Panelists discuss Stevens’ legacy, effects, ‘fabled temper’

By Daniel Thoman
Sun Star Reporter

UAF professor Terrence Cole discusses former U.S. Senator Ted Stevens and his rise to power in 1950's Fairbanks during the Ted Stevens panel discussion. Thursday Nov. 18, 2010. April Massey / Sun Star.

Earlier this year, long-time United States Senator Ted Stevens died in a small plane accident. In honor of his almost 40 years of public service, Governor Parnell declared Nov. 18, Stevens’ birthday, to be Ted Stevens Day. In honor of the first Ted Stevens Day, a group of panelists met in the Schaible Auditorium to talk about Stevens’ life.

The panelists discussed the Ted Stevens Collection, a massive collection of Congressional papers, quite possibly the largest such collection in the world, according to the Mary-Anne Hamblen, the collection archivist. Currently contained in over 4700 boxes in a large warehouse, the collection, delivered in a pair of semi-trucks, is a massive gift to the Rasmuson Library from Stevens.

Hamblen explained that the Archives that aren’t speeches, press releases, or anything else considered to be “media,” would be held in confidentiality for five years. According to Hamblen, such a wait is normal, and allows for private letters and sensitive materials, such as documents relating to national security, to be removed from the collection. Although Stevens had an archivist to keep his records in order and good shape, Hamblen said that a great deal of time and effort would be devoted to finding records that were damaged in some way, including insect or water damage.

Other information that is included in the archives are copies of emails from the senator’s staff. She said that information contained on floppy discs was possibly damaged, due to the decay of the format. She said that the ultimate goal for the project is a searchable online database that anyone can access.

Panelist members Willie Hensley, Michael Carey and Gerald McBeath joke during the Ted Stevens panel discussion. Thursday Nov. 18, 2010. April Massey / Sun Star.

The panel consisted of four people: Jerry Macbeath, a political science professor at UAF; Michael Carey, a former newspaper editor who said that it was like “being in the presence of a frontier fertility god” when Stevens was approached by a crowd; William L. Henley, a Native Rights Activist who once described Stevens as a “pugnacious political papa”; and Terrence Cole, a history professor at UAF. The panelists discussed their personal experiences with Sen. Stevens, certain events that they felt were important about his career, and Cole gave a slide show that highlighted much of Stevens’ early career as the District Attorney in Fairbanks.

The audience was allowed time to speak, and while some questions were asked, quite a few people simply chose to use their time to tell anecdotes about their experiences with Sen. Stevens. Among the questions that were asked was whether or not there were possibilities of finding personal journals in the archive. Carey said that he didn’t think that the late senator was the type of person who would keep journals.

Also discussed at length was the possibility of finding materials that Stevens might have wanted to have kept out of the collection. Cole said that such a find was “inevitable” given the size of the archive. Other things that were discussed during the audience portion of the discussion included Steven’s interest in education and the sciences, as well as his fabled temper. Both an audience member and Cole remembered times when Stevens kept his temper in check, whereas Carey remembered sitting down to many conversations that started with Stevens saying, “Goddamnit Michael!”


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