Alaska looses Bush Rat Governor

Former Gov. Jay Hammond has died at the age of 83. He served as Alaska's governor during the early years of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline, and helped create the Alaska Permanent Fund dividend.

Jay Hammond, Bush pilot, poet and elder statesman of Alaska politics, passed away last night. Bella Hammond called Alaska State Troopers after she discovered that her husband had died in his sleep at their Lake Clark home.

Hammond is survived by his wife of 53 years, Bella, his three daughters Wendy, Dana, and Heidi, and a large extended family.

At his own request, Hammond will be buried Wednesday in Port Allsworth, which is located about 150 miles southwest of Anchorage. Local services will be held Friday at 2 p.m., at the Port Allsworth Bible Church for family only. Memorial services are also being planned for Anchorage, but no date or place has yet been set.

As one observer said Tuesday, Jay Hammond transcended politics. Although best known as a two-term governor and elder statesman, Hammond's legacy runs even deeper.

Alaska political insiders point to the Alaska Permanent Fund and the dividend as the obvious, long-term achievements of the Hammond administration. But they say it does not end there. They say the life of Jay Hammond cannot be limited to the changes he oversaw in the statute books and the Alaska Constitution.

I meet Gov. Hammond once at Club Paris, a popular restaurant in Anchorage where you get the best steak in the state. He took the time to talk to everyone who approached his table. He was extremly polite and quick to answer questions. He was a friend to all Alaskans. He looked like everyone else, but everyone knew who he was. His legacy will live on forever.