One of the most important figures in the successful effort for Alaska statehood was Tom Stewart. Born into an established Juneau family headed by Ben Stewart, founder of the Alaska Territorial Department of Mines, Tom was raised in Juneau. After earning his B.A. at the University of Washington, he attended Yale Law School. Following graduation, he clerked for United States District Court Judge George Folta in Juneau in 1951 and became a member of the Alaska Bar. After clerking, he served as Assistant Attorney General for Alaska from 1951 to 1954. He was then elected to the House of Representatives for the Alaska Territorial Legislature, and became closely involved in the efforts to pursue statehood while serving as the Secretary for the 1955 Alaska Constitutional Convention (the “Convention”).

In 1992, Stewart drafted an article for the Alaska Law Review focusing on his recollections of the work he had done both before and during the Convention. This anecdotal article was intended to share Stewart’s unique perspectives on what he thought were some of the significant elements of the constitution drafting process. For whatever reason, the article was not published at that time. In preparing for this symposium, Stewart’s article was unearthed, and it seemed appropriate to publish it as part of this symposium issue.

Stewart’s dedicated efforts to accomplish the drafting of a state constitution were motivated first and foremost by his desire for Alaska statehood. It was clear to him that Alaskans lacked the necessary authority to govern themselves under the existing territorial structure. There were many problems—indeed, Stewart stated that the problems were “too numerous to mention”—as the small territorial government attempted to manage and control the vast expanse of Alaska. Stewart was intimately familiar with prior efforts to pursue Alaska statehood.

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