Alaska editorial: Judge Stewart is worth honoring

Posted: Thursday, May 21, 2009

We smile every time we think of Justice Tom Stewart, the late Juneau icon who was secretary of Alaska's Constitutional Convention, served in the Territorial House and the Alaska Senate, and spent a decade and a half as Superior Court judge.

These are all notable accomplishments, yet tell so little about a man who, as Gov. Sarah Palin said Monday, "modeled a life of service ... an exemplary Alaskan."

The governor signed Senate Bill 29 on Monday, proposed by former Juneau Sen. Kim Elton, which renamed the Capitol Annex the Thomas B. Stewart Legislative Office Building. The annex is under renovation, and expected to be done by fall.

Elton, in his sponsor's statement, wrote that, "More than the distinguished positions he held, Tom was known and respected for his character, wisdom, and leadership. He led by example and remains an inspiration to Alaskans."

Stewart died at the age of 88 in December 2007. Once people have passed on sometimes we describe them in phrases that make them sound dutiful yet uninteresting - unlively, because we have only the words and not the spark.

Those of us who remember some of the great people who made Alaska owe it to those who didn't get the opportunity to meet them to be sure those lions are remembered as the vibrant people they were. Tom Stewart indeed was one of the great ones, who was gardening, traveling, climbing mountains and singing opera into his 80s.

To really appreciate what the man did for the state (we won't even go into his service as a captain in the U.S. Army's 10th Mountain Division during World War II), one need only look at Alaska's Constitution. The document is marvelous in its simplicity, clarity and completeness, and known as a model across the world. (You can read it online at

Tom Stewart was a remarkable man and certainly deserving of the honor now bestowed in naming the building for him.

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