Alternative Medicine Freedom Hall Of Fame: Walter J. Hickel



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Secretary Walter J. Hickel Contributed Greatly to Medical Freedom In Alaska During His Two Terms As Governor
Secretary Hickel Was a Golden Gloves Boxing Champion

Walter J. Hickel was born near Claflin, Kansas, August 18, 1919. The eldest son in a family of ten, he was working a gang plow at the age of eight on his parents' dust bowl tenant farm. He graduated from high school in Claflin, participating in football and track. In 1938 he became Kansas' Welterweight Golden Gloves boxing champion.


Alaska Became His Home In 1940

Under age, without a passport, his plans to emigrate to Australia thwarted, he went to Alaska (arriving in Anchorage with only 37 cents) in 1940. After a year of odd jobs, from logging to bartending, Hickel married Janice Cannon, who became ill and died in 1943. They had one son, Ted. In 1945, he married Ermalee Strutz, daughter of pioneering Alaskans, Louis and Aline Strutz. Including Ted, Wally and Ermalee have six sons: Bob, Wally Jr., Jack, Joe, and Karl.


Secretary Hickel Fought For Alaska Statehood

After World War II, during which he served as a civilian flight maintenance inspector for the Army Air Corps, Hickel became a builder, developer, and civic leader of Alaska. He built and operated rental units, residential developments, hotels, and shopping centers, and became deeply involved in Alaska's statehood fight, especially the battle to gain 103 million acres of land.  In private life, Hickel is the sole proprietor of the Hickel Investment Company which built and operates a hotel, office buildings and shopping centers in Alaska.


Governor Hickel Was Instrumental In Developing Good Relationships With Japan

In 1954, he was elected Republican National Committeeman and served in that capacity for ten years. In 1961 President Kennedy requested that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce select six men to attend the Japan-US. Conference in Hakone, Japan. Governor Hickel was chosen as one, and at the meeting he pointed out the importance of natural resources in Alaska by referring to the possibility of exporting natural gas from Kenai to Japan. The opportunity became a clue to exporting LNG to Japan for the first time. Hickel continued to visit Japan, and contributed further to the promotion of Japan-Alaska economic and trade relations through interchange with Japanese industrial and economic circles. In 1964, Hickel was the leader of the first Alaska Chamber economic trade mission to Japan.


Drilling for Oil On the North Slope Put Alaska Into a Sound Financial Condition

 In 1966, Hickel ran against heavy odds for the governorship and won. His record as governor includes putting Alaska onto a sound financial footing by opening up the North Slope for oil development, upgrading the court system, and initiating forceful environmental and anti-pollution action.


1969 Was the Year He Became Secretary of The Interior 

At the 1968 Republican National Convention, he was nominated for President as Alaska's favorite son. Later that year he was designated by President Nixon to be the 38th Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior. As Secretary, he became known for his strong actions on behalf of a national energy policy, the environment, and for his voicing reconciliation between generations.


His Book "Who Owns America?" Was a Best-Seller

 His actions as Secretary of the Interior, detailed in his best-selling book, "Who Owns America?", include upgrading offshore oil drilling regulations after the Santa Barbara disaster, establishing the Parks-to-People program, reorganizing the Bureau of Indian Affairs, placing all eight species of great whales on the Endangered Species List, and a multitude of other precedent-setting actions on behalf of the nation's public resources. His articles on national issues have appeared in The New York Times, Reader's Digest, Saturday Review, Family Weekly, Saturday Evening Post, and Boston Globe.


Secretary Hickel Worked With NASA

 In 1989, at the invitation of the administration of NASA, Hickel joined a couple of other leading businessmen, astronauts, scientists, and historians from around the country on the NASA Exploration Task Force which advised NASA and the President on a return to the moon and human exploration of Mars.


Many Commendations and Honors Have Been Received by Governor Hickel

Named as the "Alaskan of the Year" in 1969, Hickel has received a number of awards including 11 honorary college degrees, and the DeSmet Medal (highest award of Gonzaga University). In May 1988, he received the "Grand Cordon of the Order of the Sacred Treasure" from His Imperial Majesty, the Emperor of Japan. Governor Hickel contributed greatly to the furtherance of trade relations between Japan and Alaska.


Governor Hickel Helped Bring Natural Gas To The World Market

In June 1982, then Governor Jay Hammond asked two of his predecessors: Governors Hickel and Egan to lead an effort to explore alternatives to bring Alaska's North Slope natural gas to market. The Hickel-Egan effort, known as the Governor's Economic Committee on North Slope Natural Gas, proposed the construction of an 820-mile gas pipeline across Alaska to serve Pacific Rim markets. Following this initiative, Hickel formed the Yukon Pacific Corporation with a group of other investors. This firm is now a business unit of CSX Corporation.


Governor Hickel Was the First Independence Party Winner

On September 16, 1990, Hickel joined the race for Governor under the banner of the Alaskan Independence Party. On November 6, the voters elected Hickel as their eighth Chief Executive. Hickel, Alaska's first Independence Party governor, vowed after taking the oath of office to rekindle the state's spirit and values.


Governor Hickel Accomplished Many Goals During His Two Terms

His record as Governor includes collecting approximately $4 billion in oil back taxes; filing landmark lawsuits against the federal government asserting State's rights; settling the Mental Health Lands Trust dispute; selecting the final 23 million acres of State's 103 million acre entitlement; initiating The Northern Forum; securing funding for purchase of Kachemak Bay State Park; cutting agency operating budgets by six percent a year (eight percent with inflation); and allocating more money than the past three administrations combined for upgrading village water and sewer systems.


He Was Elected to Position of Secretary General Of The Northern Forum

Hickel chose not to seek re-election in November, 1994. Two months prior to leaving the governorship, he was elected Secretary General of The Northern Forum at the annual meeting in Rovaniemi, Finland. The Northern Forum is an international organization of elected leaders that represents 23 Arctic regions, and was recently accredited by the United Nations. In 1995 he founded the Institute of the North at Alaska Pacific University to serve as a home for The Northern Forum and to provide degree and public educational programs on Northern geography and management.


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