Former Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott died at the age of 77 on May 8, according to friends and peers.
Mallott ended his political career as Lt. Governor and, during his life, he served as mayor of both Juneau and Yakutat, head of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation and President of the Alaska Federation of Natives among other prominent positions.
Mallott, who was Tlingit, was born in Yakutat in 1946 and became mayor of the town at age 22. He and his wife, Toni, had five children together and spent their life in West Juneau. He was elected mayor of Juneau in 1994 but only served three months in that position before leaving to work full time for APFC.
When Mallott resigned as Juneau’s mayor he was replaced by then-Deputy Mayor Dennis Egan. In a phone interview Friday Egan said he was shocked to hear of Mallott’s passing.
“Byron and I go back a long way,” Egan said. “We did a lot of things out of politics together.”
Egan said they used to live near each other in Juneau and they would wave as the other passed. His first memories of Mallott date back to his father, William Egan’s, time as governor.
“He did things in my dad’s administration,” Egan said. “We just got along. Our families got along. I feel really sorry for his wife and family, it was so sudden.”
In 2014, Mallott ran for governor as the Democratic candidate before merging his campaign with independent candidate Bill Walker. The pair won that election with Walker serving as governor, forming what they called the “Alaska First Unity Ticket.” Mallott was forced to resign shortly before the 2018 election after making what were characterized as “inappropriate comments” to an unnamed woman.
In a Facebook post, Walker said he had lost a dear friend, and that his thoughts were with the Mallott family, who had grown close to his own over the years.
“We started out as rivals and soon became close friends. We always greeted one another with a hug, just as we would greet brothers or sons. I will miss that,” Walker wrote.
Walker confirmed the death Friday to the Anchorage Daily News, saying Mallott had suffered a heart attack at his home in Juneau Thursday before being flown to Anchorage for medical care.
Mallott served as chairman of the board and later CEO for the Sealaska Corporation until 1992, when he retired. In an email, Sealaska Heritage Institute President Rosita Worl said she was shocked and heartbroken to hear of Mallott’s passing. In her statement she called Mallott a Tlingit leader, civil servant and gifted orator.
“Byron Mallott Duxda neik, K’oo del ta’…the clan leader of the Kwaashk’i Kwáan, unexpectedly Walked into the Forest today,” Worl wrote. “It’s difficult to express how important Byron was to the Native community. He was larger than life. His Tlingit name means ‘a person who would lead us into the future.’”
Central Council Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska President Richard Chalyee Éesh Peterson said Mallott was an inspiration to him when he was younger. Mallott would stop and talk to Peterson as a child, and Peterson remembers being awestruck “the” Byron Mallott knew who he was.
“For me, personal the courage and the friendship he always extended to me was something I was always was thankful for,” Peterson told the Empire. “As president of our tribe, our nation is in mourning now.”
The state is in mourning, too.
Gov. Mike Dunleavy, First Lady Rose Dunleavy, Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer and Marty Meyer extended their sympathies to Mallott’s family and friends, and the governor ordered the U.S. flag and Alaska state flag to be flown at half-staff for a week.
“The First Lady and myself want to extend our condolences to the Mallott family during this time of great personal loss,” Dunleavy said in a release. “It didn’t matter if it was in the Native community, the business sector or public office — Byron was a leader who worked to improve our state for the people of Alaska.”
Contact reporter Peter Segall at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnoEmpire.