TopVet: Ted Stevens, U.S. Senator from Alaska

Ted Stevens, Alaska’s senior senator, is one of the longest serving -- and most powerful members of the United States Senate.

Ted Stevens, Alaska’s senior senator, is one of the longest serving -- and most powerful members of the United States Senate.

In 1997, he became Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, responsible for allocating more than a half-trillion dollars in federal funds among various government programs, agencies, and departments. He is also one of Congress’ leading overseers of the national defense in his role as Chairman of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee.

A native of Indianapolis, Indiana, Ted Stevens served with distinction as a pilot in the China-Burma-India Theater during World War II, supporting the Flying Tigers of the 14th Air Force. He was awarded two Distinguished Flying Crosses, two Air Medals, and the Yuan Hai medal awarded by the Republic of China. As a veteran of WWII, he is modest about his wartime accomplishments and decorations. The lessons learned from the war, however, prepared him well for a life of public service and high political office.

Like so many of his generation, following the war, Stevens went back to school on the GI Bill, graduating from UCLA and Harvard Law School. After practicing law in Washington, D.C., he moved to Alaska, at that time a territory, in the early 1950s. In 1953, he was appointed United States Attorney in Fairbanks, a post he held for three years.

Returning to the nation’s capitol, he held key posts in the Department of the Interior, during which time he worked for Alaska’s admission to the Union as the 49th state. Moving back to his adoptive state, he was elected to the Alaska House of Representatives in 1964; in his second term, he was the House Majority Leader.

Upon the death of Senator E. L. "Bob" Bartlett in December 1968, Ted Stevens was appointed by Governor Walter Hickel to fill the vacancy. After winning an election in 1970 to complete Bartlett’s term, Senator Stevens was subsequently reelected to full terms in 1972, 1978, 1984, 1990,1996, and 2002.

By virtue of his seniority and Committee Chairmanship, Senator Stevens is a major figure in the important legislative issues the Senate faces, from defense appropriations to the environment. Long an advocate of amateur sports and physically active himself (tennis and fishing), the Senator is currently taking the lead in proposing structural and organizational reforms for the United States Olympic Committee. Working closely with Olympic Gold Medallist Donna De Varona, a member of the International Relations Committee of USOC, he is developing approaches to make the USOC more effective and efficient. "Knowing Senator Stephens for years, I have always admired him for his passion, and am grateful for his support of our nation’s Olympians," De Varona said "His steadfast resolve for higher purpose is world-class." (Ms. DeVarona is a member of the Advisory Board of Veterans Advantage).

One of the major powers of the Senate, Ted Stevens is known for working tirelessly to ensure the promises made to Alaska under the Statehood Act are fulfilled. Virtually every senator is aware that Alaska is one-fifth the size of the entire United States, thanks to Stevens’ constant reminders on the Senate floor and elsewhere of the state’s uniqueness.

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