Mike Stepovich

Last updated
Mike Stepovich
Mike Stepovich.png
Governor of Alaska
In office
June 5, 1957 August 1, 1958
Lieutenant Waino Hendrickson
Preceded byWaino Hendrickson (Acting)
Succeeded byWaino Hendrickson (Acting)
Personal details
Michael Anthony Stepovich

(1919-03-12)March 12, 1919
Fairbanks, Alaska, U.S.
DiedFebruary 14, 2014(2014-02-14) (aged 94)
San Diego, California, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s)Matilda Baricevic
Education University of Portland
Gonzaga University (BA)
University of Notre Dame (LLB)
Military service
AllegianceFlag of the United States.svg  United States
Branch/serviceFlag of the United States Navy (official).svg  United States Navy
Years of service1943–1947
Rank Yeoman (Third Class)
Battles/wars World War II

Michael Anthony "Mike" Stepovich (March 12, 1919 – February 14, 2014) was an American lawyer who, from 1957 to 1958, served as the last non-acting Governor of Alaska Territory. Following his education and military service during World War II, Stepovich established a law practice in his home town of Fairbanks, Alaska and began his political career by winning three terms in the Alaska Territorial legislature. During his term as governor, he was a leading advocate in the effort to gain statehood for Alaska. Following Alaska's admission to the Union, he made an unsuccessful run for a U.S. Senate seat and two unsuccessful attempts to be elected Governor of Alaska.

United States Federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country comprising 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the most populous city is New York City. Most of the country is located contiguously in North America between Canada and Mexico.

World War II 1939–1945, between Axis and Allies

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from more than 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 70 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

Fairbanks, Alaska City in Alaska, United States

Fairbanks is a home rule city and the borough seat of the Fairbanks North Star Borough in the U.S. state of Alaska.


Background, education, and early career

Stepovich was born to a well-known Serbian miner father, Michael, "Wise Mike" Stepovich, [1] [2] and a Montenegrin Croat mother, Olga, in Fairbanks, Alaska on March 12, 1919. [3] His parents divorced when he was 6 months old and his mother took him to Portland, Oregon, [4] where he was raised by his mother and stepfather. Stepovich was educated in parochial schools and Portland's Columbia Preparatory School before enrolling at the University of Portland in 1937. He graduated from Gonzaga University with a Bachelor of Arts in 1940 and from the University of Notre Dame with a Bachelor of Laws in 1943. [3]

Croats of Montenegro

The Croats have a minority in Boka Kotorska, a coastal region in Montenegro, the largest of their kind in Tivat. The three municipalities making up the Bay of Kotor include 4,519 Croats or 6.70%. They are also known as Bokelji, a common name for all inhabitants for of Boka Kotorska. Tivat is home to the minority political party Croatian Civic Initiative, and to the National Council of Croats in Montenegro. Kotor is home to Croatian Civic Society of Montenegro.

Portland, Oregon city in Oregon, USA

Portland is the largest and most populous city in the U.S. state of Oregon and the seat of Multnomah County. It is a major port in the Willamette Valley region of the Pacific Northwest, at the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia rivers. As of 2018, Portland had an estimated population of 653,115, making it the 25th most populated city in the United States, and the second-most populous in the Pacific Northwest. Approximately 2.4 million people live in the Portland metropolitan statistical area (MSA), making it the 25th most populous in the United States. Its combined statistical area (CSA) ranks 19th-largest with a population of around 3.2 million. Approximately 60% of Oregon's population resides within the Portland metropolitan area.

A parochial school is a private primary or secondary school affiliated with a religious organization, and whose curriculum includes general religious education in addition to secular subjects, such as science, mathematics and language arts. The word "parochial" comes from the same root as "parish", and parochial schools were originally the educational wing of the local parish church. Christian parochial schools are often called "church schools" or "Christian schools". In Ontario, parochial schools are called "separate schools".

