Last surviving signer of Alaska Constitution dies at 99

Vic Fischer, the last living signer of the Alaska Constitution and active in progressive state politics for seven decades, died Oct. 22 at age 99.

His death came after several years of declining health and an extended stay in hospice care.

Born May 4, 1924, in Berlin, Germany, to an American father and Latvian mother, his family rotated between the Soviet Union and Germany, leaving the latter country for good after Adolf Hitler took power in 1933.

As Josef Stalin’s purges took hold in the Soviet Union, Fischer’s father, journalist Louis Fischer, obtained help from First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt that allowed the family to emigrate to the United States.

He served in the U.S. Army during World War II and said he decided to move to Alaska after reading about the territory aboard a troopship bound for Europe.

In his 2012 autobiography, “To Russia with Love: An Alaskan’s Journey,” Fischer said his views of the world, including a confidence in freedom and resistance to discrimination and racism, were set by the war.

He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a master’s degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, then arrived in Alaska in 1950, first working as a community planner with the federal Bureau of Land Management.

He supported statehood for Alaska, helping found a grassroots organization known as Operation Statehood, and in 1955 was elected as a delegate to the constitutional convention in Fairbanks.

The following year, running as a Democrat from Anchorage, he won election to the territorial Legislature and co-sponsored a law that ended the death penalty in Alaska. He served in a variety of state and federal jobs after leaving the Legislature and won election to the state Senate in 1980, serving six years.

He supported efforts to open regular travel between the Soviet Union and Alaska, and after the collapse of the U.S.S.R., continued efforts to open communications and commerce with Russia. Russian President Boris Yeltsin awarded him full Russian citizenship in 2000, partially in response to that work.

He remained active in state politics until shortly before his death. He co-chaired the unsuccessful campaign to recall Gov. Mike Dunleavy from office and campaigned in 2020 against the idea of calling a constitutional convention to potentially rewrite the state’s founding document.

The Alaska Beacon is an independent, donor-funded news organization.


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