About Ernest Henry Gruening
Ernest Henry Gruening (pronounced /ˈɡriːnɪŋ/ "Greening"; February 6, 1887 – June 26, 1974) was an American journalist and Democrat who was the Governor of the Alaska Territory from 1939 until 1953, and a United States Senator from Alaska from 1959 until 1969.
Born in New York City, Gruening graduated from Harvard University in 1907 and from Harvard Medical School in 1912. He then forsook medicine to pursue journalism. Initially a reporter for the Boston American in 1912, he went on to become copy desk editor and rewrite man for the Boston Evening Herald and, from 1912 to 1913, an editorial writer. For four years, Gruening was, consecutively, managing editor of the Boston Evening Traveler and the New York Tribune. After serving in World War I, Gruening became the editor of The Nation from 1920 to 1923 and the editor of the New York Post for four months in 1934.
Intrigued with New Deal politics, he switched careers. Gruening was appointed to the U.S. delegation to the 7th Inter-American Conference in 1933, Director of the Division of Territories and Island Possessions of the Department of the Interior, 1934–1939, Administrator of the Puerto Rico Reconstruction Administration, 1935–1937. He moved to the Alaska International Highway Commission from 1938 to 1942. In 1939 Gruening was appointed Governor of the Territory of Alaska, and served in that position for fourteen years. He was a delegate to the Democratic National Conventions of 1952, 1956, and 1960.
Pending statehood, he was elected to the United States Senate in 1958; with Alaska's admission to the Union in 1959, Gruening served in the Senate for 10 years.
Gruening’s most notable act as Senator was being, along with Wayne Morse of Oregon, one of only two Senators to vote against the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which authorized an expansion of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. He was also responsible for introducing a sense of Congress resolution to establish the nationwide 911 number.
Gruening was defeated for re-election in 1968 by fellow Democrat Mike Gravel. Gravel defeated Gruening in the Democratic primary, but Gruening ran in the general election as an independent, taking third place, behind Gravel and Republican former Anchorage Mayor Elmer E. Rasmuson. He continued his active political involvement as president of an investment firm and as a legislative consultant. He died on June 26, 1974.
In 1980, Gruening's grandson, Clark Gruening, defeated Gravel in the Democratic primary for renomination to the U.S. Senate. Another grandson, Winthrop H. "Win" Gruening, is best known as a senior vice president of KeyBank in Juneau, Alaska and longtime head of The Alaska Committee, which was organized in 1995 to advocate for keeping Alaska's capital in Juneau.
The Ernest Gruening Building, a classroom building on the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus, is named in his honor. The building is eight-story's with 72,000-square-feet, making the Ernest Gruening Building the first building on the college campus to be more than three stories tall. In 1977, Alaska donated a statue of Ernest Gruening to the United States Capitol's National Statuary Hall Collection. Ernest Gruening Middle School in the Eagle River community of Anchorage, Alaska is named in his honor. Numerous roads and streets in Alaska are named for him as well.