|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives|
from Alaska's at-large district
January 3, 1971 – December 29, 1972
|Preceded by||Howard Pollock|
|Succeeded by||Don Young|
|Member of the Alaska Senate|
Nicholas Joseph Begich
April 6, 1932
Eveleth, Minnesota, U.S.
|Died||Disappeared October 16, 1972 (aged 40)|
Declared dead in absentia
December 29, 1972
|Relations||Joseph Begich (brother)|
|Children||5, including Mark and Tom|
|Education||St. Cloud State University (BA)|
University of Minnesota (MA)
Nicholas Joseph Begich Sr. (April 6, 1932 – disappeared October 16, 1972) was an American politician who served as a member of the United States House of Representatives from Alaska. He is presumed to have died in the crash of a light aircraft in Alaska in 1972; his body was never found.
Begich was born and raised in Eveleth, Minnesota. His father, John Begich (né Begić), was born in Podlapača, Udbina, Croatia, and his mother, Anna (née Martinić), was also of Croatian descent. He earned a Bachelor of Arts from Saint Cloud State University in 1952 and a Master of Arts from the University of Minnesota 1954. He took graduate courses at the University of Colorado Boulder and University of North Dakota.
Begich worked as a guidance counselor in the schools of Anchorage, and he was later Director of Student Personnel for the Anchorage school system before becoming Superintendent of Schools at Fort Richardson. In 1962, Begich was elected to the Alaska Senate, where he served for eight years. Begich also taught political science during parts of this period at the University of Alaska at Anchorage.
In 1968, Begich ran for Alaska's only House seat and lost to the incumbent Representative, Republican Howard Pollock.
In 1970, Begich ran again for the seat and was now successful by defeating the Republican banker Frank Murkowski, who later served as a U.S. senator and then as Governor of Alaska. In 1972 for his re-election, Begich was opposed by Republican state senator Don Young.
Posthumously, Begich won the 1972 election, with 56% to Don Young's 44%. However, after Begich was declared dead, a special election was held. Young won the seat and is still in the position.
On October 16, 1972, he and House Majority Leader Hale Boggs, of Louisiana, were two of the four men on board a twin engine Cessna 310 when the airplane disappeared during a flight from Anchorage to Juneau. Also on board were Begich's aide, Russell Brown, and the pilot, Don Jonz. The four were heading to a campaign fundraiser for Begich.
In an enormous search effort, search and rescue aircraft of the United States Coast Guard, Navy, Army, Air Force, Civil Air Patrol and civilians were deployed to look for the four men and the missing Cessna 310. On November 24, 1972, after proceeding for 39 days, the air search was suspended. Neither the airplane nor any of its four occupants were ever found. All were declared dead on December 29, 1972.
The Cessna was required to carry an emergency locator transmitter (ELT) per Alaska state statutes section 02.35.115, Downed Aircraft Transmitting Devices, which took effect on September 6, 1972, five weeks before the plane disappeared. The Alaska statute made reference to Federal Aviation Regulation 91.52, published on September 21, 1971, which mandated ELTs in aircraft such as this, but had an effective date of December 30, 1973, for existing aircraft.
No ELT signal determined to be from the plane was heard during the search. In its report on the incident, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) stated that the pilot's portable ELT, permissible in lieu of a fixed ELT on the plane, was found in an aircraft at Fairbanks, Alaska. The report also notes that a witness saw an unidentified object in the pilot's briefcase that resembled, except for color, the portable ELT. The NTSB concluded that neither the pilot nor aircraft had an ELT.
In 1972, the tallest building in Whittier, Alaska, was renamed to Begich Towers in memory of Nick Begich. Begich Peak which is three miles north of the Begich, Boggs Visitor Center at Portage Lake is also named for him.
In November 2015, a Seattle Weekly story detailed the work of journalist Jonathan Walczak, who since 2012 has investigated the plane crash and subsequent events in an effort to determine the fate of the flight that carried Begich and Boggs. Walczak created a podcast about Begich's disappearance, which was released by iHeartMedia in the summer of 2020. The podcast, called Missing in Alaska, explored the idea that FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover or the Tucson mafia had assassinated Hale Boggs.
|1968||Howard W. Pollock (inc.)||43,577||54.2%||N. J. Begich||36,785||45.8%|
|1970||Frank H. Murkowski||35,947||44.9%||N. J. Begich||44,137||55.1%|
|1972||Don Young||41,750||43.8%||N. J. Begich (inc.)||53,651||56.2%|
Nick Begich had six children: Mark, Nichelle, Tom, Stephanie, Paul, and Nick Jr.
His son Mark Begich was elected as a member of the Anchorage Borough Assembly, then became Mayor, and was narrowly elected as the junior U.S. senator from Alaska. The incumbent, Ted Stevens, had been convicted of seven felonies, eight days before the 2008 election, after being caught up in the Alaska political corruption probe. Stevens had been the Republican Party's longest-serving U.S. senator. He too was killed in a small plane crash nearly two years later, though not before the criminal convictions had been overturned. Mark Begich lost his Senate re-election bid in 2014, as well as a race for Governor of Alaska four years later in 2018.
His son Tom won the Democratic primary nomination for a seat in the Alaska Senate in 2016, and faced no opposition in the general election.
Nick's brother Joseph Begich served 18 years in the Minnesota House of Representatives from their hometown of Eveleth.
Nick Begich's widow, Peggie, would briefly marry a known mafia hitman named Jerry Max Paisley, whom she had been secretly dating on the side even before the disappearance, and who ended up going to prison in 1994 for murder. Peggie Begich ran for the House of Representatives seat in 1984 and 1986, but she was defeated by the incumbent, Don Young. She later retired and lived in Nevada.