Key figures in Arizona history - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Valley And State

Key figures in Arizona history

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Posted: Saturday, February 12, 2011 9:00 am | Updated: 5:37 pm, Fri Sep 16, 2011.

Carl Hayden: Hayden is arguably the most important Arizonan ever. He began working in Washington, D.C., to secure water for the sparsely populated desert state in 1902 and became Arizona’s first congressman upon statehood. He was the son of Charles Trumbull Hayden, a Tempe founder, and helped transform the pioneer territory into a modern state. Hayden quietly worked on national parks, military affairs, Indian matters and was instrumental in winning the Central Arizona Project. The $4 billion CAP diverted Colorado River water to Phoenix and Tucson and was the largest, most expensive water project in U.S. history. His 56 years in Congress have been eclipsed only once.

Barry Goldwater: The conservative icon transformed the Republican Party and helped usher Ronald Reagan to power. Born to merchant pioneers, Goldwater ended segregation in his family’s stores and pushed for the same in schools but later voted against the 1964 Civil Rights Act. His 1964 presidential bid spurred fears he’d launch a nuclear war and his defeat seemed like a blow to Republicans. But Goldwater’s ideas helped Western conservatives push Eastern liberals from control of the party. He played a key role in the Watergate aftermath by helping to convince President Richard Nixon to resign. Goldwater’s libertarian beliefs rankled some conservatives with his support of abortion rights and gays serving openly in the military.

Sandra Day O’Connor: O’Connor lived without running water or electricity in her early years growing up on a ranch. Tough times returned after law school, when law firms figured women should be secretaries and not lawyers. O’Connor co-founded a firm and eventually became the first state senate majority leader in the U.S. Her 1981 nomination to the Supreme Court riled conservatives and liberals. But the first woman on the court was highly regarded for building coalitions, making her among the most influential justices in her 24 years on the bench.

Cesar Chavez: Born in Yuma in 1927, Chavez became a farm worker who endured low wages, unsafe conditions and racism. He founded what is now the United Farm Workers in 1962, gradually gaining support nationwide for laborers and Hispanic civil rights. Chavez organized strikes and boycotts on table grapes, eventually forcing some states to bargain with his organization. The movement gradually improved conditions for migrant workers who had suffered exploitation. Some states recognize Chavez’s birthday as a holiday and many buildings, schools and parks bear his name. His slogan, “Si, se puede,” or “Yes, it is possible,” endures today.

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