One of the main advocates of Alaska statehood was Edward Lewis “Bob” Bartlett. He represented Alaska through many years of statesmanship, and guided the statehood act through Congress, where it passed in 1958. We became the 49th state in January of 1959.
Bartlett’s father came to Alaska to work in the Klondike, and Bartlett was raised in Fairbanks. He returned to the territory after college, wrote for the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, and married his wife Vide. The Bartletts helped run her family’s mine for a while but found their calling in politics. Bartlett was appointed secretary of Alaska in 1938 and started pushing for Alaska to become a state. He later became our delegate in Congress, then a Senator.
Throughout his time in public service, Bartlett always conducted himself with grace, and made allies which helped Alaska in many causes, including statehood. According to Sam Bisshop’s article run in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner in Aug. 13, 2003:
“He was of course responsible for statehood—there is no question about it in my mind,” said Fairbanks attorney Mary Nordale. It was Bartlett who finally reeled in House Speaker Sam Rayburn and Senate Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson, she said.
Many people in Alaska still have personal memories of Bartlett, and everyone I’ve heard speaks highly of him.
“He was just very interested in everybody. He had an enormous number of friends,” his daughter recalled.
I am proud to have gone to school at one of his namesakes, Bartlett High School in Anchorage.
Here’s my main source for this post and a good place to get more details about Bob Bartlett: University of Alaska’s UA Journey website: