Vogler would have denounced anyone saying he was 'explicitly a secessionist'

A recent column in the Anchorage Daily News trying to breathe life into the Alaskan Independence Party puts forward the proposition that the late Joe Vogler was “explicitly a secessionist.”

The author went on at some length about secession and revitalizing the fringe group, which is not going to happen.

For his part, Vogler didn’t care for the word and would have said that only a posey-sniffer or a damned Yankee would have branded him “explicitly a secessionist”

A man who once declared his abiding faith in real estate, gold and yellow scrap iron, (a reference to Caterpillar equipment), Vogler turned up missing on Memorial Day in 1993. Two years later, the man who killed him during a robbery received an 80-year prison term.

Most of the news coverage about Vogler’s ragtag independence movement, both before and after the Fairbanks land developer was murdered a quarter-century ago, included a few paragraphs about secession.

And many people who professed to be Vogler’s followers thought he wanted to secede.

But starting in 1973, when Vogler began a petition drive for independence, he had harsh words for anyone who called him a secessionist. He said he was a separatist.

A master at the art of dissent, Vogler said the 1958 landslide vote in Alaska for statehood was illegal and Alaskans deserved another shot at it. He wanted a new vote with three options—independence, statehood and commonwealth. There was never a chance of this happening.

While his rhetoric grew more and more hostile to the United States government over the years, he kept claiming that he did not want to secede because that would be illegal.

Lazar “Larry” Dworkin, a Fairbanks bailbondsman and pawnbroker who was every bit Vogler’s equal as a contrarian, said in 1973 that the independence movement was a crackpot scheme.

Dworkin, who argued with anyone who would listen in his All-American Smoke Shop in downtown Fairbanks, was a graduate of Columbia Law School and author of “Ten Commandments for the Busted.”

Like Vogler, who also earned a law degree, Dworkin considered himself a lifelong student of the U.S. Constitution.

“I enjoy arguments pro and con,” Dworkin told a reporter in 1983, a year before his death. “I enjoy all debatable issues that make up a man’s routine.”

As for a debatable issue, he said Vogler did not have one with independence for Alaska. Dworkin said the Vogler plan was “absurd, unreasonable, unfeasible” and any student of political science would recognize it as “totally ridiculous.”

“What Mr. Vogler is suggesting is nothing short of secession,” Dworkin said in March 1973. He said he was as much a nonconformist and iconoclast as Vogler, but he retained enough of his senses to know that a “ridiculous plan is no plan at all.”

Vogler said Dworkin needed to consult his dictionary. “Secession is a declaration of separation—ours is a petition for the granting of separation by a Mother Nation—the only thing in common is the ultimate goal—and of that we certainly aspire,” Vogler said.

Seven years later, Vogler wrote a letter to presidential candidate Ronald Reagan, and also advised him to check the dictionary. He complained about the “provincial ignorance” of the former California governor and attacked him as an imperialist.

“We seek peaceful separation by mutual consent and this is not secession as you might learn from any good dictionary,” Vogler wrote.

He said he would never vote for anyone for president who didn’t promise a new vote on statehood. “To do less is to furnish the rope for my own hanging,” Vogler said.

A decade later, Fairbanksan Lowell Barrick matched wits with Vogler on secession and separation. They exchanged virulent letters to the editor for years.

Barrick said it was possible that Vogler’s education had occurred prior to the Civil War and his mind was “void of at least a century of U.S. history.”

“Secession is as dead as Joe’s dodo bird brain,” he said.

Vogler reached back to his days in Kansas in one response to Barrick.

“My daddy always warned me not to try the big seat in the outhouse until I was grown,” Vogler said, suggesting that Barrick must have fallen in headfirst and that his brain had risen and “lodged in the buttocks.”

The highlight of Vogler’s movement may have come in 1990 when Wally Hickel became governor as a member of the independence party. But it was a political gimmick. Hickel never wanted secession, separation or independence for Alaska.

That same year, Vogler and his friends spent $383 on postage at the Fairbanks post office to send packets of information to every member of the United Nations, appealing for help. “We, as people of Alaska, are seeking independent nation status by vote of the people under U.N. supervision,” Vogler wrote.

The U.N. wouldn’t bite or look up secession in the dictionary.

Dermot Cole2 Comments