Creating Alaska

Ralph J. Rivers

Name: Ralph J. Rivers

City: Fairbanks

District: Alaska-at-Large

Occupation: Lawyer, Legislator, Congressman

Born: May 23, 1904 - Seattle, Washington

Death: August 1976 - Chehalis, Washington

Alaska Resident: 1906 - 1967

Convention Posts:

  • Second Vice President
  • Member, Committee on Rules
  • Member, Committee on Judiciary Branch

Education: University of Washington

Public Offices and Organizations:

  • District Attorney - 1933-44
  • Alaska Attorney General - 1945-49
  • Mayor, City of Fairbanks - 1952-54
  • Territorial Senate - 1955-56
  • "Alaska - Tennessee Plan" Representative - 1956-59
  • United States Congress - 1959-66

Honors Received:

  • Honorary Doctorate, University of Alaska - 1974

Links: United States Congress Official Biography

Quote from the Constitutional Convention:

"When I was attorney general, that office was legislative counsel for the legislature, advised the members of the legislature, advised the various administrative departments under the governor, and advised the governor, and wrote legal opinions interpreting the law... The present Attorney General, because of the press of business, gave up being legislative counsel for the legislature three years ago and told them they were too busy and were just looking after the executive department, and that they were to figure out how to get their own bills drafted. Two years ago that situation got so acute that the Legislative Council was created and it serves a very useful need, but I think that Mr. McLaughlin actually emphasized the wrong answer when he said that the attorney general would be the counsel for the legislature as well as for the executive arm, because under the present development with Legislative Council, he will be the attorney for the executive branch and the legislature can take care of itself.

I might also say that I wrestled with this, I started out advocating that the attorney general be elected, but I wrestled with it... Because of my doubts though, I have talked to many people, they have said if you are going to let the governor's administration be held responsible for the conduct of that administration, you have got to at least give the governor an attorney of his own choice. Under this setup he might get an attorney of the opposite political faith. He might get one of his own party who is either inadequate or who is hostile to him, or who doesn't see eye-to-eye with him. In either case, the governor could say at the end of his term, if things haven't gone well, "We had a good program but that attorney general you foisted upon me wrecked our program." There again, you have got passing the buck as to who was to blame because things didn't go well. Now then, if we want to be sure that the strong executive who is going to have the responsibility of carrying out a successful administration is going to get the blame if he doesn't have a successful administration, let us not give him any outs. Let's not take him off the hook by giving him an attorney general that he can put the blame on."

-Delegate Ralph Rivers, Day 53 of the Constitutional Convention, discussing the role of the Attorney General in the Territorial Government, and the evolution of the office under the statehood model. Rivers served for four years as the Territory's Attorney General. Alaska's constitution establishes one of the strongest executive branches of the fifty states. Under the constitution, the Governor and Lieutenant Governor are the only state officers elected from the state as a whole. All other executive officers, including the Attorney General, are appointed by the Governor.