WALTER J. HICKEL was born near Claflin, Kansas. He moved to Alaska in 1940. During World War II, he served as a civilian flight maintenance inspector for the Army Air Corps. In 1947 he founded a construction company, which he built into a multimillion-dollar firm. He led the fight for Alaskan statehood and served from 1966 until he was appointed Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior under President Richard Nixon in 1969. Hickel proved to be a strong environmentalist; he supported a bill that placed liability on oil companies for offshore oil spills and demanded environmental safeguards in the construction of the Alaskan pipeline. After he sharply criticized President Nixon’s hostility to student antiwar demonstrators, relations between the two men deteriorated until Hickel was forced in 1970 to resign. In 1990 he was again elected governor of Alaska but chose not to run for reelection in 1994.
Governors of the American States, Commonwealths and Territories, National Governors Association, 1993.