Local Life: Howard Pollock, 90; disability didn't stop adventurous congressman

Howard Pollock, a former congressman from Alaska, right, earned a black belt in taekwondo at 75.
Howard Pollock, a former congressman from Alaska, right, earned a black belt in taekwondo at 75. (Dayna Smith/The Washington Post)
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 15, 2011; 6:58 PM

Howard Pollock's right hand was blown off in a World War II grenade accident, but that didn't stop him from hunting antelope left-handed or from fishing for marlin or from heading north to live in the far-flung territory of Alaska, where he and his wife built a cabin on 80 wild acres south of Anchorage.

Nor did his missing hand interfere with his political ambitions. Wearing a metal prosthesis and occasionally introducing himself as Captain Hook, Mr. Pollock served in Alaska's territorial and state legislatures before he was elected in 1966 as the frontier state's second-ever congressman.

Mr. Pollock, a Republican who followed his four-year House service with a long career in Washington, including as president of the National Rifle Association and founder of a scuba-diving club for members of Congress, died Jan. 9 in Coronado, Calif. He was 90 and had pneumonia.

"I've never felt crippled," he told The Washington Post after earning a black belt in taekwondo at 75.

"I've had to accommodate to some things. I can't walk on my hands anymore," he said. "But otherwise, I believe in what Al Jolson said: 'You ain't seen nothing yet.' "

Howard Wallace Pollock was born April 11, 1920, in Chicago. He grew up in New Orleans, won a Mississippi state boxing title in junior college and then went overseas with the Navy during World War II.

The grenade that took his right forearm exploded during a training exercise in the South Pacific on Easter Sunday 1944. After a long convalescence, he and his first wife, Maryanne Passmore Pollock, headed north in search of something new.

They drove up the recently completed Alaska Highway, a narrow gravel ribbon through Canada's forests, and made a home in a place called Rabbit Creek.

He first encountered politics on a lark, his family said, when a friend dared him to run for mayor of Anchorage.

Mr. Pollock lost that first race, but not by much, and within several years, he had won a seat in the territorial legislature.

Juggling politics and school - he earned a law degree from the University of Houston and a master's degree in industrial management from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology - he joined a cadre of young Alaskans, including future Sen. Ted Stevens (R), who worked for statehood in the 1950s.

After Alaska entered the union in 1959, Mr. Pollock was one of nine people - five Republicans and four Democrats - who ran for governor in 1962.

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