HE WAS THE THIRD GOVERNOR OF ALASKA
Keith Miller, Alaska’s third governor, has died in Anchorage at age 94, after suffering from pancreatic cancer.
Miller, a Republican, was secretary of state for Alaska under Gov. Walter J. Hickel. When President Richard Nixon appointed Hickel to be Secretary of the Interior, Miller became governor.
Miller was born March 1, 1925, in Seattle. As a young man, he moved to Alaska in 1946 and settled in Talkeetna, where he and his wife, who was an artist, homesteaded a cabin with a magnificent view of what was then called Mt. McKinley.
A TWIST OF POLITICAL FATE
Miller was sworn in as Alaska’s Secretary of State on Dec. 5, 1966. When Gov. Wally Hickel was selected by President Richard Nixon to be the secretary of the U.S. Interior, Miller was next in line and became governor. Alaska didn’t have a lieutenant governor position then.
Miller remained governor for two years, and filed for the office in 1970. This writer’s father was recruited to be Miller’s campaign press secretary, and the family fate was wrapped up in that campaign.
However, Bill Egan, who had served as governor at Statehood and was very popular across Alaska, won that election.
In 1974, Miller ran again, but lost in the primary to Jay Hammond, who was able to best Egan, 47.67 percent to 47.37 percent to become governor.
In the Miller era, oil wealth began to flow as Alaska completed leases in Prudhoe Bay, worth a sudden $900 million to the State coffers. At that time, the new money was seven times the State budget. Spending ballooned.
Miller had been a tireless advocate for building the the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, traveling to Washington, D.C. to push for its approval, in spite of objections of federal judge George Hart, who had, in 1970, ordered the Interior Department to not issue a construction permit. Two weeks later, he issued an injunction against the Interior Department permitting and, for a while, stopped the project.
By 1970, as he sought to win re-election, Miller’s popularity was fading. Hickel, who was by then the Interior Secretary, delayed the permits for the pipeline, which made Miller look ineffective. Frustrated voters gave the win to Egan.
It wasn’t until the 1973 oil crisis did Congress pass the law that Miller had fought for: The Trans-Alaska Pipeline Authorization Act.
Gov. Michael Dunleavy ordered the flags to fly at half staff through Sunday in honor of the late Gov. Miller.
“While Governor Miller’s time in office was brief, the “Prudhoe Bay Governor” as he became widely known, successfully managed the historic $900 million-dollar Prudhoe Bay lease sale that led to the construction of the Trans-Alaska Oil Pipeline and the modernization of Alaska’s economy,” said Gov. Dunleavy. “That’s a remarkable legacy and I ask all Alaskans to remember that significant contribution Governor Miller made to our great state.”
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