Walter Hickel .
ANCHORAGE, Alaska ,
Former Alaska Gov. Walter J. Hickel, who served as Interior secretary under President Nixon until he was dismissed for objecting to the treatment of Vietnam War protesters, has died at age 90.
Walter Joseph Hickel was born Aug. 18, 1919, in Claflin, Kan., the oldest son of a German wheat farmer. As the Depression-era Dust Bowl swallowed Kansas, he made plans to leave the Great Plains.
He took up boxing as means of travel and won the Kansas Golden Gloves championship. At age 20, Hickel, impatient over the wait for a passport and visa for a trip to Australia, chose Alaska.
In 1941, he married Jannice Cannon, who died in 1943. They had one son, Ted.
In 1945, Hickel married Ermalee Strutz. They had five more sons - Bob, Wally Jr., Jack, Joe, and Karl.
He is survived by his wife, his sons, 21 grandchildren and 7 great grandchildren.
A funeral Mass will be celebrated in Anchorage.
The two-time Alaskan governor died Friday of natural causes at an Anchorage assisted living facility,
Gov. Sean Parnell ordered state flags flown at half-staff Saturday in honor of his predecessor.
"He taught us to dream big and to stand up for Alaska,"
Hickel was fired from his Interior post in late 1970, after sending Nixon a letter critical of his handling of student protests following the National Guard shootings at Kent State and the U.S. invasion of Cambodia.
The letter helped to stir national debate about the growing generational rift over the Vietnam War.
Days before he lost the post in Nov. 1970, Hickel had told CBS' "60 Minutes" that he would not quit under pressure. He said he would only go away "with an arrow in my heart, not a bullet in my back."
Hickel resigned in 1969 to become Interior secretary and quickly made national headlines as the environmental movement began to take root in America.
An "Alaska boomer" with complex views on environmentalism and developing the state's oil-rich resources, Hickel railed against "locking up" the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from oil drilling and used settlement money from the Exxon Valdez oil spill
Hickel imposed stringent cleanup regulations on oil companies and water polluters after an oil rig explosion off the coast of Santa Barbara, Calif. He also fought to save the Everglades from being destroyed by developers and advocated for making Earth Day a national holiday.