Former lieutenant governor Jack Coghill dies at 93
Jack Coghill, a onetime powerhouse in Alaska politics, has died Wednesday at the age of 93.
Coghill, who served as lieutenant governor alongside the late Gov. Walter Hickel from 1990 to 1994, was reported dead at a North Pole home at about 9 a.m. Wednesday, according to an Alaska State Trooper dispatch.
“AST responded and determined there was no apparent foul play,” troopers wrote. “Next of kin has been notified.”
Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced that Coghill's death, due to natural causes, will be marked by the lowering of Alaska and U.S. flags to half-staff on Valentine's Day.
“Jack Coghill embodied the independent spirit of the generation that turned Alaska from a territory into the 49th state," Dunleavy said. “His selfless commitment to public service and the people of Alaska is an example all our state’s public officials, and Alaskans can learn from. The Coghill family’s loss is Alaska’s loss.”
Coghill, a delegate to the state’s constitutional convention, was also the father of current state Sen. John Coghill, R-North Pole. Staff at the senator’s office said he and his wife were traveling to Fairbanks Wednesday in response to the news.
“Dad was a firm believer in utilizing Alaska’s natural resources to build a strong economy and provide good paying jobs for Alaska,” John Coghill said in a statement Wednesday. “He had the same passion for Alaska, even at 93.”
According to a biography provided by the senator, Jack Coghill was born in 1925 in Fairbanks, then raised with two older brothers in Nenana.
“He got an early education in business when his father, a Scotch immigrant, started a trading post in Nenana in 1912,” the biography read. “Jack graduated from Nenana High School and was a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army Alaska Command in the Aleutians in World War II.”
After the war, Jack and his wife Frances owned and operated various ventures including a movie theater, a roadhouse and a fuel distribution company.
“Jack has said the most important thing in his life is his marriage to Frances and raising their six kids,” the biography read. “Next to that, he has said his greatest achievement was participating in the Alaska Constitutional Convention.”
Beginning with a Nenana School Board seat in 1948, Coghill was elected to both the state House and Senate, also spending 22 years as Nenana mayor.
In 2014, the younger Coghill remembered his father as being a close friend of fellow Republican Mike Stepovich, a territorial governor who died that year after a fall at age 95.
A 2016 play, “The Ticket,” retold Hickel’s storied gubernatorial run, after he challenged the Republican Party by taking over the Alaska Independence Party with the older Coghill at his side.
Jack Coghill moved back to Nenana in 2004 after Frances' death, where his health began to fail.
"He was still a partner in the family store in Nenana at the time of his death," the biography read.
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