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Arizona Celebrities: Part One

“This land of Arizona has had an exciting history, so dramatic and inspiring that it needs no exaggeration or fictional embellishment.” ~Barry Goldwater

Our state has been the home of quite a few notable people over the years, both famous and infamous. In fact, there are so many names to mention that I am dividing this topic into two parts. This week’s page includes famous historical figures, political leaders, authors and artists.

Cochise – He was a Chiricahua Apache chief, born in Arizona Territory. Initially friendly toward whites, he turned violently against them after several members of his tribe were killed by U.S. troops. For nearly a decade in the 1860’s he led a crusade against white settlers and the U.S. Army, but he was gradually isolated in a smaller and smaller mountainous region. After winning assurances from the U.S. government that he and his band could remain in the Chiricahua Mountains, he surrendered in 1872 and lived peacefully until he died in 1874.

Geronimo – He was an Apache Indian chief, born in June 1829 in No-doyohn Canyon, near present-day Clifton, Arizona. As a child Geronimo was “warmed by the sun, rocked by the winds, and sheltered by the trees as other Indian babes.” At that time he was called Goyahkla and did not adopt the name Geronimo-the Spanish equivalent of Jerome, the patron saint-until adulthood. After Mexican rogues killed his family, Geronimo started attacking settlers. General George Crook captured Geronimo in 1882, but he escaped. Geronimo surrendered to General Nelson Miles in 1886. He lived out the rest of his life at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, dying at the age of 80.

Ira Hayes – He was from Bapchule, a Pima Indian village on the banks of the Gila River. He went to elementary school in Sacaton and attended Phoenix Indian School. Ira Hayes was one of the U.S. Marines in the famous photograph of the raising of the American flag at Iwo Jima in 1945. (He’s the one with the rifle slung over his shoulder.) Hayes had a hard time dealing with his unexpected celebrity status and sought refuge on the Gila River Indian Reservation, where he took to drink and tragically froze to death at the age of 32.

George Kirk – During World War II, he was a member of the U.S. Marine Corps and served as a radioman in the Pacific. As a Navajo Code Talker, he used a secret code that was based on the Navajo language. The Japanese were never able to break the Navajo code and it saved countless American lives in the Pacific campaigns.

Wyatt Earp – A lawman, gunfighter, and gambler. Born on March 19, 1848, in Monmouth, Illinois, he was the third eldest and best-known of five brothers. The others were James (1841-1926), Virgil (1843-1906), Morgan (1851-82), and Warren (1855-1900). The Earp brothers spent most of their early lives in Illinois. In 1879, Wyatt moved to Tombstone, Arizona, where he was soon joined by three of his brothers-Virgil, James, and Morgan-and Doc Holliday, a close friend who was a dentist and gunfighter. The Earp brothers were enshrined in American legend for their exploits in the American West and particularly for their participation in the famous gunfight at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona in 1881. Having outlived all of his four brothers, Wyatt Earp died in Los Angeles on January 13, 1929, at the age of 80.

Barry Goldwater – Born in Phoenix on New Year’s Day, 1909, the grandson of an immigrant peddler in the Western mining camps. Goldwater was a natural leader and was elected class president at Phoenix Union High School, although he flunked most of his classes. He attended the University of Arizona for a year, but quit when his father died and he inherited the family’s prosperous department store business. An active sportsman, Goldwater was one of the first white men to navigate the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. During World War II, he was a pilot in the U.S. Air Force (1941-45). He served in the U.S. Senate (1953-65, 1969-87) as a conservative Republican. In 1964 he ran for President but was defeated by Lyndon B. Johnson. If Goldwater had not gone into politics, he probably would have been a famous photographer. Hundreds of his photos appeared in Arizona Highways magazine, many which were of were of Native Americans, who he had a great respect for.

