We who live in Alaska are unusually fortunate for, among many other things, the fact that so much of the recorded history of the state is still within the recollection of friends and neighbors still alive. As each day passes, however, those cherished witnesses pass on and each such case is a page in time that is turned.
Whether Native or Pioneer, scoundrel or statesman, Alaskans get to rub shoulders with our newsmakers. From time to time we choose to memorialize those who have gone before in noteworthy style. One memorial sometimes adopted is the Alaska Mining Hall of Fame. In 2004, at the Alaska Miners Association’s annual convention, the Hall of Fame honored lawyers who significantly contributed to the state’s mining industry in the days between the Purchase and Statehood. That celebration led to the induction of Fred Eastaugh into the Hall of Fame on Law Day this year.
Everyone knows that much of the early exploration of Alaska was done by prospectors seeking gold in our limitless hills and valleys. Shortly thereafter the lawyers and the fancy (and mundane) women arrived. It has been thus ever since. Although Fred Eastaugh was not among the earliest of the rugged adventurers, his parents were. His father was a mining engineer and his mother was a school teacher. Fred was born in Nome in 1913.
The family did not stay long in Alaska, but Fred returned several times in the 1930s and 1940s, and in 1947 he read law in Juneau under his father-in-law, Bob Robertson. Thereafter he practiced law until his retirement in 1987. Fred died in February 1992. During his long and distinguished legal career, he represented numerous mining companies, from U.S. Steel to U.S. Borax and from the Seward Peninsula to Quartz Hill. But he did much more.
He served as vice counsel for Norway and for France for many years, he was an active director of the Alaska Miners Association and he was honored by many civic and professional organizations during his lifetime, including the Juneau Rotary Club, the Alaska State Chamber of Commerce and the University of Alaska. He was a good and faithful friend to powerful figures throughout the state and around the globe.
For me, however, Fred Eastaugh was also a kind and gentle mentor who shepherded me into a career in mining law, for which I shall remain forever grateful. I, like many Alaskans, am very proud to have known him and to have had the privilege to have worked with him.
Fred Eastaugh’s induction into the Alaska Mining Hall of Fame in May is appropriate; he was a fine Alaskan and a true gentleman. He was an accomplished lawyer and a strong supporter of Alaska’s mining industry in this state. In brief, however, he was an Alaskan icon.