Steve Cowper

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Steve Cowper
Steve Cowper 1990.jpg
Steve Cowper taking questions at a press conference in March 1990.
6th Governor of Alaska
In office
December 1, 1986 – December 2, 1990
Lieutenant Stephen McAlpine
Preceded by Bill Sheffield
Succeeded by Walter J. Hickel
Member of the Alaska House of Representatives
from the 20th district
In office
January 20, 1975 – January 14, 1979
Personal details
Born Stephen Cambreleng Cowper
(1938-08-21) August 21, 1938 (age 77)
Petersburg, Virginia, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) 1) ? (divorced)
2) Michael Margaret Stewart (m. ca. 1985–1991; divorced; December 28, 1952 – October 22, 2015)†
Children Katherine (b. ca. 1962)
Grace (b. ca. 1964)
Wade (b. 1986)
Alma mater University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill B.A., L.L.B.
Religion Episcopalian

Stephen Cambreleng "Steve" Cowper (born August 21, 1938) is an American Democratic politician who was the sixth Governor of Alaska from 1986-90. He was Governor during the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill.

Early life and career[edit]

Cowper was born in 1938 to Petersburg, Virginia to Stephanie (née Smith) and Marion Cowper. He was raised in Kinston, North Carolina. He received bachelor's and law degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and after serving in the U.S. Army Medical Corps and Army Reserve, he worked as a maritime lawyer in Norfolk, Virginia for three years.[1] Cowper moved to Fairbanks, Alaska in 1968 and served as assistant district attorney for rural Alaska and Fairbanks.[1]

In 1970, Cowper went to Vietnam and worked as a freelance correspondent throughout Asia. Upon returning to Alaska, he wrote a political column for the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, taught a college course on Alaska lands, was a partner in an air taxi and cargo business, and worked as a diver for a University of Alaska[clarification needed] marine research team.[1]

Political career[edit]

In 1974, Cowper was elected to the Alaska House of Representatives, where he served two terms.[2] During his time in the House, he served as chairman of the Finance Committee (1977–78), chairman of the Steering Council on Alaska Lands (1978), a member of the Subsistence Committee (1977–78), and a member of the Alaska Advisory Committee for the Law of the Sea Conference (1978). In 1982, Cowper ran for Governor, but narrowly lost the Democratic nomination to Bill Sheffield, who went on to win the general election.[2]

Governor of Alaska (1986–1990)[edit]

Cowper ran for Governor again in 1986, and defeated incumbent Sheffield in the August 26 primary by a 2–1 margin.[2] He eventually won the November 4 general election, winning 47% of the vote against Republican Arliss Sturgulewski and Alaskan Independence Party candidate Joe Vogler.[2]

Once in office, Cowper proposed reestablishing the state income tax to help close the state's billon-dollar deficit; this proposal was met with strong opposition. He advocated the expansion of the University of Alaska's international study program, hoped to establish an International Trade Center, and placed emphasis on the teaching of foreign languages and culture in state schools. In early 1989, he announced that he would not seek reelection in 1990, a decision considered a surprise by some observers.[2]


After serving as Governor, Cowper served as a visiting fellow at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in 1991, and was a Co-Chairman of the Pacific Rim Fisheries Conference in 1994 and 1997.[3]

Since 1991, he has been the CEO of Steve Cowper & Associates, a group that advises companies and governments on energy-related initiatives. He has also served on the boards of multiple energy-related companies in the US and Canada. As of 2010, Cowper lived in Austin, Texas with his third wife and family.[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b c "Alaska Governor Steve Cowper". National Governors Association. Retrieved May 12, 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Marie Marmo Mullaney. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1988-1994, Greenwood Publishing Group, 1994. pg. 13.
  3. ^ "Former Alaska Gov Steve Cowper joins Knowledge Ops as Senior Fellow for Government Affairs". Retrieved May 12, 2013. 

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Bill Sheffield
Governor of Alaska
Succeeded by
Walter J. Hickel