Sandra Day O’Connor – In 1981, President Ronald Reagan appointed her to be the first woman justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. Her grandfather was a pioneer cattle rancher in Greenlee County. She grew up on a large family ranch called the Lazy B Ranch near Duncan, Arizona, and she originally wanted to be a cowgirl. But later she changed her mind and attended law school instead. One of her classmates was William Rehnquist, another Arizonan who is a U.S. Supreme Court Justice.

Dan Quayle – Born into an influential newspaper-owning family, Quayle attended law school at Indiana University and upon graduation he started a law practice with his wife, Marilyn Tucker. Quayle was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1976 and he was elected to the Senate in 1980. In 1988, then-Vice President and Republican presidential candidate George Bush chose him as a running mate. The 41-year-old Quayle became one of the youngest vice presidents ever. After the 1992 presidential election which Bush lost to Bill Clinton, Quayle moved to Phoenix, Arizona, where he has taught classes, lectured, and campaigned for Republican candidates. Quayle also heads his own political action committee, Campaign America, whose headquarters are in Phoenix. After Quayle announced his entrance into the 2000 presidential race, he later withdrew, citing the formidable advantage of the son of his former boss, Texas Governor George W. Bush. Quayle’s parents live in Wickenburg, Arizona.

Bruce Babbitt – Born in Flagstaff, Arizona and descended from pioneers who settled in northern Arizona, as a boy he hiked in the Coconino National Forest around his home. Babbitt studied geophysics in college, but left his work in petroleum geology to earn a law degree. He practiced law in Arizona, served as Arizona’s attorney general (1975-78) and Arizona’s governor (1978-87). In 1988 he was an unsuccessful candidate for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. An avid outdoorsman, he had been active in many ecological organizations and received several awards from national environmental groups. President Clinton appointed him Secretary of the Interior in 1993. Part of his job was watching over America’s national parks and monuments, including those in Arizona that he came to love as a child.

Cesar Chavez -A migrant fieldworker born in Yuma, Arizona, he attended 65 elementary schools and never graduated from high school. As an adult, he became a labor leader in the 1950’s and 60’s, striving to improve conditions for agricultural workers. At the time of his death he was leading a national boycott of grapes to protest the use of harmful pesticides.

G. Gordon Liddy -An official in Richard Nixon’s administration, Liddy gained notoriety in the early 1970’s as a key player in the “Watergate” scandal, for which he served almost five years in prison. A staunch conservative, Liddy became a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host in the mid-1990’s. He lives in Scottsdale and enjoys riding his motorcycle in the Arizona sun.

Frank Lloyd Wright – This world-renowned architect settled in Arizona and some of his designs may have been influenced by the state’s rugged landscape. Wright’s “Organic Architecture” incorporated nature and made use of natural materials. Wright designed several structures in Arizona, most notably Taliesin West which was built in 1937 on six hundred acres of Sonoran desert on Maricopa Mesa in the foothills of the McDowell Mountains northeast of Scottsdale. Wright said, “Our new desert camp belonged to the Arizona desert as though it had stood there during Creation.” Wright lived and worked there from 1939 until his death in 1959 at the age of 92. Taliesin West still houses an architectural studio and school.

Paolo Soleri – Born in Turin, Italy on June 21, 1919, Paolo Soleri was awarded a Ph.D. with highest honors in architecture in 1946. He came to the United States in 1947 and spent a year-and-a-half with Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesin West in Arizona. In 1956 he settled in Scottsdale, Arizona with his wife, Colly, and their two daughters. Dr. and Mrs. Soleri established the Cosanti Foundation for research and experimentation in urban planning. While Soleri’s uniquely-designed windbells are world-famous, the Foundation’s major project is Arcosanti, a prototype town for 7,000 people designed by Soleri, under construction since 1970. Overlooking a small canyon just north of Cordes Junction in central Arizona, the project is based on Soleri’s concept of “Arcology,” a combination of architecture and ecology.

