Governor B. Frank Heintzleman's Letter to Speaker Martin Regarding
Partitioning the Territory of Alaska for the Purposes of Granting Statehood
Letter and Graphic reprinted with permission from the April 6, 1954 Juneau Empire
(Editor’s Note: This is the letter which Governor B. Frank Heintzleman wrote to Speaker of the House Joseph Martin (R-Mass) setting forth his opinions on statehood for Alaska. The letter was sent to Martin Saturday and subsequently raised a storm of protest from various statehood supporters. The letters sets forth the governor’s views in presenting a proposal that statehood be considered for a portion of Alaska.)
April 3, 1954
Hon. Joseph W. Martin
Speaker of the House of Representatives
Dear Mr. Speaker:
I am greatly concerned that an enabling bill for statehood for Alaska may not be passed in this session of Congress.
I know that the people of Alaska are overwhelmingly anxious for early statehood.
They have demonstrated on numerous occasions their readiness to assume the responsibility, and certainly the rapid strides which the territory has made in recent years supports in every way their firm belief in themselves and their destiny.
I regard the enabling bill for Alaska statehood which passed the Senate on Thursday as an excellent one, far more equitable and sound than has ever been proposed before. It will “give” the new state access to its own resources on a scale never envisioned before, enabling it to meet the costs of government while continuing to foster economic development within its borders.
I have noted that the pending measure had the support of 33 Republicans in the Senate while only nine Republicans were opposed to it. There were 23 Democratic votes for it, but it was opposed by 19 members of the minority party. With an equal number, 42, of each party voting on the measure, it is plain that the bill passed the Senate only because it had the overwhelming endorsement of the Republican membership of that chamber.
In the past, there has been a feeling that Alaska could not carry the financial burden of maintaining statehood. This has been due in large part to the extreme vastness of the remote and undeveloped land areas within the present Territory in which low productivity is unlikely to be increased in the foreseeable future. Nevertheless, these areas, stretching over approximately 300,000 square miles, would have to be administered and policed with consequent burdens on the resources of the new state during the most critical period in its history.
Rather than delay further the granting of statehood on this ground, I suggest that it might be well to consider for immediate statehood that portion of the Territory that is developed, that embraces all the large metropolitan centers and in which 85 percent of the population resides.
In general, this area might well include all the land lying east of Shelikof Strait and in the 152nd meridian of longitude and south of the summit of the Brooks Range, eastward to the Canadian border and all of Southeastern Alaska.
The shaded area in this map of Alaska shows the part which Gov. B. Frank Heintzleman proposed for immediate statehood as a compromise in the congressional dispute over the Alaska-Hawaii Statehood issue. This would leave about half of Alaska (indicated by white portions on the map) in territorial status. Heintzleman advanced the suggestion in Washington D.C. Saturday. (AP Wire photo)
There is within the area the Alaska Railroad, most of the existing industry of Alaska, virtually the entire highway network, and the great bulk of the known minerals, arable land and other natural resources which constitute a strong base for the future development of the new state.
In all, this would be approximately 200,000 square miles. It would of course include the Kodiak Island group.
In our history it has not been unusual to establish states within the borders of large territories of the United States.
If it appears that the above mentioned plan would enhance the prospects for the granting of Alaska statehood at this time, I will be pleased to confer with you further on the matter at your convenience.
With Kind Regards I Am,
B. Frank Heintzleman