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Achievement in: Helping shape Alaska social, political and economic future, plus quiet charity.
Kathleen “Mike” Dalton is a seemingly tireless activist whose efforts have made waves since her arrival in Alaska from Arizona in 1949. Her six-year tenure in Barrow gave her an understanding of remote regions and those who live there. Residence in the Aleutians broadened her scope. As for Fairbanks, Dalton’s home base for more than half a century, she has played a major part in shaping its social, political and economic future as well as that of the state, while preserving a valuable part of our history.
Until the age of 10, Dalton was raised on a Navajo reservation in Arizona where her father worked. A carpenter and construction worker, he and her mother then moved their four children to Tucson where Catholic schooling was available. Following high school, Dalton graduated with a degree in English from Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. Then, to escape the heat and sun, she followed her friend and former schoolmate, Rosie Losonsky, to Alaska. There she took a job with Arctic Contractors and was introduced to the sport of dog mushing through the Libby Wescott Kennels.
Shortly after arriving, Mike met Jim Dalton, the son of Klondike gold rush legend Jack Dalton for whom the original Dalton Trail to Dawson was named, and married him in 1950. At the time, Jim owned nothing but a station wagon and a bean pot, but he was a brilliant engineer who played an integral part in developing the United States petroleum reserve on the North Slope and served as a contractor there for the Department of U.S. Navy in oil and gas exploration. The couple lived in the Inupiat village of Barrow for six years. Following the birth of son George in 1954 and daughter Libby in 1957, they bought 30 acres off Yankovich Road in the Fairbanks area and built a classic log house.
The problem was that Jim’s job kept him on the North Slope for weeks at a stretch, and Dalton found herself in the role of a single mother with two toddlers, living in the wilds a considerable distance from downtown Fairbanks. Despite this, she became active in her community with children in tow, although it was no small job. Just driving Yankovich Road on ice at 50 below zero today remains a challenge.
In the summer of 1962, Fairbanks pioneer Sylvia Ringstad asked Dalton to lick stamps and stuff envelopes for Republican candidates and the young mother joined the Republican Woman’s Club in which she now has 50 year tenure. As secretary of that organization she kept the records, dealt with the Alaska Public Offices Commission, raised funds and knocked on doors for an astonishing number of diverse candidates. She has created countless phone and “walking” lists, and collected thousands of email addresses which she still utilizes to keep members and the public informed. She has also participated in most of the party’s district and state conventions, while never attending the national event.
Over a ten year period as a reporter for The Fairbanks Daily News Miner, Dalton covered major stories like the 1964 central Alaska earthquake, the 1967 Fairbanks flood, and the oil discovery in Prudhoe Bay through the construction of the 500 mile haul road that opened it to industry. She also ran for a seat on the Fairbanks North Star Borough on its formation in 1964, becoming top vote getter and serving for five years.
“I remember her working all day, coming home, fixing dinner then leaving to town for assembly meetings,” daughter Libby recalls. “It happened a lot.”
Dalton went on to head Alaska’s office in Washington, D.C. under the Jay Hammond administration. Her job as Interior Alaska field office manager for U.S. Senator Ted Stevens ran from 1971 to 1978. In addition, she was on the staff of Sen. Jack Coghill when he served in the Alaska Legislature.
Dalton also managed to attend University of Alaska Fairbanks where she got a two-year degree in petroleum technology and studied Japanese. She followed up with a year at Middlebury College in Vermont for a Japanese program and then traveled to Japan three times on work-related issues.
Yet despite her demanding career and that of her husband, the Daltons were a tight family. Jim Dalton’s death in 1977 was a staggering blow, but by that time Mike was so used to doing heavy lifting on the home front, she kept the survivors afloat with little or no interruption to the many community assignments she shouldered and scant financial backing.
Dalton’s experience broadened in 1990-91 when she worked for the City of Unalaska helping organize the 50th commemoration of the bombing of Dutch Harbor and the Japanese occupation of Attu and Kiska Islands. In 1991 as the U.S.S.R. was collapsing, she helped organize and participated in the first American delegation visit to Russian Far East and Kamchatka Peninsula.
A dedicated member of the Alaska Pioneers, she has served has in every office including that of president of Women’s Igloo # 8 in 1997.
Dalton was one of the first non-Natives to be honored by the Fairbanks Native Association. Her support of early Native leaders played a key part in helping organize the Alaska Native land claims fight.
