Former Alaska Gov. Bill Sheffield dies at age 94

Former Alaska Gov. Bill Sheffield is seen in a 1989 photo, after his term had ended. (Alaska Resources Library and Information Services photo)

by James Brooks, Alaska Beacon
November 4, 2022

Former Alaska Gov. Bill Sheffield died Friday at his home in Anchorage after an extended illness. He was 94.

Sheffield, a Democrat, served a single term from 1982 to 1986 before a near-impeachment and the 1980s oil crash foiled his re-election chances. 

During his term, he directed the spending of billions of dollars in oil revenue from the trans-Alaska pipeline, supported the opening of the Red Dog Mine near Kotzebue and the switch from four Alaska time zones to two. 

Born in 1928 in Spokane, Washington, he served in the U.S. Army and became a salesman. Sent to Alaska, he arrived by steamship and railroad and remained, eventually founding a chain of 19 hotels. Later sold, they today operate under the Westmark name. 

In 1982, he defeated Republican Tom Fink, Libertarian Dick Randolph and Joe Vogler, founder of the Alaskan Independence Party, to replace Jay Hammond and become the sixth governor and the fifth person to serve as governor. (Bill Egan served two non-sequential terms.)

Sheffield, who advocated the transfer of the Alaska Railroad from the federal government to the state, served on the railroad’s board of directors after leaving office and later became CEO of the state-owned corporation.

He served as director of the Port of Anchorage (now named the Port of Alaska) for a decade, retiring in 2012 at age 83. 

He remained active in state politics until his death, supporting a variety of candidates and causes, including some Republicans and independent former Gov. Bill Walker.

Alaska Beacon is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Alaska Beacon maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Andrew Kitchenman for questions: [email protected]. Follow Alaska Beacon on Facebook and Twitter.

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