, but enough money to function.
And I came up with a budget of about $350,000 for 55 delegates,
which is less than a tenth of what the legislature spends on its sessions.
MS. RUSSELL: And that was for how long a period, several -- how many months was the --
JUDGE STEWART: For 75 days. MS. RUSSELL: Seventy-five days.
JUDGE STEWART: Including a 15-day recess.
We figured 75 days was enough time to produce the work.
And there was something called the Alaska Statehood Committee
that had been created in 1949 under the aegis of the prompting of Governor Gruening.
And the chairman of the committee was Robert Atwood,
the editor of the Anchorage Times, by far the strongest newspaper in Alaska at the time.
And he was devoted to the statehood cause.
And he came to Juneau when we were working on this bill
and Ken Johnson said, well, I’ll support this appropriation on condition that you,
Bob Atwood and the Statehood Committee, make Stewart the executive director of the Statehood Committee,
to do the pre-convention studies.
He knew I had the background of having been to all these other states and looked at all these other
jurisdictions, and how they had operated their conventions, rewriting, mostly, their constitutions.
And so Bob Atwood bought off on that and when the legislature adjourned,
I became the executive director of the Statehood Committee charged with preparing for the holding of the constitutional convention.
And in my discussions with the academic people in these various universities,
I got the recommendation that we should choose our own consulting staff,
people that we as Alaskans felt would fit in the Alaskan scene, be accepted by the delegates as an advisor.
MS. RUSSELL: On different subjects, different --
JUDGE STEWART: All the different subjects of the -- MS. RUSSELL: Of the consti --
JUDGE STEWART: -- convention. And among other things that I did in that job, the --
well, this was their recommendation and I tried to persuade Bob Atwood to do that.
But by June he still hadn’t done anything about getting consultants.
And I was quite disturbed about it.
And I had gotten the recommendation in my studies around the country
that we should not deal with the -- an organized group to do these studies, but --
and I had met with the representatives of Public Administration Service in Chicago,
which did studies of this kind for state governments, local governments, the national government, for governments of other nations.
And I got a telegram from Bob early in June saying John Corcoran from Public Administration Service will arrive in Juneau three days from now
and you can meet him, and he’s going to do the pre-convention studies.
Well, as it turned out, I felt I was clearly wrong
and that Bob Atwood was right
that the way to do those studies was with an organization that was prepared to move immediately to get the ball rolling.
And Corcoran was a senior member of the staff of PAS, Public Administration Service.
He and I became close friends as long as he lived and they turned out the job.
They did detailed studies of each element of the constitution;
the executive branch, the legislative branch, the judicial branch,
a bill of rights, suffrage and elections, apportionment,
health education and welfare, natural resources, finance and taxation,
local government, the initiative referendum and recall, amendment and revision.
MS. RUSSELL: What would your package look like, just taking as an example one of the provisions you’re most familiar with, maybe the judicial?
JUDGE STEWART: Well, you mean the work that they did?
MS. RUSSELL: Yeah, what work did they present to the delegates on any particular topic such as the judiciary.
JUDGE STEWART: He did that substantive work. I ran the office that produced these studies.
And in those days, we didn’t have such a thing as a Xerox machine.
All we had was a mimeograph machine and I had one secretary.
And we produced mimeographed chapters dealing with each of those topics
and suggesting that the normal pattern of most of the states is this kind of an article;
however, there are articles that have this and this
and here are some of the advantages or disadvantages of any of those patterns.
So each paper was produced by the staff that he assembled, that included a man from the Brookings Institution,
a man from the League of American Cities and various other groups that studied state constitutions.
Each one of those chapters looked at not just saying this is what you should do,
but rather saying here are examples of what has been done, here are advantages, here are disadvantages,
it’s up to you to make the decision.
And at the same time that they were producing these chapters -- and in order for them to do the work, for example,
I went with the expert on local government who was from the University of West Virginia -- no west, by God, Virginia.
