A Jay for all seasons

Letter to the editor

Posted: Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Two decades ago, somewhere in Siberia, I lingered after lunch with Jay Hammond to ask him why the pipeline had been built from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez rather than across Canada to the refineries in the Midwest. His answer was quick and simple: "Because Alaskans didn't want any of the construction money to leave the state." The tragic consequence of that greed, of course, was Bligh Reef's rupture of the Exxon Valdez.

He then enumerated the three criteria by which he, as governor of Alaska, had judged all proposals for development: The project had to pay for itself, the people had to want it, and it had to be compatible with the environment. What more could one ask? Many considered retardant his efforts to protect and conserve, and reporters were quick to misunderstand him. He told me, for example, of a meeting about the locking up of Alaska land, during which he had stated the obvious: "Private ownership is the ultimate lock-up of land." The next day, the headline in an Alaska newspaper announced: "Hammond against private ownership of land."

Misunderstood, traduced or impugned, Jay Hammond rose above it all with uncommon integrity and indisputable dedication to Alaska and its people. In my 70 years, I have known no more respectable a man than he. I miss all that he represented, and I sorely miss him.

John B. d'Armand

Auke Bay

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