Nine-term state senator Clem Tillion dies at 96

Tributes recall strong personality, advocacy

Clem Tillion, shown in this 2016 photo, served nine terms in the Alaska State Senate, died Wednesday at the age of 96. Tributes to the late senator remembered his influence on state politics, including helping to create the Alaska Permanent Fund and fisheries advocacy. (Courtesy photo / Peter Micciche)

Clem Tillion, shown in this 2016 photo, served nine terms in the Alaska State Senate, died Wednesday at the age of 96. Tributes to the late senator remembered his influence on state politics, including helping to create the Alaska Permanent Fund and fisheries advocacy. (Courtesy photo / Peter Micciche)

Tributes have been pouring in for Clem Tillion, who died Wednesday at 96, after spending more than 70 years in Alaska politics. Tillion served nine terms in the Alaska State Senate and was an advocate for commercial fisherman until the end of his life.

“From 70 years ago until last week, when Clem talked, people listened,” said Senate President Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, who was friends with the late senator and lives close to Tillion’s home in Halibut Cove. Micciche said he would often visit Tillion who wasn’t at all shy in expressing his opinion.

“Because of that lack of shyness he’s led the state in a better direction,” Micciche said.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy issued a statement Wednesday, recognizing Tillion’s death and ordering Alaska state flags to be flown at half mast on Monday, Oct. 18, in his honor.

[COVID cases delay Senate]

“He embodied the Alaskan spirit through his tireless work as a state legislator, as a commercial fisherman and as a family man,” Dunleavy said in a statement. “Our state is great because of men like Clem and he will be missed by many.”

Gavel Alaska, which broadcasts legislative meetings and floor sessions, announced on social media it would air an episode of the Magnetic North: The Alaskan Character, focusing on Clem Tillion, following the next Senate floor session.

Tillion served in World War II before settling in Halibut Cove, near Homer, according to a statement from the governor’s office, and was a long-time commercial fisherman and past chairman of the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council. His wife, Diana, was a recognized Alaska artist who painted landscapes using octopus ink. They were married 58 years before her death in 2010. They have four children, Will, Marian, Martha and Vince, the statement said.

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, called Tillion a “legend in the world of Alaska fisheries policy and a great guy,” on social media. Former Gov. Bill Walker, also took to social media to commemorate Tillion.

Several tributes to Tillion mentioned visiting his home in Halibut Cove, which Micciche said were some of his fondest memories of the late senator. Tillion gave pertinent advice right up to the end of his life, Micciche said, and wouldn’t hesitate to lend a hand.

“On the few weekends home, if I have any regrets it’s that we didn’t saddle up and make the trip over to see my friend Clem,” Micciche said.

• Contact reporter Peter Segall at psegall@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnuEmpire.

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