His name was Weldon Cooper and he was a well-known student of local government.
And I took him to Kotzebue where he could talk about what’s the local government in an old-time Eskimo village.
And Nome and Anchorage and I think we went to Kodiak and Fairbanks.
And we could talk with members of the city councils in those places about their problems with the local government.
And came up with the article on local government which I think is excellent.
It was not initially well understood by Alaskans who implemented it but, anyhow --
MS. RUSSELL: And did this individual who went to the villages with you then present the article with you at the convention?
JUDGE STEWART: Well, what they did, we did these papers -- MS. RUSSELL: Uh-huh (affirmative).
JUDGE STEWART: -- and after the delegates had been elected, but before they went to work.
They were elected in September of 1954 -- no, ‘55, I’m sorry, 1955.
And then the convention assembled on November the 8th, 1955.
And in that interim, we completed these papers in my office
and we sent them out to all of the people who had been elected as delegates
so they had in hand a picture of what the constitution might be like.
And at the same time, they wrote media stories.
We sent to all the newspapers the status of the work,
the kinds of topics that the delegates are going to be confronted with.
MS. RUSSELL: And who was writing that article?
JUDGE STEWART: These same people that were writing -- MS. RUSSELL: Oh.
JUDGE STEWART: -- the chapters for the study. And that’s a -- it’s a three-volume set, that study.
It’s paper bound. There are copies of it at the University of Alaska and I have a set of my own in my office in Juneau.
And there are copies of it in other places.
But each delegate got the three- volume set
when they sat down at their desk in Fairbanks.
And in the meantime, the newspapers got these newspaper stories
about the topics that were going to be treated by the delegates,
the questions they would have to answer, and so forth.
So when the delegates -- and there was a couple of other pre-convention preparations that were significant.
I was in Fairbanks and John Corcoran and I were sharing a hotel room.
It was about four or five days before the convention assembled.
And I had worked with Dean Patty, the president of the university, Dean Ernest Patty, on the facilities.
They were building the student union building and it wasn’t quite finished, but it was almost finished.
And it was very adaptable to holding the convention.
It’s now called Convention Hall -- or Constitution Hall.
The ground floor has -- was a recreation area and that was where they had the plenary sessions of the convention.
Second floor was a food service and the third floor was offices of professors and people.
And those served well as committee chambers.
And Bill Egan’s office and mine was up on that floor, too.
And one of the advantages of being in Fairbanks was it got 55 degrees below in the winter
and nobody wanted to leave the convention.
The delegates, all the delegates, stayed there all day for the committee work and for the plenary sessions
in contrast with what happened in the legislature, still does.
They have a plenary session in the morning and they have committee sessions and some go and some don’t.
Some go to the pool hall and play pool, some go to the
bridge table and play bridge, and they don’t do their work.
But in Fairbanks, everybody stayed there and worked all day long, which made a lot of difference.
Anyhow, you asked about -- I think about the consultants.
MS. RUSSELL: Yes. So did you end up then with consultants who were all controlled by PAS?
JUDGE STEWART: No, no. None of them were controlled by PAS whatsoever. MS. RUSSELL: Oh.
JUDGE STEWART: John Corcoran recommended to the Statehood Committee, Bob Atwood in particular,
that I should be sent as the executive director of the committee to Hawaii.
Hawaiians had a parallel body called the Hawaiian Statehood Commission and they had written a constitution in 1950.
And the delegates to the constitution, it was known that after the convention,
the leading delegates got together and did a critique of their convention that was on an old-fashioned wire recorder,
before the days of tape recorders.
And it wasn’t duplicated.
And so Corcoran recommended that I should be sent to Hawaii for the Statehood Committee
and meet with those delegates and listen to that critique
and learn what they found was good and what was not good about their convention.
So I did.
I arrived in Hawaii and I got off the plane and most of the commission was there
and presented me with a whole bunch of beautiful leis
and said, you’re not trying to get ahead of us, are you?