After completing his law degree, Stepovich enlisted in the United States Navy and was assigned to Camp Parks' legal office. [3] After three-and-a-half years of military service, he was discharged as a yeoman third class. Following his discharge in 1947, he returned to Portland for a short time to court his future wife before moving to Fairbanks, Alaska. In Fairbanks he took his bar examination, was appointed city attorney by the end of the year, and established a private practice. [4]

United States Navy Naval warfare branch of US Armed Forces

The United States Navy (USN) is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. It is the largest and most capable navy in the world and it has been estimated that in terms of tonnage of its active battle fleet alone, it is larger than the next 13 navies combined, which includes 11 U.S. allies or partner nations. It has the highest combined battle fleet tonnage and the world's largest aircraft carrier fleet, with eleven in service, and two new carriers under construction. With 336,978 personnel on active duty and 101,583 in the Ready Reserve, the U.S. Navy is the third largest of the U.S. military service branches in terms of personnel. It has 290 deployable combat vessels and more than 3,700 operational aircraft as of June 2019, making it the third-largest air force in the world, after the United States Air Force and the United States Army.

A bar examination, or bar exam, is the examination which is administered by a jurisdiction's bar association that a lawyer needs to pass before being admitted to the bar of that jurisdiction.

A city attorney can be an elected or appointed position in city and municipal government in the United States. The city attorney is the attorney representing the city or municipality.

Stepovich began his political career in 1950 when, running as a Republican, he won a seat in the Alaska Territorial House of Representatives. [4] Two year later he advanced to take a seat in the Alaska Territorial Senate. [5] He remained in the senate for two terms, becoming the minority leader in 1955. [3]

Republican Party (United States) Major political party in the United States

The Republican Party, also referred to as the GOP, is one of the two major political parties in the United States; the other is its historic rival, the Democratic Party.

In U.S. politics, the minority leader is the floor leader of the second largest caucus in a legislative body. Given the two-party nature of the U.S. system, the minority leader is almost inevitably either a Republican or a Democrat. The position could be considered similar to that of the Leader of the Opposition in Parliamentary systems. In bicameral legislatures, the counterpart to the minority leader in the lower house is the Speaker, and the majority leader is hence only the second-most senior member of the majority caucus. Contrastingly, in upper houses the titular Speaker is frequently a separately elected officer such as a lieutenant governor or vice president.

Territorial Governor of Alaska

Stepovich (bottom, second from right) celebrating Alaska becoming a state, January 3, 1959 Celebrating alaska statehood.jpg
Stepovich (bottom, second from right) celebrating Alaska becoming a state, January 3, 1959

The appointment of Stepovich as Governor of Alaska Territory came as a result of a recommendation by US Secretary of the Interior Fred Seaton. Seaton had traveled to the territory to interview potential candidates following the resignation of Governor B. Frank Heintzleman. [4] [6] While the Fairbanks attorney had not applied for the position, Seaton was still impressed by him. [4] President Dwight Eisenhower nominated Stepovich for the position on May 9, 1957 and he took office on June 5 as the territory's first native-born governor. [3] [6]

B. Frank Heintzleman 8th Governer of Alaska, forester

Benjamin Franklin Heintzleman was an American forester who spent much of his career supporting the development of Alaska Territory. Following a career with the United States Forest Service he was appointed Governor of Alaska Territory, a position he held from 1953 till 1957. During his term as governor he continued to support economic development but was largely opposed to efforts granting statehood to Alaska.

Much of the new governor's term was spent lobbying for Alaskan statehood. [3] In this effort he traveled widely through the Continental United States speaking and giving interviews on behalf of the territory. [7] His efforts even included a January 19, 1958 appearance on the game show What's My Line? [8] [9]

President Eisenhower signed the Alaskan Statehood Bill on July 7, 1958. Following this event, Stepovich issued a proclamation setting the dates for primary and general elections to determine officeholders for the new state. [3] The Territorial Governor then resigned on August 1, 1958 to run for a seat in the United States Senate. Following his departure, Territorial Secretary Waino Edward Hendrickson succeeded as Acting Governor. [10]

Post-gubernatorial career

Stepovich's bid for a United States Senate seat was unsuccessful. He was defeated by Ernest Gruening in the November 25, 1958 election, held just before Alaska became a state on January 3, 1959. [11]

In 1960, Stepovich campaigned against a ballot initiative to move the state capital from Juneau to Anchorage. [12]

Stepovich ran for governor of Alaska in 1962, but was defeated by incumbent William Allen Egan by a narrow margin. [13] [14]

Stepovich lost to Wally Hickel in the Republican primary for governor in 1966. This was his final campaign for office. [15]

