On Tuesday, the Alaska State Library’s Historical Collections marked the arrival of an important new collection: the Neva Egan Papers and Photographs. Donated by Sen. Dennis Egan and his wife Linda, who organized the collection, the documents and photos span the political career of the state’s first governor, William Egan, a central figure in Alaska’s history.
During an opening reception Tuesday, Sen. Egan remarked that his mother, Neva, was a “pack rat” who saved everything, in part because of her huge dedication to and appreciation for the state and its history.
“This was her vital place,” he said. “She loved it.”
Sen. Egan also said he considered it an honor to be able to donate his mother’s papers to the Juneau public.
By carefully preserving her family’s papers, both personal and professional, Neva Egan documented some key moments in the history of Alaska’s statehood.
Neva Egan came to Alaska for the first time in 1937. She planned to spend one year teaching in Valdez before returning to Wyoming, where she was then living. But, like many Alaskans, she quickly realized she’d found a home.
Her husband, William Egan, was born in Valdez in 1914. His parents had moved there in 1903, after spending a few years near Juneau, where Egan’s father worked at the Treadwell Mine.
Neva and Bill Egan were married in 1940. The next year, William Egan served two terms in the House of Representatives of the Territorial Legislature, eventually moving to the Senate in 1953.
In 1955 he was elected a delegate to the Constitutional Convention, and was subsequently elected president of the convention.
In 1959, the year Alaska became a state, Egan was sworn in as the state’s first governor, a position he held from 1959 to 1966 and from 1970 to 1974.
William Egan died in 1984 at age 70. Neva Egan died in 2011, at the age of 96.
The Neva Egan Papers span Bill Egan’s entire political career, and consist of 19 boxes and 10 albums, each of which is identified by a general label. One reads “Album 5, Armed Forces Day 1964, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon.”
The voluminous paperwork was organized and sorted by Sen. Dennis Egan’s wife, Linda, who was also present at the opening reception.
Among the materials are letters and papers relating to the statehood effort, Alaska Territorial House and Senate Resolutions, newspaper clippings, handwritten drafts of the former governor’s public speeches, paperwork relating to the US involvement in Vietnam, photographs from the Office of the Governor, audio tapes and books.
The materials are available for research, through the Alaska State Library’s Historical Collections department.
For more information on the collection, visit www.library.state.ak.us/hist/hist_docs/finding_aids/MS265.pdf.