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Ernest Gruening, governor of the Alaska Territory from 1939 to 1953 and U.S. senator from the State of Alaska from 1959 to 1969, was born in New York on this day in 1886. A graduate of Harvard Medical School (and a strong supporter of birth control in the early 20th century), he switched careers and became a journalist, editor of the Nation from 1920 to ‘23 and of the New York Post from 1932 to ‘33. Then he switched careers again and became involved in government as a New Deal liberal. As the appointed governor of Alaska for fourteen years, he strongly favored economic development, opposed the racism that confronted native Alaskans, and lobbied for statehood for both Alaska and Hawaii. In the Senate, Gruening joined Wayne Morse of Oregon in opposing the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which authorized increased U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. They were the only two votes in opposition. Today’s Veterans for Peace in south-central Alaska have named their chapter after him.
“We now are about to authorize the President . . . [to send] our American boys into combat in a war in which we have no business. which is not our war, into which we have been misguidedly drawn, which is steadily being escalated. This resolution is a further authorization for escalation unlimited. I am opposed to sacrificing a single American boy in this venture. We have lost far too many already. . . .” —Senator Ernest Gruening
Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.