Don Edson Clocksin passed away on Sunday, October 25, 2020 in Portland, Oregon. He leaves behind a loving family, a four-decade career devoted to social justice, and many tall tales about bears that will endure for generations.
Don was born July 8, 1944 in Port Angeles, Washington. At Hoquiam High School, he was Student Class President, the captain of his football team, and—to the endless amusement of his family—voted “Mr. Courtesy.” He was a graduate of the University of Washington for both his undergraduate and law school studies.
After graduating law school in 1969, Don spent time in Michigan with the Volunteers In Service To America Program, followed by two years in Washington, where he helped develop and pass the Landlord-Tenant Act. Don moved to Juneau, Alaska in 1973—just 14 years after its statehood—when he was offered a position with Alaska Legal Services as a lobbyist and head of the Juneau office, providing legal aid to those unable to afford it. In 1980, he was elected to the Alaska Legislature, serving for 4 years until he ascended to House Majority Leader for another 2 years during Alaska’s brief liberal revolution.
As his colleague remembers, “Don was one of the hallowed few you could turn to in Juneau to untangle…complex political knots, controversies and disputes. Don would fashion a solution, and we would be one step closer to converting a rough good idea into a good law that Alaskans would benefit from.” He also became deeply involved in the American Civil Liberties Union as both President of the Alaska Chapter and an ACLU National Board member. He was a tireless advocate for the poor, the politically powerless, and the rural Alaskans.
Don was an avid and skilled outdoorsman. During a 1977 solo trip down the Yukon River, he wrote, “After floating in the hot sun and one dip, I got to 60 mile river… The clouds had been all around me, but the sun was still hot. Thunder had been circling and now it hit. For genuine ecstasy nothing beat a tremendous, hard hitting storm. It rained so hard I couldn’t see where I was going, thundered and lightning’d all around me, and the wind whipped the smooth river to whitecaps in a matter of 2-3 minutes. I found myself shouting at it. Anyway it passed and I am camped, drying out the few wet things I have and so proud of myself I can hardly stand it. Tent up, fire built, lots of wood, good campsite, and a scotch by my hand in less time than it takes to tell it.” He could build a fire under any conditions – from frigid temperatures to pouring rain. In the Puget Sound, Don became an amateur boat captain, providing countless happy weekends for his family and only the occasional headache for the local coast guard.
A delightful storyteller, Don loved entertaining friends and family. He would often cook elaborate meals and bake beautiful pies. He was a lifelong gardener who was eternally struggling to grow lilac, his wife’s favorite. The two spent decades traveling with their family, resulting in scars from both a local shark and a Malaysian jellyfish—all detailed in his 50 years of journals and a lifetime of stories. Those journals have become an endless source of comfort for his family.
Don is survived by the love of his life, Betty, who he wooed on Dec. 30, 1975 when the power went out at the Red Dog Saloon in Juneau, Alaska and Don was the only one with a flashlight.
He is also survived by his sister Teresa, his children Bree, Teal, and Caley, and his grandchildren Annecy and Karti. In lieu of flowers, please consider donating to the Alaska ACLU, an organization for which Don immensely cared about. Please also consider using the front page of this site to share and celebrate the many wonderful memories of Don.