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Ted Stevens memorial holiday established in Alaska


Catherine Stevens, widow of former Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK), walks behind the flag-draped casket during his burial ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, September 28, 2010. REUTERS/Jim Young
Catherine Stevens, widow of former Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK), walks behind the flag-draped casket during his burial ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, September 28, 2010. REUTERS/Jim Young

By Yereth Rosen

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) - The last Saturday of July will now be known in Alaska as "Ted Stevens Day," under a new law that memorializes the nation's longest-serving Republican senator, who died last year in a plane crash.

The bill was signed on Friday by Governor Sean Parnell, a Republican, at a ceremony in his Juneau office.

Stevens, who was first appointed to the Senate in 1968, served 40 years in that body.

He is credited with steering federal money to Alaska crucial to building the young state's public services and economy.

He drew criticism from some, however, for what they regarded as pork-barrel spending, and he ended his Senate career on a sour note, convicted in October of 2008 on seven criminal counts of concealing valuable gifts from the oil-services company VECO Corp. and others.

He lost his bid for re-election that year, to Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, a Democrat.

Later the conviction and charges were voided when President Barack Obama's administration and a court determined prosecutors in the case had acted unethically and deprived Stevens of a fair trial.

He and four other people perished when the small plane ferrying them from a remote fishing lodge crashed on a mountain slope near Dillingham, in southwestern Alaska.

The late senator, a World War II veteran who served in the Eisenhower administration and the Alaska legislature and was a staunch advocate for Alaska statehood and for the rights of Alaska Native people, did much to create modern Alaska, Parnell said at the signing ceremony.

"It's right that Alaska establish a day in his honor, because we know that a giant such as Uncle Ted will not pass this way again," Parnell said, using Alaskans' nickname for the late senator.

The day was chosen at the request of Stevens' family, and considered to be a time when Alaskans could enjoy outdoor pursuits, lawmakers said.

(Editing by Jerry Norton)

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