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Joseph E. Vogler (1913-1993) was the founder of the Alaskan Independence Party and active in politics, regularly running for public office in Alaskamarker for many years.

Early life

Vogler was born April 24, 1913, on a farm outside Barnesmarker, Kansasmarker. He attended the University of Kansasmarker on a scholarship in 1929. He graduated with a law degree in five years and was admitted to the Kansas State Bar. Vogler moved to Alaska in 1942 and worked for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Ladd Fieldmarker (now Fort Wainwright) in Fairbanksmarker until 1951 when he began mining on Homestake Creek. He filed for of homestead land off the Steese Highway and acquired near Fairbanks off Farmers Loop Road, but did not farm. Vogler spent fifty years as a miner and developer in Alaska. He was noted for an antipathy toward aspens, and the term "Voglerizer" for highway brush trimmers has come into the informal vernacular around the Fairbanks area. Vogler was well-known in Fairbanks during the 1950s for a feud with Paul Greimann, the operator of a private urban transit company, which primarily transported students between Fairbanks and the University of Alaskamarker. 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. When the Wendell Street Bridge opened in 1953, Vogler felt that large commercial vehicles should have been accessing Fairbanks via this wider bridge. Vogler had on numerous occasions blocked Greimann's buses on the Cushman bridge, often resulting in police intervention.

Political career

Vogler arose as a political figure in 1973, where he began a petition calling for secession of Alaskamarker from the United Statesmarker. Alaska magazine reported that Vogler claimed to have gathered 25,000 signatures over a period of three weeks.

During the 1970s, Vogler founded the Alaskan Independence Party (AIP) and Alaskans For Independence. He also claimed to have organized the meeting which led to the formation of the Libertarian Party in Alaskamarker. The AIP and AFI, as Vogler explained, were intended to function as strictly separate entities — AIP primarily to explore whether the 1956 vote by Alaskans authorizing statehood was legal, and AFI primarily to actively pursue secession for Alaskamarker from the United Statesmarker.

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."

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."

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 as his running mate. Jay Hammond was elected over incumbent governor William Egan by less than 1,000 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 in 2002 and 2006. The 1978 campaign for governor was dominated by the extremely controversial Republican primary race between moderate Hammond and 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 an independent candidate in the race, Tom Kelly, who was a cabinet member under Gov. Keith Miller (1969-1970). There was little hope for the AIP ticket to gain much attention due to these factors.

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 Alaskamarker should "nuke the glaciers" along the coast of the Gulf of Alaskamarker and build a freeway to Juneaumarker. Vogler would later contend that these comments were misinterpreted. Vogler's running mate in 1982 was Roger "Dee" Roberts, whose family have continued as political activists in Fairbanks to this day.

Vogler's running mate in 1986 was Al Rowe, 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 Alaskamarker 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, just weeks before he was scheduled to give a speech to the United Nations on Alaskan independence, sponsored by the government of Iran. Convicted thief Manfried West confessed to having murdered Vogler the following year in what he described as an illegal plastic explosive sale gone bad. Manfried West, trying to recant, later said the confession was a lie, but this was before Vogler's body had been discovered. Vogler's remains were discovered in a gravel pit east of Fairbanksmarker in October 1994 following an anonymous tip. They had been wrapped in a blue tarp secured with duct tape and were identified through fingerprint analysis. Manfried West was convicted of murdering Joe Vogler and is serving an 80 year sentence.

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." 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?"

Vogler was buried in Dawson Citymarker, Yukonmarker, Canadamarker, fulfilling his wish that he not be buried under the American flag. His second wife, Doris, who died of cancer in January 1992, is buried next to him.


Using his legal training and political experience, 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 form the basis for other ballot access lawsuits in Alaska during the late 1980s, such as Sigler v. Alaska and Sykes v. Alaska, which would eventually lead to loosening of ballot access laws in Alaska and greater official recognition of numerous minor political parties.

Personal life

Vogler had a son and daughter by his first wife, but by all accounts (including his own), he was estranged from this portion of his family. Vogler met his second wife, Doris, in 1964 and remained with her until her death from cancer. His nephew, Lynn Vogler, has maintained his estate since his death.

See also


  1. Introduction, Alaskan Independence Party.
  3. " Remains of Alaska Separatist Are Identified, The New York Times, published October 15, 1994
  4. " Trail Grows Cold For Joe Vogler: Missing, No Body Found, The Seattle Times reprinted from The Chicago Tribune, published September 25, 1994

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