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Byron Mallott dies

James Brooks

Alaska Native cultural and political leader Byron Mallott died unexpectedly Friday at age 77.

Mallott served under former Gov. Bill Walker, who confirmed his death Friday.  According to the Anchorage Daily News, Mallott suffered a heart attack in Juneau late Thursday before being flown to Anchorage.

Mallott, a Democrat, and Walker, an independent, both ran for governor in 2014 before merging their campaigns.  They went on to defeat the Republican incumbent, with Mallott as lieutenant governor.

“You don't see that in, in partisan politics. He loved Alaska much more than he loved politics.”

During their term, Walker and Mallott developed a close personal relationship.

Mallott resigned shortly before the 2018 election. At the time, Walker said Mallott had made inappropriate overtures to a woman and suspended his reelection campaign shortly after.

Walker says the two remained close, regularly talking on the phone and having dinner with one another’s families.

He remembers Mallott was a tireless advocate for equality, justice and public safety in rural Alaska. 

“After all he has done for Alaska, Alaska is a better place because of him.”

Mallott was Tlingit from Yakutat. He was of the Raven moiety and clan leader of the Kwaashk’i K?wáan.

He served as mayor of Yakutat as a young man and went on to hold a number of high-profile positions in business and government throughout the state. He was president of Sealaska Corp., Southeast Alaska’s regional Native corporation, and served briefly as the mayor of Juneau before resigning to become executive director of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation.

Marlene Johnson is a former chairman of Sealaska Corp., whose friendship with Mallott goes back nearly 60 years. Johnson fondly remembers working with him to convince federal leaders to pass the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.

“He spent his whole life working for the people and for the state of Alaska.”

Richard Peterson is president of the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska.

He says he was shocked to learn the news Friday. Peterson considered Mallott a friend and mentor from the time he himself was a young mayor in Kasaan.

“He could be a fierce, you know, fighter for what needed to be fought for, but at the same time, you know, he could be that person that gave you the hug and encouraged you and uplifted you.”

Peterson says Mallott’s death will leave a tremendous void in the lives of those who knew and loved him, but his legacy of leadership will continue on.