Photo used under Creative Commons license cour­tesy The Alaska Landmine

On October 22, 2023, Vic Fischer, the last surviving signer of the Alaskan state constitution, died at age 99. Mr. Fischer, along with Rep. Warren Taylor, sponsored the death penalty abolition bill that passed in the Alaska territory’s legislature in 1957, two years before Alaska gained statehood. The bill read: “The death penalty is and shall hereafter be abolished as punishment in Alaska for the commission of any crime.”

“I can see the dark side as well as anyone, but the spirit of humanism has never failed.”

-Mr. Vic Fischer wrote in his 2012 autobiography.

Born in Berlin in 1924, Mr. Fischer grew up during Nazi Germany and Stalin’s Soviet Union, which influenced his anti-death penalty sentiment. In 2015, Mr. Fischer recalled his work to abolish the death penalty as his most important “based on my abhorrence of the power of the state to kill its citizens, as I had seen in Germany and in Russia.” 

Reflecting on his life, his wife of 42 years, Jane Angvik, told Alaska News Source, “he doesn’t believe the government has the right to murder its citizens, and having watched Stalin murder millions of people, having watched Hitler eliminate thousands and thousands, hundreds of thousands of people, he just said, ‘We can’t do that.’” 

With the help of Eleanor Roosevelt, Mr. Fischer, his mother and brother were able to leave Stalin’s Soviet Union. In 1950, Mr. Fischer came to Alaska for his first job as a community planner, with the Bureau of Land Management. Mr. Fischer helped found the first grassroots organization advocating for Alaskan statehood, called Operation Statehood, and in 1955, at age 31, he was elected as a delegate to the Alaska Constitutional Convention. He remained active in state affairs throughout his life, working on rebuilding after the 1964 Good Friday earthquake in Alaska to representing Anchorage in the state senate for two terms in 1980.  

Recently, in 2019, Mr. Fischer co-chaired the unsuccessful recall petition against Gov. Mike Dunleavy. “Vic was just outraged that [Dunleavy] had gutted education in an effort to have enough money to be able to pay a permanent fund dividend, and that that was wrong,” Angvik said. 


Charles Wohlforth, Vic Fischer, last sur­viv­ing Alaska Constitutional Convention del­e­gate, dies at 99, Anchorage Daily News, October 22, 2023; Liz Ruskin, Vic Fischer, the last sur­viv­ing sign­er of Alaska’s con­sti­tu­tion, dies at 99, Alaska Public Radio, October 23, 2023; Steve Kirch, Family and friends react to pass­ing of Alaska great Vic Fischer, Alaska News Source, October 232023