- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Former U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska, who served longer as a Republican than anyone in the chamber’s history, died in a plane crash Monday during a fishing trip in the state’s rugged southwest coast. He was 86.

Mr. Stevens‘ life of public service began in the 1950s at the Interior Department and included 40 years in Congress where he fought tirelessly for his home state, delivering tax breaks and billions in federal money for construction projects that helped practically every Alaska resident and businesses.

So prominent was his federal spending in Alaska that residents called it “Stevens money.” While at the Interior Department, during the Eisenhower administration, he helped Alaska achieve statehood in 1959.

“How can I summarize six decades of service?” asked Gov. Sean Parnell, a Republican. “Alaska is better off because of him. He was larger than life. Ted was a lion who retreated from nothing.”

Still, Mr. Stevens also will be remembered for his infamous “Bridge to Nowhere” — a multimillion-dollar, bridge-construction project in the remote town of Ketchikan that came to symbolize pork-barrel spending in Congress.

Mr. Stevens entered Congress in 1968, but lost his 2008 re-election bid to Democrat Mark Begich by 1.24 percentage points, just a week after he was found guilty of federal corruption charges.

Five months after the election, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. requested that Judge Emmet Sullivan nullify Mr. Stevens’s conviction because of misconduct by federal prosecutors, which the judge did, and the case was not retried.

Mr. Stevens held several high-ranking positions in Congress, including president pro tempore, which is behind the vice president and the House speaker in the constitutional line of succession to the Oval Office.

He served as chairman and as ranking member of the Senate’s Appropriations defense subcommittee and the full Appropriations Committee. Mr. Stevens also was a senior member of the Commerce committee, which has telecommunications policy under its purview.

“This is a sad day for the state of Alaska and our entire nation,” said Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican. “He was a dedicated, passionate and faithful public servant for the people of Alaska. But the role he cherished the most was that of husband, father and grandfather. His family, and the families of all those lost in this tragedy, are in Sandy’s and my prayers.”

The plane in which Mr. Stevens died and the fishing lodge he was visiting was owned by CGI — an Anchorage-based provider of telephone, cable TV, Internet and wireless services across the state. Five of the nine passengers died in the crash. Among the survivors were Mr. Stevens‘ fishing buddy and former NASA Administrator Sean O’Keefe and his teenage son.

Mr. Stevens was on board a Learjet that crashed on Dec. 4, 1978, at the Anchorage International Airport, which in 2000 was renamed the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. He survived, but five people were killed, including his first wife, Ann. During World War II, Mr. Stevens served in the Army Air Corps and won decoration for flying cargo planes over the dangerous Himalayan mountains.

“A decorated World War II veteran, Sen. Ted Stevens devoted his career to serving the people of Alaska and fighting for our men and women in uniform,” President Obama said. “Michelle and I extend our condolences to the entire Stevens family and to the families of those who perished alongside Senator Stevens in this terrible accident.”

Theodore Fulton Stevens was born in Indianapolis, the third of four children. The family moved to Chicago, struggling through the Great Depression and split up when Ted was a young boy. His mother moved to California and was joined by all the children except Ted, who stayed behind to care for sick family members, including his father.

He later moved to California with a family member and graduated from the University of California in Los Angeles, served in the military, then graduated from Harvard Law School.

He entered private practice in Washington, D.C., and in 1952 married Ann Mary Cherrington. They had three sons: Ben, Walter, and Ted; and two daughters, Susan and Beth. Mr. Stevens, a prostate cancer survivor, remarried in 1980, to Catherine Ann Chandler. They have a daughter, Lilly.

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