Passing: Sen. John Sackett - Must Read Alaska
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Thursday, April 15, 2021
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Passing: Sen. John Sackett

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He served in the Alaska House of Representatives from 1967-1970 and the Senate from 1973-1986.

A graduate of Sheldon Jackson High School, he was the valedictorian of the class of 1963, and was student body president.

He attended college at the University of Ohio, and then transferred to the University of Alaska, where he finished his bachelor’s degree in accounting. He served on the board of directors for Doyon Ltd, and was a member of the board of directors for the now-defunct MarkAir. He was also elected president of Tanana Chiefs Conference, and was the youngest chief to be elected to that honor.

A Republican, at age 21, he filed for the Alaska House of Representatives and was 22 years old when he was sworn in to represent Interior communities, including Bethel all the way to the Canadian border.

He was elected to the Alaska Senate in 1972 and remained until 1986, representing what was then known as Senate District N.

He served in the 12th Legislature alongside Senators Jay Kerttula, Vic Fischer, Richard Eliason, George H. Hohman, Jr, Tim Kelly, Arliss Sturgulewski, and Robert Ziegler, to name a few.

Later he was a lobbyist for the Yukon-Koyukuk and Lower Kuskokwim school districts and was a regent for the University of Alaska.

Sackett Hall, at the University of Alaska Bethel campus, is named for him.

Governor Dunleavy ordered that U.S. flags and Alaska state flags fly at half-staff on Monday, March 8, 2021 in honor of Sen. Sackett.

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • These giants of the past continue to fall. RIP.

  • Sad to learn of Senator Sackett’s passing. John Sackett also served with John Butrovich , the “Dean of the Senate” from Fairbanks, along with a fellow named Willy Hensley, a sharp dresser with an equally keen perspective. His first Senate term oversaw the passage of Oil Taxation prior to starting the Trans Alaska Pipeline in October 1973. Another bit of Alaskan history gone like water passing the Yukon River Bridge, which was built during Sacketts time in office. R.I.P. Senator.

  • Didn’t John Binkley move from Fairbanks to Bethel, just so he could get Sackett’s old House seat?

    • Yes…….and old Senate seat too. Carpet-bagging redefined.

  • There really should be a compiled Biography books of all these past obituaries. It be more like a mini Alaskana Encyclopedia collection. All of them including the Democrat ones are who more Alaskans, the ones interested in this state’s politics, culture, and order of business should have little biographies at our fingertips of those who loved this place before we were born, so we don’t neglect maintaining what they built losing it to outsiders knowing nothing about Alaska Cancelling their culture, their way of conducting business, their values, and their politics between one another that moved the territory forward and continued building a new state.

  • In 1980, Johnny Sackett hired me and Walt Parker to document the deplorable conditions of Alaska’s rural airports. I spent that summer traveling to just about every village in In the state., resulting in a $60 million bond issue to improve rural Alaska’s critical infrastructure. Johnny was a visionary and a fierce advocate for Alaska natives. I was proud to call him a friend.

    Mike Harmon

  • History has a way of covering-up some things. Wasn’t Sackett involved in a scandal back in the late 70’s and early 80’s in Juneau which included perverted sex with young, underaged male House Pages? Check the history.

    • Yes, those suspicions were raised and discussed back in the day. Allegedly, it was the reason Sackett quit public office. He never was charged, though.

      • Way to ruin a good story Elaine and Thomas… I was liking the story without the downside.

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