Joe Vogler

Joe Vogler

Joe Vogler during his first campaign for Alaska governor in 1974.
Born Joseph E. Vogler
(1913-04-24)April 24, 1913
Barnes, Kansas
Died c. May 31, 1993(1993-05-31) (aged 80)
Occupation Politician
Political party Alaskan Independence Party
Spouse(s) Doris Louise (?1992, her death)
Children 2

Joseph E. "Joe" Vogler (April 24, 1913 – c. May 31, 1993) was the founder of the Alaskan Independence Party, and either its chair or gubernatorial nominee for most of its first two decades of existence. He was also known, originally in his adopted hometown of Fairbanks, Alaska, and later statewide, as a frequent participant in governmental and political affairs and frequent litigant in court. Curiously enough, he was known to many non-political observers for his fashion sense, in particular his ubiquitous wearing of fedoras and bolo ties.

Early life

Vogler was born April 24, 1913, on a farm outside Barnes, Kansas. He graduated from high school in Waterville, Kansas, in 1929. That year, he began studying at the University of Kansas on a scholarship. He graduated with a law degree in five years and was admitted to the Kansas State Bar.

Vogler moved to Alaska in March 1942, having run afoul of many of his contemporaries in the Lower 48 regarding his views on then-U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt. After spending a year in Kodiak, he moved to Fairbanks and worked as a civilian employee[1] of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Ladd Field[2] (now Fort Wainwright) in Fairbanks, until 1951 when he began mining on Homestake Creek. He filed for 80 acres (320,000 m2) of homestead land off the Steese Highway and acquired 320 acres (1.3 km2) near Fairbanks off Farmers Loop Road. Vogler spent fifty years as a miner and developer in Alaska. He was mostly known around Fairbanks as a rabble-rouser and frequent writer of letters to the editor, until 1973 when he launched a petition drive calling for secession for Alaska, in the early part of that year, and subsequently launched his first campaign for governor a year later (see "Political career", below).

Vogler gained his first serious notoriety in Fairbanks during the 1940s and 1950s for a feud with Paul and Flora Greimann, operators of University Bus Lines. The company was a private urban transit company, which primarily transported students between Fairbanks and the University of Alaska. Prior to the replacement of the Cushman Street Bridge in 1959, the old bridge was too narrow to accommodate both a large vehicle such as a truck or bus, and another vehicle. Vogler, with Warren A. Taylor as his attorney, sued University Bus Lines in 1948 in what the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner at the time called the "Battle of the Bridge". Vogler sought a permanent injunction against the buses straddling the center rail of the bridge.[1] The feud continued after the Wendell Street Bridge opened in 1953 and Greimann's buses continued using the Cushman bridge instead of the newer, wider bridge. Police were often involved in quelling these confrontations.

Political career

Joseph E. "Joe" Vogler
Alaskan Independence Party candidate for
Governor of Alaska
Election date
November 5, 1974
Running mate Wayne M. Peppler
Opponent(s) William A. Egan (D)
Jay Hammond (R)
Incumbent William A. Egan
Joseph E. "Joe" Vogler
Alaskan Independence Party candidate for
Lieutenant Governor of Alaska
Election date
November 7, 1978
Running mate Don Wright
Opponent(s) Katie Hurley (D)
Terry Miller (R)
Kay Poland (Independent)
Incumbent Lowell Thomas, Jr.
Joseph E. "Joe" Vogler
Alaskan Independence Party candidate for
Governor of Alaska
Election date
November 2, 1982
Running mate Roger Dee Roberts
Opponent(s) Tom Fink (R)
Dick Randolph (L)
Bill Sheffield (D)
Incumbent Jay Hammond
Joseph E. "Joe" Vogler
Alaskan Independence Party candidate for
Governor of Alaska
Election date
November 4, 1986
Running mate Al Rowe
Opponent(s) Steve Cowper (D)
Wally Hickel (write-in)
Ed Hoch (write-in)
Mary O'Brannon (L)
Arliss Sturgulewski (R)
Incumbent Bill Sheffield

Vogler arose as a figure in Alaskan politics in 1973, where he began a petition calling for secession of Alaska from the United States. Alaska magazine reported that Vogler claimed to have gathered 15,000 signatures over a period of about three weeks. Vogler was quoted as saying about the effort: "The response has been beyond my wildest expectations. I never dreamed the people would respond like this."[3]

During the 1970s, Vogler founded the Alaskan Independence Party (AIP) and Alaskans For Independence. The latter name was originally used to label the 1973 petition drive.[4] Vogler also claimed to have organized the meeting which led to the formation of the Alaska Libertarian Party. The AIP and AFI, as Vogler explained, were intended to function as strictly separate entities—AIP was primarily to explore whether the 1958 vote by Alaskans authorizing statehood was legal, and AFI was primarily to actively pursue secession for Alaska from the United States.

