Thursday, July 17, 2008

Fifty Years Ago John F. Kennedy Urged Alaskans to Elect Democrats

Going through the oral history section of the UAF Archives I found this speech by Senator John F. Kennedy given Nov. 11, 1958. The rest of the United States had voted on Nov. 4, 1958 and elected an overwhelmingly Democratic Senate and House. Alaskans would be voting on November 25. Kennedy, in Juneau, is urging his audience to elect Democrats. He is introduced by Ernest Gruening. Kennedy begins 4 minutes into the tape.

[Source: While this is basically audio, it is stored in video format. This page gives all the information. This is a direct link to the audio.It is housed in the Alaska State Library - Historical Collections, PO Box 110571, Juneau AK 99811-0571;]

The Division of Elections website tells us that Alaskans followed their advice. (Well if you look closely, the numbers and the words don't match. I'm guessing they

The General Election, November 25, 1958

Immediately following certification of the August primary election, campaigning by successful candidates began for the state’s first general election. Although general elections, nationwide, are held the first Tuesday in November, the 1958 general election in Alaska was scheduled for November 25.

The most hotly contested race in the election was between two former territorial governors, Gruening and Stepovich, both running for the U.S. Senate. In the uncontested primary election race, Stepovich had "beaten" Gruening by approximately 6,000 votes. In the general election, Gruening beat Stepovich by slightly more than 3,000 votes.

Republican secretary of state candidate Karl Dewey withdrew his nomination before the general election, and the party replaced him with Brad Phillips of Anchorage.

The day of the election the Anchorage Times wrote in its lead story, "The fruits of 42 years of effort will be the result of today’s election - the official proclamation that Alaska is a State of the Union." More than 50,000 Alaskan voters went to the polls to cast ballots on November 25.

Official Returns of the November 25, 1958 General Election


Thus, Bob Bartlett, Ernest Gruening and Ralph Rivers went to Washington to represent Alaska as voting members in Congress. Bartlett was to draw the two-year "A" term, and Gruening, the four-year "B" term. They stood for re-election again in 1960 and 1962, respectively, when each was elected to the six-year senatorial term prescribed by the U.S. Constitution.

After the November 25th election was certified, Bill Egan and Hugh Wade, working with members of the newly-elected first state legislature, immediately began the challenging task of organizing the 49th state’s new government.

Also, following certification, President Dwight D. Eisenhower on January 3, 1959, consistent with the Admission Act, proclaimed Alaska a State of the Union.

1 comment:

  1. I attended that speech, as well as Nixon's when he toured Alaska. Both of them spoke at the 20th Century Theatre on Front Street. I remember feeling much more inspired by Kennedy than Nixon. Thanks for posting the link!


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