Judge Thomas Stewart passed away just before Christmas last year, on December 18. He was the architect of the structure of our Alaska Constitution. It might be the best constitution of any state's in the USA.
I wish I had the 1,000 hours it might take to describe the differences between what Tom Stewart did to make our state constitution, and what George W Bush has done to unmake our national one.
Stewart's Juneau public memorial service was held Saturday. It had been delayed because of the judge's passing so close to Christmas. The Juneau media has written and broadcasted about the service. I heard the story this evening on APRN's Alaska News Nightly. It closed with the people at Judge Stewart's memorial singing the anthem of the WWII U.S. Army's 10th Mountain Division. Stewart had served in that unit in the Italian campaign.
My friend Dennis Harris wrote the following about Thomas Stewart back in December:
If you think corruption has been bad in Alaska politics, think how much worse it would be if we had elected sheriffs, judges and district attorneys who accepted campaign contributions from the lawyers only rich folks could afford, like in Texas.
But we don't, and we don't have a state constitution cluttered with a lot of trivia that really belongs in statutes that the Legislature can change when needed. One reason why is that the delegates to our Constitutional Convention were able to consult with some of the country's greatest experts on constitutional law and fundamental legal principles. For that, we can thank Judge Tom Stewart, who died in Juneau yesterday, just a few weeks short of his 89th birthday.
It was Tom Stewart who organized all the mechanics of our Constitutional Convention, who rounded up the finest constitutional experts in the country to advise the delegates, who served as the Convention's Secretary, and who helped Bill Egan make sure that the Convention ran smoothly. Because of his hard work and attention to detail, Alaska has one of the best state constitutions in the country.
He went on the become the first administrator of the Alaska State Courts and then was appointed to the Superior Court bench. He was a fair but firm judge. I watched him at trial a number of times, and he didn't let lawyers from either side get away with much. He always sought justice and equity in his decisions.
He and Jane were also avid supporters of the arts, especially since Jane was a musician. I think the saddest part of his life was when she was still alive, physically very robust, but suffering a dementia that meant that the woman he loved had
already departed. I know that he found it especially hard when she began to lose her musical skills; he told me that the thing he missed the most was coming home and hearing her at the piano, practicing for her latest concert or musical production.
Jane and my mother produced the Juneau Centennial Cookbook together, and for years afterward, he diligently sent my mother the quarterly accounting for the book sales, and was most kind to me when she was too ill to understand what he was doing.
He was frustrated the past month as he dealt with his first major health problem in many years. He wanted to be home, not in a nursing facility or the hospital. He told me that his book about the Constitutional Convention was finished, and that all that remained to be done were the minor revisions after he received comments from the folks reviewing his final manuscript.
He was also a survivor of two of the worst campaigns the Army ever fought in World War II, the assault on Attu in the Aleutians, and the 10th Mountain Division's assault on Rosa Ridge in the Italian Appenines. He was a great skier and mountain
climber who put those skills in the service of his country without regard for his own safety and lived to tell the tale.
A truly great man, and a great Alaskan. We are all in his debt.
Tom Stewart, signing the Alaska constitution