Flashback: 1972 Alaska Plane Crash Killed Dem Congressman And House Majority Leader

The plane crash last night that reportedly involved former Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK), and his previous 1978 plane crash that resulted in the death of his wife, were not the first plane crashes in Alaska to involve high-profile political figures. In fact, a crash in 1972 resulted in the deaths of not only an Alaska politician, but a major national Democratic leader.

On October 16, 1972, House Majority Leader Hale Boggs (D-LA) was campaigning with first-term Democratic Rep. Nick Begich when their plane disappeared in the mountains en route to a fundraiser in Juneau. The disappearance resulted in a 39-day search, covering an area of 300,000 square miles. In October 1977, the twin peaks of the mountain barrier where the two were presumed to have died were renamed Mt. Boggs and Mt. Begich. (From the Associated Press, via Nexis.)

Begich, who had not yet been legally declared dead, was re-elected in November 1972 against Republican nominee Don Young, who in turn later went on to win the special election to replace Begich. Young has held the seat ever since. Begich’s son, Democrat Mark Begich, would later serve as Mayor of Anchorage and is now Alaska’s junior Senator, having narrowly defeated Ted Stevens in 2008. Boggs was succeeded by his widow, Democrat Lindy Boggs, the first woman elected to Congress from Louisiana, who held the seat until her retirement at the 1990 election.