Born in New York City on February 6, 1887, Ernest Gruening graduated from Harvard in 1907 and from Harvard Medical School in 1912. Gruening forsook medicine to pursue journalism. Initially a reporter for the Boston American in 1912, he went on to become copy desk editor and rewrite man for the Boston Evening Herald and, from 1912 to 1913, an editorial writer. For four years, Gruening was, consecutively, managing editor of the Boston Evening Traveler and the New York Tribune. After serving with the Federal Artillery Corps in World War I, Gruening became the editor of The Nation from 1920 to 1923 and the editor of the New York Post from 1932 to 1933.
Intrigued with politics, he switched careers. Gruening was appointed to the U.S. delegation to the 7th Inter-American Conference in 1933; Director of the Division of Territories and Island Possessions of the Department of the Interior, 1934-1939; Administrator of the Puerto Rico Reconstruction, 1935-1937; and a member of the Alaska International Highway Commission from 1938 to 1942. In 1939 Ernest Gruening was appointed governor of the Territory of Alaska and served for 14 years. He was also a delegate to the Democratic National Conventions of 1952, 1956 and 1960.
Pending statehood, he was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1958; with Alaska's admission to the Union in 1959, Gruening served in the Senate for 10 years. Although not renominated in 1968, he continued his active political involvement as president of an investment firm and as a legislative consultant. He died on June 26, 1974.