Nicknamed “Fighting Tom,” he was elected to represent Republicans from Skagway and Haines at the 1900 territorial Republican convention in Juneau. He lost his bid to become Alaska’s delegate to the National Republican Convention, but represented Haines as a witness before a U.S. Senate subcommittee investigating conditions in Alaska in the summer of 1903.
Tom Marquam came to Skagway with some lawyer friends in 1897 to follow the gold rush as his father had done in 1849 in California. He met a young woman, possibly a prostitute, here and married her. She died a few years later and he then married another prostitute named Ray Alderman pictured above with President Harding.
In 1923, when it became obvious that Dan Sutherland, Alaska’s delegate to Congress, was at odds with the president and would not escort Harding on his visit, Tom happily volunteered to do it himself, with his bride at his side. Harding, a man of the world with a mistress of his own, appreciated the mayor’s pretty wife. He invited the Marquams to accompany him in his private railroad car, and Tom’s appointment as ambassador seemed assured until Harding died less than three weeks later.
Tom Marquam’s death on November 23, 1931, at age fifty-seven was not well explained. One newspaper reported he had died of a heart attack; another referred to several operations and a long illness. There were rumors that he had been murdered and it was also suggested that he had committed suicide in a fit of depression over the still unsettled charges against him.