They expected to be the 49th state and they didn’t -- they wanted to be the 49th state. They didn’t want Alaska to go first.
I said oh, no, we have no intention of trying to be the 49th state.
We want you to get statehood and then we’ll get it if you do.
And I listened to the tape and I got the critique.
And one of the things that I learned that I brought back to the
convention was don’t create too many committees.
If you create a committee, that committee will want to write an article
that may or may not be of the character that ought to be in the constitution.
Only create committees for the basic subjects that should be treated in the constitution,
which is an outline of the articles of the constitution.
Otherwise, you’re going to get material in the constitution that ought to be left to the legislature
rather than to be in the fundamental document.
And then on the way home from Hawaii, I went to Boulder, Colorado
because the American Political Science Association was having its annual convention.
And I had some entree, I had the names of some of the leading people in the American Political Science Association,
and I said I’m here to represent the Alaska Statehood Committee
and we have a charge to prepare for our constitutional convention
which is going to assemble in November.
And I want the names of individuals of your organization from the various states
of maybe 20 or 30 or 40 individuals who might be good consultants to our convention
if the delegates wish to have consultants,
because the delegates were the only ones who could make that decision.
And I got a list of about 30 names, noting to do with PAS.
Here are people who’d be good for the executive branch, for the judicial branch, for the legislative branch, for the bill of rights,
for -- for suffrage and elections, for local government, for natural resources, and the other central topics.
And I brought the list of -- and I interviewed those people at Boulder, briefly at least.
Would you be willing to come to Alaska to be a consultant to the convention if the delegates should want you?
I can’t give you any promises whatsoever; all I can say, I can give your names
to the delegates and let them do it. Running out of time?
So anyhow, the critical moment was in the Judicial Committee, Committee on the Judiciary.
George McLaughlin had come to Fairbanks with his own version of what the court structure ought to be.
I had identified a wonderful man named Shelden Elliott,
who had been the assistant to Chief Justice Arthur Vanderbilt in New Jersey
and wrote the book called "Modern Judicial Administration."
And he was the executive director of the Institute for Judicial Administration in New York City.
A lovely man.
One of the mem -- the Committee on the Judiciary had seven members.
One of them was a man named Irv Metcalf from Seward,
who had been a deputy marshal, and I had known him as an assistant attorney general. We’d done some work together.
He came to me and he said, we’re having a debate in the committee whether
we should have a consultant or not, what do you think.
He had gone to two years of law school at the University of Washington, but hadn’t finished.
I said, well, Irv, would you read a book on the subject of state constitutions
and how the judicial body should be organized? He said, of course.
I said, how would you like to have the author of the book to tell you why he did what he did instead of something different?
The committee voted four to three over the objections of George McLaughlin.
And he knew that I had had something to do with
persuading that vote and he was suspicious about my motives.
My motive was to get them the best advice,
but he was still suspicious.
So when Shelden Elliott was due to arrive in Fairbanks, I got in touch with him. I said, George --
he and I had been friends -- let’s both go to the airport and meet Shelden Elliott.
You take your car and I’ll take mine.
We went out there and I introduced them and I knew that Shelden Elliott was a charming personality.
And as soon as they met I said, I’m sorry, I've got some work to do back at my office.
You fellows stay together and I’ll see you later.
They became like that.
So Shelden Elliott substantially, materially influenced the judicial article based on his long studies.
Not to say that George’s draft wasn’t a good one,
but it had lots of room for improvement.
And it was improved by that consultation.
I think my five minutes is up.
MS. RUSSELL: That’s excellent. Thank you. And we will continue this on October 25th and that’s the end of the tape for today.
JUDGE STEWART: I hope it’s something of what you wanted.
MS. RUSSELL: Very much so. Very much so and we’re just moving in the right direction, I think. JUDGE STEWART: Ok.