The fifth Governor of Alaska, Bill Sheffield, second from right, speaks to Alaska State Archives staff during a visit to present a copy of his book, "Bill Sheffield: A Memoir, From the Great Depression to the Governor’s Mansion and Beyond" at the Father Andrew P. Kashevaroff Building in September 2018. Admiral Richard Knapp, right, who was Commissioner of Transportation during Gov. Sheffield's administration, also attended the event. Sheffield died Friday at age 94. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)

Former Gov. Bill Sheffield dies at 94

Bill Sheffield, Alaska’s fifth governor and a prominent public service figure in the state, died in his Anchorage home Friday morning at the age of 94, according to a statement provided by friends of Sheffield.

An outpouring of condolences from Alaska politicians and public figures was shared across social media and other platforms in response to the news of Sheffield’s death.

Sheffield — a resident of Alaska for more than 70 years, originally from Spokane, Washington, — served as Alaska’s fifth governor from 1982 to 1986. During that time, he made a lasting mark on the state when in 1983 he successfully changed the state from varying time zones into one single zone, an act that was applauded by many and was regarded by Sheffield as one of his greatest accomplishments during his time in office.

Sheffield is often widely known across Alaska for his infamous graze with impeachment during his time as governor in 1985 after he was accused of redirecting millions of supporter funds toward leasing office space in Fairbanks. Though the state Senate decided there was insufficient evidence to impeach, the televised hearings of the impeachment were regarded as a contributing factor in his failed attempt at reelection in 1986.

Former Alaska Gov. Bill Sheffield smiles as he holds a The Anchorage Times newspaper in his Capitol office in Juneau, Alaska, on Aug. 5, 1985, after he survived an impeachment effort during July and August 1985. A statement provided by friends says he died Friday, Nov. 4, 2022, at his home in Anchorage. He was 94. Sheffield was governor from 1982 to 1986. (Brian Wallace / Juneau Empire File via AP)

Former Alaska Gov. Bill Sheffield smiles as he holds a The Anchorage Times newspaper in his Capitol office in Juneau, Alaska, on Aug. 5, 1985, after he survived an impeachment effort during July and August 1985. A statement provided by friends says he died Friday, Nov. 4, 2022, at his home in Anchorage. He was 94. Sheffield was governor from 1982 to 1986. (Brian Wallace / Juneau Empire File via AP)

Though that didn’t stop his career in public service, Sheffield continued as a board director of Alaska Railroad, later its CEO, and served as the director of the Port of Anchorage for more than a decade before retiring from his position in 2012. Throughout his life, he remained a prominent figure in Alaska politics and was a vocal supporter of political candidates of varying sides in Alaska politics.

His death was mourned by a diverse group of public leaders, including multiple former Alaska governors and current congressional delegation.

“The First Lady and I express our deepest sympathies to the family of former Governor Bill Sheffield,” said Governor Dunleavy in a press release. “William Jennings Sheffield Jr. will be remembered for his many contributions to the state.”

Dunleavy announced he will order that Alaska and United States flags fly at half-staff in his honor at a future date.

“Today, I want to acknowledge the sad news of the passing of former Alaska Governor Bill Sheffield,” said UAA Chancellor and former Gov. Sean Parnell. “Bill’s legacy as an Alaskan, as a leader and as a genuinely affable friend to many will never be forgotten.”

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski expressed her condolences for Sheffield’s death in a news release.

“Alaskans are saddened by the passing of Bill Sheffield — a tenacious, determined man who spent his life making Alaska a better place for us all. Bill came from humble beginnings and faced a number of challenges throughout his life, which only made him more empathetic to those around him,” Murkowski said. “Bill was a warm and caring person who will be deeply missed but his friendship will not be forgotten.”

U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola shared in a tweet “Bill Sheffield cared about all of Alaska and all Alaskans. His dedication to building a better state and years of public service will long be remembered.”

John Pugh, former Health and Social Service commissioner under Sheffield as well as a longtime friend and fishing buddy, said Sheffield will be “greatly missed” and his impact on Alaska will continue to be felt even after his passing.

Pugh said during Sheffield’s time as governor, he was a “hands-on leader,” a great person to work with and remained a dear friend of his for more than four decades.

“He was tireless doing public service for all Alaskans,” he said. “He really loved Alaska and he spent his whole life improving things in Alaska for all Alaskans.”

• Contact reporter Clarise Larson at clarise.larson@juneauempire.com or (651)-528-1807. Follow her on Twitter at @clariselarson.

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