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

By Emma Brown
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.

"Never have so many run so hard to govern so few," then-Gov. Herschel C. Loveless (D-Iowa) said at the time.

Mr. Pollock lost the gubernatorial race in the primary but served twice in the state legislature. In 1966, he beat Democratic incumbent Ralph Rivers in a race to become Alaska's sole congressman.

After two terms in Washington, Mr. Pollock gave up his House seat to run a second time for governor of Alaska. After he lost in the Republican primary, he found a job in the Nixon administration as the deputy administrator of a new agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

In that role, Mr. Pollock, helped guide federal fisheries policy and started a congressional scuba-diving club to help educate lawmakers about ocean conservation, he said.

He left federal service in 1983 and served two years as president of the National Rifle Association. Afterward, he worked as an international management consultant, a lobbyist (his clients included anti-communist rebels in Angola) and a safari booking agent.

An enthusiastic big-game hunter, Mr. Pollock had a reputation as a crack shot. He was particularly fond of hunting wild turkeys and had completed a feat known among sportsmen as the World Slam: bagging all six types of wild turkeys, from Florida's Osceola subspecies to Mexico's ocellated variety.

He traveled around the world on safari, and the walls of his home were adorned with trophies from his efforts: a Zimbabwean sable antelope, an American bull elk, a 10-foot-8-inch marlin he caught near St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.

In his late 70s, he had killed ibex - wild goat - on a trip by yak through Pakistan. In his 80s, he competed in Wyoming's annual One-Shot Antelope Hunt and brought down a pronghorn with a single bullet.

For years, Mr. Pollock rose at 5:15 each morning to train in the Korean martial art taekwondo, removing his prosthetic arm before practicing so as not to startle opponents. In 1995, he received his black belt before a crowd of 1,500 at a downtown hotel in the District.

As part of the ceremony, he broke a wooden board with his foot.

He had begun to slow only in recent years, his family said. "One thing that defined him, that was very special to all of us, is the grace he displayed as he started losing the ability to do the things he had always done," his son, Randy Pollock, said.

Mr. Pollock's two marriages ended in divorce.

In addition to his son Randy of Bainbridge Island, Wash., survivors include four other children from his first marriage, Ron Pollock and Rick Pollock, both of Anchorage, Patty Raymond of Bainbridge Island and Pamela Pollock of Bothel, Wash.; nine grandchildren; two great-grandchildren; and his companion of 35 years, Marina Goodenough of Coronado.

Until moving to the West Coast about five years ago, Mr. Pollock had lived in Arlington County for decades. But he considered Alaska home and was fond of octopus-hunting near the spruce-framed village of Halibut Cove.

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