Sunday, May 05, 2019

Happy 95th, Vic Fischer

The state of Alaska is in a unique situation in that we still have living one of the delegates to the Alaska Constitutional Convention.  Vic Fischer turned 95 today and there was a big birthday party with lots of guests who themselves have played critical roles in the history of the state.

There's something of a Forrest Gump quality to Vic Fischer's life - he lived through many historic moments in the history of the 20th Century, and played important roles in a number of them.  His father was the famous journalist, Louis Fischer, who married to a Russian writer.  He was born in Berlin in 1924 spent his early years in Berlin and Moscow, escaping from Stalin purges through intervention from Eleanor Roosevelt in 1939.
He served in the US army in WW II (and his two best Moscow school friends served in the Russian and German armies respectively.)  I've misplaced my copy of To Russia With Love:  An Alaskan's Journey, a remarkable autobiography, so I can't check all the details.  But Vic got planning degree at MIT and eventually came to Anchorage with the Bureau of Land Management.  He was one of the youngest delegates to the Alaska Constitutional Convention.

He established what has evolved into the Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER) at the University of Alaska - the foremost research body of its kind in Alaska still today.  (It was through ISER I first got to meet Vic and he moved into my office when the public administration department got moved to another building.)  When relations between Russia and the US thawed and flights were permitted between Alaska and the Russian Far East,  Vic, with his fluency in Russian, was a key player in exchanges between Soviet and Alaskan scholars.

Vic has kept busy since then in a variety of Alaskan activities.  I remember a video interview with Vic in the capital building in Juneau in 2010 when I had a question about how a politician was interpreting the Alaska Constitution.  What better source than one of the writers?  Vic is still out and about regularly participating in civic affairs and clarifying constitutional questions when needed.

If you're looking for a good book with a crazy improbable life adventure, I don't think you can go wrong with To Russia With Love.  Though I realize part of my enjoyment of the book was that I knew so many of the people in the Alaska section of the book, and learned lots of details I hadn't known previously.

I'd note that Katie Hurley who was, not a delegate, but the Chief Clerk to the Constitutional Convention, is, still alive at 98.
Also, I tried to find out of there were any delegates still alive to the convention that wrote the Hawaiian Constitution, but couldn't.  However, Hawaii had at least two more constitutional conventions (1968 and 1978) and surely people are still alive from those meetings.



    There was an Alaskan, a Ralph Rivers, in this committee of the Interior Department acting on statehood for Hawaii circa 1959.

  2. Mike, thanks. What point were you trying to make here?
    Ralph Rivers" was Alaska's territorial representative in Congress 1957-58 and was Alaska's first representative after statehood. He died in 1976.

  3. Just found it curious tom see an Alaskan, who had just recently gained statehood, on the committee to approve Hawaii as a state.

    I was looking for evidence the people drawing up Hawaii's constitution in 1950 were alive, yet.

    1. He was Alaska's congressman and that was a committee he was on, and as a rep of the then most recently new state, it would seem reasonable for him to be one of the committee members. Here's a piece on the politics of admitting the two states back then.

  4. Perhaps you can answer a question for curious iowan with no known Orcas inhabiting cornfields. I have been watching numerous Orca videos of late and I am not seeing the massive, tall dorsal fins that used to be shown regularly on video up and down the Pacific coast. Am I missing something?

  5. I just looked at a youtube killer whale video and I agree the dorsal fins look smaller. Males have larger dorsal fins than females. But I suspect the issue is about how still photos v video. In stills, with a telephoto lens, if you get a picture of the dorsal fin with just a little bit of the body showing, the fin looks larger. Google orca images and look carefully at the images that show the dorsal fin looking huge. It's been a long time since I was in a kayak around orcas, and I 'remember' ten foot fins, but obviously that wasn't the case.

  6. Thanks for the reply, Steve. I will get right on it.

  7. Here's a piece on the politics of admitting the two states back then.

    Interesting piece. It would seem the two major political [parties switched identities back then. I wonder if those Dems were afraid brown people would overwhelmingly vote for Rs?

    Thanks as always.

    1. I wasn't aware of the racist opposition to Hawaii. I did know that one of the reasons they came in together was that one was Democratic and the other Republican. And yes, they've switched since then. And I'd guess a lot of the opposition to Puerto Rico's statehood in the US is that they would bring two more Democratic senators.


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