- Associated Press - Friday, May 8, 2020

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - Byron Mallott, who served as Alaska’s lieutenant governor as part of a “unity ticket” with former Gov. Bill Walker, died Friday. He was 77.

Walker called Mallott’s death a “huge shock.” He said they maintained a relationship after leaving office in 2018 and that his last communication with Mallott was about 10 days ago.

Mallott died Friday, said Matt Carle, director of corporate communications for Sealaska, an Alaska Native corporation with which Mallott had longstanding ties. Mallott’s son, Anthony Mallott, is Sealaska’s current CEO.

Sealaska, in a statement, said Byron Mallott helped shape the corporation as a founding director. Joe Nelson, chair of Sealaska’s board, said Mallott, a Tlingit who also held other leadership positions with the corporation, was “the heart of the company for decades.”

“The legacy I think that he leaves is one of trail blazing and bridge building at the same time … and helping, really, indigenous people and non-indigenous people find ways to better connect, better relate, to appreciate each other, to respect each other,” Nelson said.

Mallott held a number of board and government positions, including mayor of Yakutat, his hometown, and Juneau, where he lived for decades. He was a former executive director and member of the board of trustees for the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. He also was a president of the Alaska Federation of Natives, Alaska’s largest statewide Native organization. Walker once called Mallott the “Elvis of AFN.”

Mallott resigned as lieutenant governor before the 2018 election for what Walker described as an inappropriate overture to a woman. Walker ended his reelection bid shortly thereafter.

Nelson said that “reaffirms the humanity that we all have, we are all human.”

He called the Walker-Mallott administration “groundbreaking” and said it raised the bar for administrations in working with Alaska Natives.

In 2014, Walker was elected as an independent with Democratic support after changing his party affiliation from Republican. He ran with Mallott, a Democrat who abandoned his own gubernatorial bid to be part of what was dubbed the unity ticket.

Mallott told The Associated Press the two developed an easy rapport while they were rivals and that he trusted Walker.

The two forged a tight bond; Walker even referred to Mallott as a brother.

Walker said their relationship was unique “and I think we are both better for it, and I think Alaska is better for it.”

Mallott is survived by his wife, Toni, and five children.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy called Mallott “a leader who worked to improve our state for the people of Alaska.” He ordered that flags be flown at half-staff through sunset on May 15.

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