And, while she claims no expertise as a historian, she has managed to rescue sizable chunks of Alaska’s legacy that were imperiled. Typical is the time a Fairbanks News Miner editor, new to Alaska, moved all the newspaper’s World War II photo archives to a dumpster and Dalton, waiting until after dark, dived in, dusted them off, and preserved them. She was one of the first to record interviews with old-timers for the University of Alaska Archives. She was also responsible for returning to the state from California 24 painting by Sydney Laurence, Alaska’s most famous artist, and documenting the original owner’s colorful history.
Because she is as outspoken as she is enthusiastic on her political beliefs, many fail to recognize Dalton’s other outstanding community service, quiet charities, and often self-sacrificing contributions to the lives of others.
Few take their community duties as seriously as Dalton, especially at a grass roots level. Be it fund-raising to build a much-needed new hospital, capturing the neighbor’s straying dog, concern for ill-cared for muskox under early state stewardship or just showing up daily for the long trial of a good friend thought to be unjustly charged, Dalton has always made the time to be there.
She won’t just bring her prized oatmeal cookies to the benefit for an old-timer. She’ll transport the old-timer, too, if he or she doesn’t have a ride, even if that old-timer lives 50 miles out of town over a nasty dirt road. It’s safe to bet that more Fairbanks people have memorized Dalton’s phone number, than any other private number you can name.
Dalton has a knack of surreptitiously supporting newcomers to the Alaska who are troubled by its bumpy road to survival. Quicker than most to notice those in need, she provides assistance so gracefully that often those at risk do not realize the depth of her charity or feel any embarrassment in accepting it.
And, shunning recognition, Dalton has always been quick to help fill needs when government fails. Who else each spring would recruit family and ever-present house guests to help jack-up remote road culverts that have been squashed by winter traffic so that they would not dam the spring break-up to overflow, flooding the lowlands?
Dalton is not focused simply on Alaska, but remains current on national issues, too. After the trial of O.J. Simpson for the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman in 1995, she planted two young spruce trees in her yard in their honor. Recently Nicole’s family heard about the Alaskan memorial and expressed their appreciation for the far north commemoration. Those trees are full grown now, and so are Dalton’s interests in women’s rights and many other national concerns.
While many who have track records similar to Dalton’s political involvement have sought office for themselves or personal glory, Dalton has preferred to work behind the scenes on behalf of others. She is an award winning member of the Alaska Outdoor Council and has been named Republican Woman of the Year, but she is so adamant about self-aggrandizement she refused to attend any event honoring her 90th birthday and did so only when others were honored for their community involvement at the same time.
Because of her broad experience in rough and remote country, many—especially young women—have looked to Dalton for advice. And, although she is outspoken on her political beliefs, her discretion in personal matters have long make her an excellent confidant, which might well be her greatest claim to this honor.
Marie Darlin demonstrates what an individual can achieve in a lifetime — in her case more than 89 years. City and Borough of Juneau Mayor Merrill Sanford said as he presented a proclamation honoring her in 2013, Marie’s “volunteering in organizations that make Juneau and the entire state of Alaska better places to live make her an exemplary model for all citizens to follow” (KTOO, June 27, 2013).
Darlin was born in 1925 and has been a lifelong resident of Juneau. Her maternal grandparents came from Finland to Oregon in the 1880s and moved to Juneau in 1894. Darlin graduated from Juneau High School in 1943 and married Kenneth Wingate in 1944. They had two children, and then she was widowed in 1952. She married Bill Darlin in 1953 and he died in 1984. They owned Triangle Cleaners. Darlin worked more than 30 years in human resource management for the federal, territorial/state and local governments. For 18 years she worked with the Bureau of Indian Affairs promoting education, economic and quality of life improvements for rural Alaska and as the training officer for the Juneau Area.
The years Darlin was raising her two daughters (Sue Nielsen and Jean Eichman) she was active with the PTA and then served two terms on the Juneau School Board, including serving as president. In 1975 she was appointed to the Juneau Community College Advisory Committee and was president of it for a term and a member until 1983.
After retiring in 1983, Darlin continued her career as a volunteer. She said she was busier and worked harder than ever. In 1985 she led the group starting a Juneau chapter of the National Association of Retired Federal Employee, and followed this with starting an Alaska federation of chapters and serving four years as its president. In 1987 she became the spokesperson for the AARP’s Women’s Initiative and worked five years on issues affecting midlife and older women.
After serving nine years on the state Alaska Medical Care Advisory Committee, Darlin was appointed to the Alaska Commission on Aging in 2010. She has been instrumental in getting the State of Alaska to enact a missing vulnerable adult response plan and senior citizen protections and to extend the Alaska Health Care Commission. Darlin is an effective advocate because she prepares in advance, attends hearings, speaks up, and follows up with personal visits to legislators. For years every Alaska state legislator has known Darlin by name. At a committee meeting in 2013 Senator Bert Stedman would not hold a vote on a piece of legislation until he had heard from her about it.
