History: Alaska’s rough and tumble territorial lawyers and judges

Alaska writer and lawyer Pamela Cravez this year published “The Biggest Damned Hat,” a colorful judicial history of the Last Frontier. She interviewed more than 50 lawyers who arrived in the state and practiced law before statehood in 1959. From stealing mining claims in Nome to deciding the fate of the Alaska Bar Association, Cravez’s research and interviews paint a vivid picture of a time when the power of personality and persuasion far out-weighed the need to know and argue the law.

Outsiders may think of the law as a staid profession, one in which the rules have been around for a long time and everyone dutifully followed them. If you enjoy the belief that Alaska is different than anyplace else in the Lower 48, tales in this book reinforce a sense of vigorous independence and considerable wile, and an abundance of talent among Alaska’s earliest lawyers and judges.

Here’s what reviewers have said:

Alaska Dispatch

“[A] breezy, light-hearted and thoroughly entertaining account of how the legal profession evolved in Alaska during the territorial and early statehood periods, and of how Alaska evolved in part as a result of its lawyers.”
Fairbanks News-Miner
“Readers can expect to come for the characters but stay for this story, which is truly unique. If any Alaska history book before this has touched on the state’s legal culture, it was only in passing or mired in such deep jargon that the human interest got lost. This, again, is where the skill of the writer and the extent of her research, particularly in the pursuit of personal interviews, shines through.”

Join us on Justice Alaska as author Pamela Cravez tells us how she assembled the history and documented it in her new book. Your questions are always welcome throughout the show, so if you have memories of some Alaska’s first legal officers and personalities, please dial in and share them.



HOST: Senior Judge Elaine Andrews and Kathleen McCoy


  • Pamela Cravez, lawyer and author, “The Biggest Damned Hat”
  • Listeners and callers



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