The Alaskan Independence Party quotes Vogler as stating "I'm an Alaskan, not an American. I've got no use for America or her damned institutions."[5][6]

In a 1991 interview currently housed at the Oral History Program in the Rasmuson Library at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, Vogler is recorded as saying "The fires of hell are frozen glaciers compared to my hatred for the American government. And I won't be buried under their damn flag. I'll be buried in Dawson. And when Alaska is an independent nation they can bring my bones home."[7]

Vogler would serve as the AIP's standard-bearer for most of the party's first two decades. He ran for governor in 1974, with Wayne Peppler (born March 26, 1942), a fellow miner from Fairbanks, as his running mate. Jay Hammond, a longtime legislator from the Bristol Bay region, was elected over incumbent governor Bill Egan by 287 votes, with Vogler trailing far behind. Many commentators described Vogler as a "spoiler" in the election, arguing that the result would have been different had he not been in the race. However, this campaign opened up the doors for non-major party candidates to run for major offices in Alaska, and generally this accusation is leveled during every election cycle.

Vogler switched to run for lieutenant governor in 1978, with Don Wright running for governor. Wright was also the AIP's nominee for governor from 2002 through 2010. The 1978 campaign for governor was dominated by the extremely controversial Republican primary race between moderate Hammond and former governor Walter Hickel. Hickel lost the primary by 98 votes and would launch a write-in campaign in the general election. Hammond would be reelected governor. There was also a well-financed independent candidate in the race, Tom Kelly, who was Commissioner of Natural Resources under Hickel and his successor, Keith Miller. There was little hope for the AIP ticket to gain much attention due to these factors. The Democratic nominee, Chancy Croft, placed third in the general election due to the continued interest in Hammond vs. Hickel beyond the primary election.

Vogler also ran for governor in 1982 and 1986. Several incidents during these campaigns raised his profile as a "colorful character." In the 1982 race, Vogler was taken to task for comments made during a debate. The issue of moving Alaska's capital appeared during the election, as it has on and off since 1960. The media and political pundits took great fun over Vogler's debate remarks that Alaska should "nuke the glaciers" along the coast of the Gulf of Alaska and build a freeway to Juneau. Vogler would later contend that these comments were misinterpreted. Vogler's running mate in 1982 was Roger "Dee" Roberts (born March 27, 1937). Roberts had previously been a candidate for state Senate in 1974 under the banner of the American Independent Party. His family have continued as political activists in Fairbanks to this day.

Vogler's running mate in 1986 was Al Rowe (born May 11, 1932), a Fairbanks resident and former Alaska State Trooper. Rowe took out a series of newspaper ads, fashioning himself in the image of Sheriff Buford Pusser. These ads were a major attention getter during the race. Between Rowe's ads and the turmoil existing in the Republican Party over the nomination of Arliss Sturgulewski, the AIP ticket was able to garner 5.5 percent of the vote, gaining the AIP status in Alaska as a recognized political party for the first time.

Vogler quit running for public office after the 1986 election. However, he would play a significant role in the next gubernatorial race. In 1990, as party chair, Vogler paved the way for the vacation of the nominated party ticket of John Lindauer and Jerry Ward and their replacement with Hickel and Jack Coghill. Coghill had been nominated as the lieutenant governor candidate by the Republican Party, but was dealing with serious compatibility and philosophical issues with gubernatorial nominee Sturgulewski. The ticket of Hickel and Coghill would go on to win the election.

Disappearance and death

Vogler disappeared under suspicious circumstances in May 1993,[8] just weeks before he was scheduled to give a speech to the United Nations on Alaskan independence, sponsored by the government of Iran.[9][10] Convicted thief Manfried West confessed to having murdered Vogler the following year in what he described as an illegal plastic explosive sale gone bad.[8] West, trying to recant, later said the confession was a lie, but this was before Vogler's body had been discovered.[11] Vogler's remains were discovered in a gravel pit east of Fairbanks in October 1994 following an anonymous tip.[8] He had been wrapped in a blue tarp secured with duct tape and were identified through fingerprint analysis.[8] Manfried West was convicted of murdering Joe Vogler and is serving an 80-year sentence.[10]

In the opinion of AIP Chair Lynette Clark and other AIP leaders, however, Vogler's death reflected more than a dispute with West. Clark has stated, "He was executed."[12] She notes that Vogler was about to appear before the United Nations to address the issue of Alaskan independence: "The United States government would have been deeply embarrassed. And we can't have that, can we?"[12] There was also speculation that as an aging gold miner, he was merely viewed as an easy target for robbery. Although this theory has come up over the years, it was never validated.

