Jim Doogan attended the University of Alaska, ran a successful business in Fairbanks, then returned to campus in 1955 to help write the Alaska Constitution.
Doogan remained a lifelong booster of the university. He built the original alumni association hamburger booth at the Tanana Valley State Fair.
Born in Douglas, across Gastineau Channel from Juneau, Doogan left high school at age 15 when his father died. Moving north, he worked in mines across the Interior and attended UA starting in 1937, though he never graduated. He married Geraldine Feero in 1940, and they had six children, all of whom remained in Alaska.
Doogan bought Pioneer Express, a Fairbanks-based freighting company, in 1944 and operated it for 20 years. He served on the Fairbanks City Council and was active in the Democratic Party and the Catholic Church.
"As a father he tried to teach his children to obey the Ten Commandments, get educated and vote Democrat," son Mike Doogan said in a news story after his father's death in 1997. "And with the exception of a few of the minor Commandments, we have."
Doogan played an active part in the Alaska Constitutional Convention, and his contributions are cited in court interpretations of the constitution to this day.
During debate over the constitution's preamble, several delegates tried to remove its mention of God, according to fellow delegate Vic Fischer. "Doogan disagreed, speaking quietly but powerfully. You could have heard a pin drop," Fischer wrote in his 2012 autobiography.
Doogan suggested the delegates should not strike "God" from the proposed preamble without hearing from its author, Presbyterian Rev. Roland Armstrong, a delegate from Sitka who had been absent for three days. "Eerily, Armstrong returned to the session at that exact moment," Fischer recalled. "Egan [the convention president] called a two-minute recess, the speeches ended, and the delegates voted, keeping God in the constitution by a voice vote."
Doogan and his family moved to Anchorage in 1962 when he took a job with the newly formed state of Alaska. He worked as a teamster during construction of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline in the 1970s. After retiring, he and Geraldine returned to Fairbanks in 1982 and built a log cabin in Goldstream Valley.
More online about Jim Doogan:
- Text of the Anchorage Daily News article (PDF) after his death in 1997
- A longer obituary from April 7, 1997, Anchorage Daily News
- A guide to Doogan's papers at the UAA/APU Consortium Library in Anchorage