‘Grande Dame’ of Alaska politics, dies at 99

Life-long civil servant and businesswoman.

Courtesy photo / Alaska State Legislature
Katie Hurley, seen here in an undated photo from the Alaska State Legislature biography page, died Sunday at the age of 99.

Courtesy photo / Alaska State Legislature Katie Hurley, seen here in an undated photo from the Alaska State Legislature biography page, died Sunday at the age of 99.

Katie Hurley, a lifelong Alaska civil servant born and raised in Juneau, died at the age of 99 on Sunday, according to Juneau’s lawmakers.

Sen. Jesse Kiehl, D-Juneau, and Rep. Sara Hannan, D-Juneau, both gave statements Monday on the floor of their respective chambers in the Alaska State Capitol, calling Hurley an “extraordinary Alaskan.”

Hurley was born in Juneau, March 3, 1921, and would become known as the “Grand Dame of Alaska politics,” Kiehl said. She graduated from what was then Juneau High School.

Hurley began her political career as an assistant to Territorial Gov. Ernest Gruening, according to her biography in the Alaska Women’s Hall of Fame. She was inducted into the hall of fame in 2008.

[Governor quarantines following close contact]

Hurley served several positions during her lifetime, including seven years as president of the State Board of Education and three years as the executive director of the Alaska Women’s Commission, according to her legislative biography.

Hurley relocated to Wasilla in 1963 and remained there for the rest of her life. She spent two years representing Wasilla in the Alaska House of Representatives from 1985-86.

Her page on the state’s 100 Year’s of Alaska Legislature website, her education lists a 1953 quote from E.I. Bartlett saying, “thirteen years of Liberal Arts, University of Ernest Gruening.”

She served as chief secretary to the Alaska Constitutional Convention and spent five terms as the Secretary for the Alaska State Senate.

Hurley was the first woman elected to a statewide partisan position when she won the 1978 race for Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, according to her Hall of Fame biography.

“Her subsequent career was seminal in Alaska’s transition to statehood,” Kiehl said.

In a statement, Gov. Mike Dunleavy said his office has ordered all U.S. and Alaska state flags to fly at half-staff on Tuesday, March 30, at the request of Hurley’s family. The date would have been Hurley’s 100th birthday.

“Katie Hurley was a pioneer who impacted countless lives in her commitment to Alaska’s public affairs” Dunleavy said in the statement. “Her dedicated contributions during Alaska’s formative Territorial and Statehood years created history. From the first day that Alaska became a state, Katie was at the forefront of devoted public service. We offer our deepest sympathies to Katie Hurley’s family and friends as they honor her memory.”

Contact reporter Peter Segall at psegall@juneauempire.com.

Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnuEmpire.

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