Constitutional Convention Delegate, Member of 1st Alaska Legislature
June 06, 2002
Born in Oakland, California, Hurley first came to Alaska in the summer of 1933 to work at a Bristol Bay salmon cannery. Upon receiving his degree in soil science he went to work for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and in 1948 was assigned as district conservationist for Alaska, headquartered in Palmer.
While there, Hurley helped organize the Palmer Independent School District, was elected to the school board, and organized the area's first community college. In 1949, he became general manager of the Alaska Rural Rehabilitation Corporation serving the needs of farmers of the Matanuska Valley and was a partner in Greenridge Dairy Farm.
In 1955, Hurley was elected as a delegate to the Alaska Constitutional Convention representing the Palmer, Wasilla, and Talkeetna area. He served as vice chairman of the Committee on Ordinances & Transitional Measures that drafted the "Tennessee Plan" that boosted the statehood movement by providing for the election of Alaska's first Congressional delegation.
Wanting to help set up the new state government in accordance with the Constitution he helped write, Hurley was elected to the first state legislature in 1958 representing the Matanuska Valley. He later was appointed to the Federal-State Land Use Planning Commission, where he served as chairman of the D-2 Lands Public Hearings Sub-committee for Arctic Alaska
In an active and varied private life, Hurley worked for the Alaska Hardwood Mill in Wasilla, where he pioneered selling birch lumber to Japan, and served as a vice-president of Matanuska Valley Bank. He later purchased the Palmer office of Alaska Title Guaranty, operated Valley Abstract and Title Company, and later opened Western Alaska Land Title Company in Kodiak, where he worked until his retirement in 1982. Hurley then moved to the Hawaiian Islands where he grew macadamia nuts, ornamental plants and flowers, and vegetables.
He is described by his family as a pioneer, statesman, entrepeneur, naturalist, astronomer, hunter, fisherman, poet, chef, farmer, and philosopher; a renaissance man who lived a rich and fascinating life. Hurley is survived by his wife Rosemarie Hurley of Hilo; 11 children; 12 grand children; and 4 great-grandchildren. A memorial service in Anchorage is pending.
In recognition of his service to the people and the State of Alaska, Gov. Tony Knowles has ordered state flags lowered to half-staff on Thursday, June 6, in memory of James Hurley.
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