Local and state historical societies and museums also are very important to Darlin, and they have benefitted from her volunteer work. For the Juneau-Douglas City Museum she leads walking tours of historic places in downtown Juneau and answers questions at the front desk of the museum. She is a member of the City and Borough of Juneau’s Historic Preservation Commission and serves as program chair for the Gastineau Channel Historical Society. For the statewide Alaska Historical Society, Darlin started the local societies group and served on the organization’s board of directors. Darlin was one of the steadfast leaders who advocated for 10 years acquiring property and securing funding for a much-needed state libraries archives and museums center in Juneau expected to open in 2016. She saw the need for a building to securely conserve the state’s records, historical photographs, manuscripts and business records, and museum artifacts, with exhibit and research spaces for the public to see and use the materials.
As a member of the Juneau Igloo #6 of the Pioneers of Alaska, Darlin co-edited its three-volume Gastineau Channel Memories and its predecessor Gold Rush Pioneers of the Juneau-Douglas Area. She also co-authored a book about Juneau’s schools that recounts experiences of teachers who worked in them between the 1930s and 1950s for the Juneau Retired Teachers Association. She served as a member of Juneau’s “Empty Chair Project” that in 2014 established a memorial to recognize the Japanese moved from Juneau to internment camps during World War II.
In 1996 Marie received a First Lady’s Volunteer Award, and in 2002 a Lifetime Service Award from the Juneau Chamber of Commerce. She has received the Federal Women Employee of the Year Award. Darlin received Alaska’s AARP Andrus Award for Community Service, the organization’s most prestigious and visible volunteer award, in 2008. The City and Borough of Juneau passed a proclamation recognizing Darlin in 2013 for her tireless advocacy. In 2014 she received the Alaska Historical Society’s Evangeline Atwood Award for her significant long-term contributions to saving, celebrating and advocating for Alaska history broadly and for Juneau history specifically.
Darlin’s 30-year volunteer career, with an emphasis on the interests of seniors and the importance of preserving Alaska’s past, has benefitted Alaska. She continues to be an inspiration to the people who have worked with her, and has helped many of them learn to effectively advocate for important social and cultural issues. She has made a difference in the lives of many other.
Nora Marks Dauenhauer has devoted her life to studying, translating, and writing books about the Tlingit language and Tlingit oral history. She is internationally recognized for her fieldwork, transcription, translation, and explication of Tlingit stories and literature. She has also written numerous poems and plays. She served as Principal Researcher, Language and Cultural Studies, at the Sealaska Heritage Foundation for fourteen years, and has written ten books and many articles about Tlingit language. She has taught generations of Tlingit people about their language, their stories and their culture.
She is married to Richard Dauenhauer, writer and linguist, with whom she has co-authored and co-edited several editions of Tlingit language and folklore material. Nora has 4 children, 12 grandchildren, and 12 great grandchildren and is semi-retired, but she continues with research, writing, consulting, and volunteer work with schools and community.
When she retired as a Social Worker in 1986, Bettye Davis moved on to a second career in government. She served as a member of the Anchorage School Board from 1982-1989, and 1998-1999. She was a State Representative from 1990-1996, Chair of the State Board of Education from 1998-1999, and then became the first African-American to be elected as a State Senator in 2000. Born in Homer, Louisiana, she obtained a certificate in nursing in 1961 and a Bachelor of Social Work in 1972. She moved to Anchorage in 1973. She is a member of many organizations, including the Alaska Black Leadership Conference, Church Women United, Common Ground, NAACP, League of Women Voters, the Delta Sigma Theta, and the Zonta Club of Anchorage. She has served on numerous legislative committees, including serving as the Vice Chair of the Education Committee and the Chair of the Health, Education and Social Services Committee.
The numerous bills she has sponsored show her concern for these areas. She is also a member of the Senate Bipartisan Working Group and sponsor of Senate Bill 69 which calls for the reinstatement of the Commission on the Status of Women. “Alaska with its unique culture, history, and challenges combined with its large size and small population, calls for innovative forward thinking to deal with many of the difficult issues facing Alaskan women and their families. The creation of a Commission on the Status of Women will once again focus the attention of Alaskans on these critical issues.”