Following his unsuccessful Senate run, Stepovich returned to his legal practice in Fairbanks. [3] He remained there until 1978 when he and his wife relocated to Medford, Oregon. [7] Despite the move, the former governor still maintained his legal residence in Fairbanks. [3]

Personal life and family

Stepovich married Matilda Baricevic in November 1947. The marriage produced thirteen children: Antonia, Maria, Michael, Peter, Christopher, Dominic, Theodore, Nicholas, James, Laura, Nada, Andrea, and Melissa. [3] His daughter Nada married NBA player John Stockton. [16]

On November 25, 2003, Stepovich's wife, Matilda, died. [17]

Stepovich was granted an honorary doctorate by the University of Alaska Fairbanks on May 10, 2009. [7]

While visiting his son in San Diego, California, Stepovich suffered a head injury as result of a fall. [18] He died on February 14, 2014 after spending six days in a hospital. [19] Stepovich's body was returned to Fairbanks, Alaska. A memorial service was held for him at Sacred Heart Cathedral on February 28, 2014 followed by burial at Birch Hill Cemetery. [20]

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  1. "'Wise' Mike Stepovich." Alaska Mining Hall of Fame. Alaska Mining Hall of Fame Foundation, n.d. Web. 11 June 2017.
  2. Karlo, Milan, and Helen Karlo-Vuckovich. Early Days: Serbian Settlers in America: Their Life and times. Tucson, AZ: Karlo, 1984. 70–71. Print.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 McMullin, Thomas A.; Walker, David (1984). Biographical Directory of American Territorial Governors. Westport, CT: Meckler Publishing. pp. 25–26. ISBN   0-930466-11-X.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 "Alaska: Land of Beauty & Swat". Time . LXXI (23). June 9, 1958.
  5. "First Homebred Governor Goes to Work in Alaska". Life . 43 (6): 53–56. August 5, 1957.
  6. 1 2 "Stepovich Nominated As Alaska Governor". Ellensburg Daily Record. May 9, 1957. p. 1.
  7. 1 2 3 "Last living territorial governor honored at UAF". Anchorage Daily News. May 30, 2009. Archived from the original on June 10, 2011.
  8. "Dec. 16: Big ice melt; polar bears find food on land; Stevens signs his desk; measuring snow by radar; century-old hardware store closes; Tlingit quarterback". Anchorage Daily News. December 16, 2008. Archived from the original on June 10, 2011.
  9. What's My Line? – Ralph Bellamy; Ricardo Montalban (panel) (Jan 19, 1958)
  10. "Alaska Governor Resigns for Race". New York Times. August 2, 1958. p. 8.
  11. Davies, Lawrence E. (November 27, 1958). "Alaska's Democrats Sweep Top Posts in First Election". New York Times. p. 1.
  12. Davies, Lawrence E. (August 7, 1960). "Alaska is Divided on Capital Shift". New York Times. p. 66.
  13. "Alaska Democrats Nominate Gov. Egan". New York Times. August 16, 1962. p. 8.
  14. "Alaska Posts Won by Egan and Rivers". New York Times. November 9, 1962. p. 38.
  15. Davies, Lawrence E. (October 23, 1966). "Egan Faces a Close Fight for Re-election as Governor of Alaska". New York Times. p. 78.
  16. McCallum, Jack (April 25, 1988). "Not a Passing Fancy". Sports Illustrated. 68 (17): 72–78. Retrieved September 18, 2019.
  17. "Obituaries". Anchorage Daily News. November 30, 2003. p. B7.
  18. "Former Alaska territorial governor injured in fall". San Jose Mercury News. Associated Press. February 13, 2014.
  19. Richardson, Jeff (February 14, 2014). "Alaska Territorial Gov. Stepovich dies at age 94". Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.
  20. Richardson, Jeff (February 28, 2014). "Family, friends say goodbye to Alaska territorial Gov. Stepovich". Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.
Political offices
Preceded by
Waino Hendrickson
Governor of Alaska
Succeeded by
Waino Hendrickson
Party political offices
First Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Alaska
(Class 3)

Succeeded by
Ted Stevens
Preceded by
John Butrovich
Republican nominee for Governor of Alaska
Succeeded by
Wally Hickel
Honorary titles
Preceded by
George Leader
Earliest Serving Governor Still Living
Succeeded by
John Patterson