Nick Begich, 10-16-72
OCT. 16, 1972: Nick Begich missing on plane flight
Published: October 15, 2006
Nicholas John "Nick" Begich, Alaska's lone representative in Congress, went missing
while on a small plane flight from Anchorage to Juneau on Oct. 16, 1972. The plane
has never been found.
Nick Begich was born in Eveleth, Minn., near Duluth, on April 6, 1932. He earned
a degree at St. Cloud State College in 1952 and taught school. After earning a master's
degree at the University of Minnesota and pursuing further studies at Colorado and
North Dakota, he moved to Anchorage in 1956. He worked in labor relations briefly,
and for the Anchorage School District 1957-67 as teacher and administrator. A Democrat,
he was elected to the Alaska State Senate two successive terms, 1963-71, serving
as minority whip and establishing himself as a champion of education.
In 1970 he ran successfully for U.S. Congress. It was on his re-election campaign
in 1972 that he went missing. Well-known and widely respected Rep. Hale Boggs of
Louisiana, helping with Begich's campaign, also perished on the flight, along with
pilot Don Jonz and an aide, Russell Brown.
While in the U.S. Congress, Begich worked on the Alaska Native Claims Settlement
Act, then pending. He earned a reputation for effective negotiating and consensus
building. He was elected the same year Democrat William A. Egan was elected to a
third term as Alaska's governor. Working with Republican Sen. Ted Stevens, who was
elected the same year (he had been appointed in 1968 on the death of "Bob" Bartlett)
and Democrat Sen. Mike Gravel (elected in 1968), Begich helped to craft the landmark
and unprecedented claims settlement. The settlement was demanded by Native leaders
in Alaska, and sorely needed to help clear the way for permitting and construction
of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline.
In the general election in November 1972, Nick Begich, though missing, was re-elected
to the U.S. Congress, defeating Republican Don Young of Fort Yukon. A coroner's
jury found probable cause to presume Begich dead officially on Dec. 29, 1972. Young
subsequently was elected to Congress the following spring, defeating the Democrat
Native leader Emil Notti. Son Mark Begich, one of six siblings, is Anchorage's current
Alaska Scrapbook is compiled by Steve Haycox, a history professor at the University
of Alaska Anchorage.