Mahala Ashley Dickerson
Achievement In: Law
Amidst her long and distinguished career in the law, Mahala Ashley Dickerson achieved many “firsts”. She was raised on a plantation owned by her father in Alabama. She attended a private school where she began a lifelong friendship with Rosa Parks, who would become a hero of the civil rights movement. After graduating from Fisk University in 1935, she married, raised triplets and, in 1945, graduated from Howard University Law School. She became the first African-American woman admitted to the bar in Alabama, in 1946, the second African-American woman to be admitted to the bar in Indiana, in 1951, and in 1958, was the first African-American female admitted to the Alaska bar. In her many years of practicing law, until she was 91, she was known for fighting for the rights of women and minorities. In 1975, she successfully prosecuted a precedent-setting equal pay case on behalf of women university professors who received less pay their male counterparts. In 1983, she became the first African-American to serve as the President of the National Association of Women Lawyers. She even homesteaded in Wasilla, which undoubtedly was another first for an African-American woman!
She received many awards and honors over the course of her long career. In 1982, she was honored by the NAACP. In 1984, the University of Alaska Anchorage awarded her the degree of Honorary Doctor of Laws in recognition of her work in encouraging minority equality in Alaska and throughout the United States. In the following year, she received both the Zeta Phi Beta Ward for distinguished service in the field of law and the Baha’i Award for Service to Humanity. In 1995, she became a recipient of the prestigious Margaret Bent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award. This honor, which “recognizes and celebrates the accomplishments of women lawyers who have excelled in their field and have paved the way to success for other women lawyers”, succinctly summarizes the influence and achievements of her career. Attorney Rex Butler, whom Dickerson persuaded to come to Anchorage, summarized her successful career in this recollection, “I remember one lawyer telling me one time, he said, ‘Rex, you see those mountains out there?’ He said, ‘Those mountains are littered with the bones of lawyers who underestimated M. Ashley Dickerson.”
In 1998, M. Ashley Dickerson published the story of her life, Delayed Justice for Sale: An Autobiography.
James G. Stoops and Noel Grunwaldt. The Women of Alaska, Vol. 1, A Compilation of Interviews as recorded by Mr. James G. Stoops Sixth Grade Gifted Enrichment Class, 1994-5, p. 95-108.
Beverly Dunham is a pioneer in journalism. Dunham is described as being ahead of her time and a strong role model to many women and young girls growing up in Alaska.
In 1966 Dunham founded the “Seward Phoenix Log” and became a small town newspaper editor and publisher. Unusual for the times, she wrote about all the news and also dealt with the financial side that goes into being the publisher of a small-town newspaper. At the time, women in newspapers in Alaska with larger circulations and also nationally, normally wrote about “women’s” topics such as community events, school boards, cooking, fashion trends, gardening and other local functions. Dunham took on all aspects of her newspaper and set a path for more women to report on the news and be involved with the business side of publishing. Her newspaper also gave high school students an opportunity to do school and sports reporting for publication. Dunham lent her professional expertise to national organizations related to her profession and received recognition for her work. The Seward Phoenix Log has won several state and national writing awards and Dunham’s efforts resulted in the Log receiving the School Bell Award for school reporting. The newspaper would go on to play an important role in keeping the local community involved in local, regional and statewide affairs under Dunham’s leadership during her editor/publisher tenure.
Dunham is known as a woman of strong spirit and vitality. She is a “doer” who is not “too rigid and stuck in the past.” There are many examples of this aspect of Dunham, but probably one of the more notable can be found in Ken Burns’ internationally acclaimed “America’s Best Secret – America’s National Parks” interview in Episode 6 on the Kenai Fjords and the contentious years of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. Ken Burns narrates: “…..Bev Dunham, the founding publisher of Seward, Alaska’s, weekly newspaper, the Phoenix Log, was initially opposed to the creation of Kenai National Monument near her town. Like most of the residents of Seward, she feared that the establishment of the park would be harmful to the local economy. Her views, along with those of the town’s City Council, would later change when tourism at the national park boosted the town’s economy.” She went on to have business ventures related to tourism and represented Seward nationally on many occasions.
Her impressive public service record spans more than six decades and the list of accomplishments is long. She’s held elected office on the Seward School Board and Seward City Council, even acting as mayor for a time. She’s been appointed and served with distinction on many committees, commissions and volunteer efforts, from planning to tourism to corrections to historical preservation. Her community advocacy has had significant influence in Seward for a very long time.
Dunham was named the 2005 Person of the Year by the Seward Chamber of Commerce and was named one of First Lady Nancy Murkowski’s Persons of the Year.
Today Dunham continues to do a little writing; works on historic preservation projects; is involved in women’s and children’s issues; does some traveling; and enjoys being with her family, grandkids and her 19 great-grandkids! Dunham, due to the love and support from her husband, family and her many friends in Seward as well as all across Alaska, has continued her long and deep commitment to Seward and to the State of Alaska.