As he had publicly promised on numerous occasions, Vogler was buried in Dawson City, Yukon, Canada, fulfilling his wish that he not be buried under the American flag. His second wife, Doris Louise, who died of cancer in January 1992, is buried next to him.


Having graduated from law school, though never formally practicing law, Vogler nonetheless engaged in actions through the courts for most of his years in Fairbanks. These ranged from his dispute with Paul Griemann, through battling the Fairbanks North Star Borough over a great many issues in its earlier years, particularly regarding subdivisions he developed, to attempting to enforce subdivision covenants, to launching the earliest salvo in the fight for ballot access for minor parties in Alaska, through to his efforts regarding seeking formal recognition of his case on statehood issues.

Vogler had launched many political and secessionist efforts behind the scenes in addition to his more high-profile runs for office. Perhaps the best known of these was the lawsuit Vogler v. Miller in 1982, a ballot access case. Vogler v. Miller would be heavily cited in succeeding ballot access cases later in the decade, such as Sykes v. Alaska, which more directly widened ballot access and party recognition beyond the two major parties.

Vogler was noted for an antipathy toward aspens, to the point where he installed covenants in his subdivisions requiring homeowners to cut and destroy all poplar, cottonwood and aspen trees on a regular basis. This particular requirement would be challenged in court, with Vogler losing after a lengthy battle through the judicial system. The term "Voglerizer" has entered into the informal vernacular around the Fairbanks area to describe brush trimmers used on highway rights-of-way.

Interest in Vogler was briefly reignited during a period in the late 2000s (decade), when intense media scrutiny of Sarah Palin during her governorship and vice-presidential candidacy turned up a Palin family connection to the AIP. Other events of note happened during the same time period, though mostly particular to Fairbanks. Fairbanks-based singer-songwriter Caleb Aronson released his debut album, Livengood, in March 2006. The first track on Disc 2, "Moving Dirt," is a story song about Vogler's life and death. On July 7, 2006, Michael Feldman's Whad'Ya Know? broadcast live from the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus. Vogler's name was brought up during the broadcast, the mention eliciting a significant cheer from the audience. Also in 2006, the AIP released a compact disc entitled Joe Was Right! Volume 1. The disc consists of an interview given on KFAR's long-running Problem Corner talk show on October 18, 1982, during his second campaign for governor.

Personal life

Vogler had a daughter (Marilyn, born at St. Joseph's Hospital on April 6, 1945)[2] and son (Joseph Jr., born c. 1947) by his first wife, but by all accounts (including his own), he had become estranged from this part of his family. Vogler met his second wife, Doris, in 1964 and remained with her until her death from cancer in 1992. His nephew, Lynn Vogler (born c. 1959), was named the executor of his estate in a will he wrote following the death of Doris. Previously unknown to his Fairbanks friends, Lynn arrived in Fairbanks shortly after his death and endured a contentious battle in Fairbanks during 1993 and 1994 amongst his friends, supporters and hangers-on over his legacy as well as his physical property. Lynn Vogler continues to the present as the executor of the estate.

See also



  1. 1 2 "'Battle of Bridge' Opens in Court". Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. Fairbanks. June 28, 1948. p. 1.
  2. 1 2 "Town Topics". Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. Fairbanks. April 6, 1945. p. 3.
  3. Henning, Robert A., ed. (June 1973). "Alaska". Edmonds, Washington: 64–65.
  4. Snapp, Tom (March 2, 1973). "Independence Drive Really on the Move". The Pioneer All-Alaska Weekly. Fairbanks. p. 7.
  5. "Curiouser and Curiouser". CBS News. 2008-09-02. Retrieved 2008-09-12.
  6. "Introduction". Alaskan Independence Party. Archived from the original on January 16, 2008. Retrieved January 16, 2008.
  8. 1 2 3 4 "Remains of Alaska Separatist Are Identified, The New York Times, published October 15, 1994
  9. Talbot, David (October 7, 2008). "The Palins' un-American activities". Retrieved 2008-10-10.
  10. 1 2 Coppock, Michael (March 14, 2008). "On Vogler, an independent Alaska". Juneau Empire. Archived from the original on October 8, 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-10.
  11. "Trail Grows Cold For Joe Vogler: Missing, No Body Found, The Seattle Times reprinted from The Chicago Tribune, published September 25, 1994
  12. 1 2 Talbot, David (September 10, 2008). "Freedom fighter". Retrieved 2008-10-07.
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