The Great Land Loses another Great One
"Without him it wouldn't have happened," said long time friend and constitutional consultant George Rogers.
Editor's Note: The following is part of an article published in the January, 2008 Edition of Soundings after the passing of Judge Tom Stewart, one of Alaska's statehood pioneers. Alaska lost another one of Stewart's well loved and respected peers with the passing George Rogers on October 3, 2010.
Here in part are George Roger's remembrances of Tom Stewart as told to Katie Bausler:
Tom Stewart, better known as Judge Stewart in Juneau, was the chief organizer of the Alaska Constitutional Convention. "Without him it wouldn't have happened," said long time friend and constitutional consultant George Rogers.
Tom Stewart received his Honorary Doctorate of Laws, University of Alaska Southeast in 1992. George Rogers received an Honorary Doctorate of Economics, University of Alaska Anchorage in 1986.
Rogers, who later founded the UA Institution of Economic Research, worked as an economic consultant on the constitution. He joined several surviving delegates at UAS to reminisce about the ground breaking document at Creating Alaska: Framers of the Alaska Constitution on April 21, 2006 on the UAS campus.
Rogers and wife Jean were taken in by Stewart's family when they arrived as a young couple in Juneau in 1945. An economist, Rogers had been hired by the federal government to deal with war time inflation. At the time, Stewart was serving in World War 2 as a captain in the 10th Mountain Division in Italy after serving in the Aleutians. Upon Stewart's return from the war, Stewart and Rogers found they shared a similar idealism, having lived through the Great Depression and World War 2. "We wanted to create a brave new world," said Rogers, quoting Miranda in Shakespeare's The Tempest.
Stewart's vision was to learn Russian and find a way to improve relations between the United States and the Soviet Union. "It was not the Americans; it was the Russians that beat the Germans, beginning at the Battle of Stalingrad when they wiped out the Third German Army. And I decided that in my lifetime Russia was going to be the foreign entity that we had to deal with," said Stewart in a public television interview in May, 2007.
He earned a Masters Degree in Russian studies at the Peterborough School of Advanced International Studies in New Hampshire and then spent the summer of 1947 in neighboring Vermont in a Russian language program at Middlebury College.
But political paranoia of the time shifted Stewart's dream. "I wanted to work with the Russians," he recalled. "But because of McCarthyism I couldn't get a job even though I had a pretty complete educational background."
George and Jean Rogers were there when Stewart had renowned Soviet dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn over for tea in the Juneau home Stewart's father built in the early 1900's. "Solzhenitsyn said until the Russians come back to Mother Russia, it [cooperation between the two countries] wouldn't work." Rogers remembers. Stewart realized his dream was impossible. "He said we can achieve a brave new world here," recalls Rogers. "His mission was to see Alaska become a state and the route was the constitution. He got the idea to draft up a constitution and acquire congressional representation. Then we could show other states we were ready to become a state."