David Levy – He has discovered 21 comets, eight with a telescope in his backyard observatory, and thirteen which he shared with Gene and Carolyn Shoemaker. One of these comets, Shoemaker-Levy 9, collided with Jupiter in the summer of 1994, resulting in the greatest explosion ever witnessed on another world. David is science editor for Parade Magazine, and writes the column “Science on Parade.” David and Wendee Levy live in Vail, Arizona.

Erma Bombeck – America’s first lady of household humor, Bombeck turned her views of daily life in the suburbs into satirical newspaper columns and 14 best-selling books, including The Grass is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank(1976), and If Life Is a Bowl of Cherries, What Am I Doing in the Pits?(1978). In 1996, Bombeck died from complications arising from a failed kidney transplant. She lived in Paradise Valley.

Bill Keane – A cartoonist who humorously captures family life, Bill Keane’s philosophy is this: “A home filled with love and laughter is the happiest place in the world.” He and his family moved to Scottsdale, Arizona from Pennsylvania. Even though the Keanes live in a sunny climate, the cartoonist shows the family living in a typical, Middle-American split-level house. He uses snow scenes each winter, drawing from memories of his Pennsylvania boyhood.

Edward Abbey – After growing up on a Pennsylvania farm, this writer and conservationist moved permanently to the Southwest in 1947. The Monkey Wrench Gang (1976), his novel about a gang of ecological saboteurs, was a bestseller and made him a cult hero among radical environmentalists. He lived in Tucson and wrote: “Arizona is a…grim bleak harsh overheated sun-blasted inferno….I am describing the place I love. Arizona is my natural native home.”

Zane Grey – Born in Zanesville, Ohio, he made his first trip out West in 1907 and explored much of the land north of the Grand Canyon on horseback. This inspired him to start writing the “dime novels” that would make him one of America’s most popular authors. Many of his Westerns are set in the Colorado Plateau area of Arizona. In 1918 he visited the Tonto Basin at the foot of the Mogollon Rim and later built a lodge southeast of the Tonto Natural Bridge near Payson.

Glendon Swarthout – This author of Bless the Beasts and Children moved his family from Michigan to Arizona, where he taught English at Arizona State University for four years before retiring to write full-time. Some of his novels were set in Arizona. A life-long smoker, Swarthout died of emphysema at his home in Scottsdale on September 23, 1992.

Ted DeGrazia – A native Arizonan born in 1909, DeGrazia graduated from The University of Arizona in 1945. His oil and watercolor paintings brought worldwide attention to the history and color of the Southwest and Mexico. He died in 1982.

R.C. Gorman – This leading Native American artist was born on the Navajo Reservation near Canyon De Chelly, Arizona on July 26, 1931. As a child he made his first paintings with sand and rocks on the earthen floor of the hogan where he lived. He attended grade school in a one-room house in Chinle. He went to Ganado Mission High School. In 1955 he enrolled at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff where he majored in literature and minored in art. Gorman is considered by many to be “the Picasso of American Indian artists.”

Max Ernst – Max Ernst was a painter, sculptor and printmaker. He became one of the leading Surrealists. Born in Germany, he came to America as a refugee in 1941 and lived in Sedona, Arizona for 12 years before moving to France.

L. Ron Hubbard – The science fiction writer and founder of Scientology lived in Phoenix during the 1950s.

Louis Leithold – Louis Leithold was a renowned mathematics teacher. He was teaching at Phoenix College in Arizona when a publisher approached him about writing a textbook. “The Calculus with Analytic Geometry” was published in 1968 by Harper and Row. It became a standard text in high schools and universities, and helped change the way the subject was taught. Among the many educators that Leithold influenced was Jaime Escalante, whose success at teaching calculus to Hispanic students in East L.A. was chronicled in the movie “Stand and Deliver.” The latest edition is of Leithold’s text is simply called “The Calculus 7.” In the 1950’s, Leithold owned Portofino’s Coffee House as well as The Kiva, a vintage movie theater in Scottsdale, which director Steven Spielberg frequented as a child.

(Stay tuned next week, when I will devote a whole page to Arizona’s famous entertainers – singers, sports stars, actors and actresses.)


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