Steve Cowper

Stephen Cambreleng 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.

Steve Cowper
Steve Cowper 1990.jpg
6th Governor of Alaska
In office
December 1, 1986 – December 3, 1990
LieutenantSteve McAlpine
Preceded byBill Sheffield
Succeeded byWally Hickel
Member of the Alaska House of Representatives
from the 20th district
In office
January 20, 1975 – January 14, 1979
Preceded byMulti-member district
Succeeded byMulti-member district
Personal details
Stephen Cambreleng Cowper

(1938-08-21) August 21, 1938 (age 82)
Petersburg, Virginia, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)First wife (Divorced)
Margaret Stewart (1985–1991)
EducationUniversity of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (BA, LLB)
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Army
UnitArmy Medical Corps
United States Army Reserve

Early life and careerEdit

Cowper was born in 1938 in 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 careerEdit

Cowper during his second term in the Alaska House of Representatives.

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 billion-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 linksEdit

Party political offices
Preceded by
Bill Sheffield
Democratic nominee for Governor of Alaska
Succeeded by
Tony Knowles
Political offices
Preceded by
Bill Sheffield
Governor of Alaska
Succeeded by
Wally Hickel