Nick Begich
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Alaska's at-large district
In office
January 3, 1971 – December 29, 1972
Preceded byHoward Pollock
Succeeded byDon Young
Member of the Alaska Senate
In office
Personal details
Nicholas Joseph Begich

(1932-04-06)April 6, 1932
Eveleth, Minnesota, U.S.
DiedDisappeared October 16, 1972(1972-10-16) (aged 40)
Alaska, U.S.
Declared dead in absentia
(1972-12-29)December 29, 1972
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Pegge Begich
RelationsJoseph Begich (brother)
Children5, including Mark and Tom
EducationSt. Cloud State University (BA)
University of Minnesota (MA)

Nicholas Joseph Begich Sr.[1][2] (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.

Early life and education

Begich was born and raised in Eveleth, Minnesota. His father, John Begich (né Begić), was born in Podlapača [hr], Udbina, Croatia,[3] and his mother, Anna (née Martinić), was also of Croatian descent.[4] 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.[5]


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.[6][7] 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.[8]

In 1968, Begich ran for Alaska's only House seat and lost to the incumbent Representative, Republican Howard Pollock.[9]

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.


See also: 1972 United States House of Representatives election in Alaska

Begich's cenotaph at the Congressional Cemetery.
Begich's cenotaph at the Congressional Cemetery.

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.[10] 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.[11] 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,[12] 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.[13][14][15]

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.[16]

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.[17]

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.[18] 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.[19][20]

Electoral history

Alaska's at-large congressional district: Results 1968–1972[21]
Year Republican Votes Pct Democrat Votes Pct
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%

Personal life

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.[22]

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.[23] 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.[24]

See also


  1. ^ Thomas Merton, Thomas Merton in Alaska: Prelude to the Asian Journal; the Conferences, Journals and Letters, 1988, page 64.
  2. ^ Northwest Digital Archives, Guide to the Nick Begich Papers, 1960-1973: Biographical Note, retrieved June 2, 2014.
  3. ^ Begich, Tom. (2006-04-30). "Tom Begich: Politics first – Part of growing up in a political family with a man who was a workaholic was I didn't know my father". Archived from the original on January 30, 2008. Retrieved November 21, 2008. Interviewed by Judy Ferguson. Anchorage Daily News; retrieved on 2007-04-04.
    Tom Begich says of his father, "Until I was nearly 12, I grew up with a man who was a legend, the son of Croatian immigrants, but who disappeared October 16, 1972, into the clouds."
  4. ^ Begich family profile,; accessed January 3, 2016.
  5. ^ "About Nick Begich – Nick Begich Scholarship Fund". Retrieved June 23, 2020.
  6. ^ U.S. Government Printing Office, [U.S. Government Printing Office Memorial Services Held in the House of Representatives and Senate of the United States: Together with Tributes Presented in Eulogy of Nick Begich, Late a Representative from Alaska], 1973, page 52.
  7. ^ National Water Resources Association, Water Life magazine, Volume 35, 1976, page 38.
  8. ^ Stephen M. Brent, Research Institute of Alaska, Inc., The Alaska Survey and Report, 1970-1971, Volume 2, 1970, page 245.
  9. ^ Dunham, Mike (January 11, 2011). "Howard Pollock, Alaska's 2nd congressman, dies in California". Alaska Dispatch News. Retrieved May 12, 2015.
  10. ^ "Hale Boggs — Missing in Alaska". Famous Missing Aircraft. Check-Six. Retrieved April 15, 2007.
  11. ^ National Transportation Safety Board Report NTSB-AAR-73-1, January 31, 1973; Aircraft Accident Report, Pan Alaska Airways, Ltd., Cessna 310C, N1812H, Missing Between Anchorage and Juneau, Alaska, October 16, 1972; page 3.
  12. ^ Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Fairbanks, Alaska, Wednesday September 6, 1972, page 20, column 9.
  13. ^ Federal Register, Volume 36, Number 50, March 13, 1971, pages 4,878 to 4,881.
  14. ^ FR 36-183, September 21, 1971, pages 18,716 to 18,725.
  15. ^ Washington State Department of Transportation, Emergency Locator Transmitters (ELTs), Source: October 2000 Civil Air Patrol News, retrieved October 4, 2017.
  16. ^ National Transportation Safety Board Report NTSB-AAR-73-1, January 31, 1973; pages 6–8.
  17. ^ "Begich Peak". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. Retrieved June 14, 2019.
  18. ^ Anderson, Rick (November 3, 2015). "In 1972, Two U.S Representatives Boarded a Plane and Disappeared. What Happened?". Seattle Weekly. Seattle, WA.
  19. ^ "New Podcast 'Missing In Alaska' Takes On 50-Year-Old Mysterious Plane Disappearance". Retrieved July 23, 2020.
  20. ^ Brean, Henry. "New podcast explores Alaskan mystery with Tucson twist". Arizona Daily Star. Retrieved July 23, 2020.
  21. ^ "Election Statistics". Office of the Clerk of the House of Representatives. Archived from the original on December 26, 2007. Retrieved October 24, 2008.
  22. ^ Minnesota State Legislature, Biography, Joseph R. Begich, retrieved June 2, 2014.
  23. ^ Swancer, Brent (October 2, 2019). "Alaska and the Mysterious Vanishing of a Cessna and Three Politicians".
  24. ^ Anderson, Rick (November 3, 2015). "In 1972, Two U.S Representatives Boarded a Plane and Disappeared. What Happened?". Seattle Weekly. Seattle, WA. Archived from the original on August 6, 2018.
U.S. House of Representatives Preceded byHoward Pollock Member of the U.S. House of Representativesfrom Alaska's at-large congressional district 1971–1972 Succeeded byDon Young