Politicians who helped shape Tucson, the state and the country

2014-01-16T00:00:00Z Politicians who helped shape Tucson, the state and the countryBob Ring Special to the Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
January 16, 2014 12:00 am  • 

This is the second in a five-part series on the 20th century’s most influential movers and shakers in Tucson, according to author and historian Bob Ring.

This week features people in politics. Subsequent parts will cover arts and entertainment, science and medicine, and sports. Read the first part at azstarnet.com/bobring online.

Tucson’s movers and shakers in politics include two former mayors and two members of the U.S. House of Representatives. Norwegian immigrant Henry Jaastad was a seven-term mayor who led Tucson through difficult times in the 1930s and 1940s.

As Tucson’s longest-term mayor, in the 1970s and 1980s Lewis C. Murphy oversaw a time of economic and population growth.

Rancher and social activist Isabella Greenway was the first U.S. congresswoman in Arizona history and in 1930 founded the Arizona Inn.

Respected trial lawyer Morris Udall served 30 years in Congress, earning a reputation as the “most creative and productive legislator of the 20th century.”

Henry Jaastad

Henry Jaastad (1872-1965) was born in Norway, immigrated to the United States in 1886 and arrived in Tucson in 1902 as a journeyman carpenter. He formed his own contractor business, became a naturalized citizen in 1904, completed correspondence courses in architecture and studied electrical engineering at the UA. In 1922 he earned his architecture license. Starting as a designer of small residential buildings for individuals, Jaastad branched out into commercial ventures including stores and office buildings in downtown Tucson, plus schools, churches and hospitals, earning him accolades as the designer of “some of Tucson’s most significant public architecture.”

He retired in 1957 having been responsible in his more than 50-year career for more than 500 projects. Jaastad buildings still existing include Tucson High School and several buildings at Tucson Medical Center.

Jaastad was also actively involved in local politics, serving two terms as a city councilman in 1925-26 and 1931-32, then seven terms as Democratic mayor of Tucson from 1933 to 1947. His political service spanned Tucson’s recovery from the Great Depression through the end of World War II, maintaining the financial integrity of the city with a “pay as you go” approach.

Jaastad helped secure natural gas from New Mexico and helped build projects including the Stone Avenue underpass, 90 miles of paved streets, public pools at city parks and expanded military airfields at Davis-Monthan and Marana.

As writer Mona L. McCroskey put it, “Henry Jaastad’s work as an architect and his tenure as mayor have left an indelible imprint upon the city of Tucson.”

Lewis C. Murphy

Lewis C. Murphy (1933-2005) was born in New York City, grew up in Iowa and Minnesota and moved to Tucson in 1950, earning a business degree from UA in 1955. He served as an Air Force pilot in Japan from 1955 to 1958, then returned to Tucson to earn a law degree in 1961. He spent the 1960s in private practice and banking and was appointed Tucson’s city attorney in 1970.

“Lew” Murphy, a Republican, was elected Tucson’s mayor in 1971 and served 16 years through four terms until 1987, assisted during most of that time by City Manager Joel D. Valdez, and guided Tucson through many changes. The city’s population nearly doubled and high-tech companies such as IBM and Learjet (now a subsidiary of Bombardier) opened plants in Tucson. Murphy helped bring CAP water to Tucson, started the Community Food Bank, built a route to the airport and annexed 63 square miles of additional land for the city.

Murphy “truly loved the community” and said the best part of being mayor was getting to meet people.

Isabella Greenway

Isabella Greenway (1886-1953) was born Isabella Selmes on a farm in Kentucky, attended schools in New York City where she met and became lifelong friends with Theodore Roosevelt’s niece, Eleanor, and was one of Eleanor’s bridesmaids when she married Franklin D. Roosevelt.

In 1923 Isabella married Col. John Campbell Greenway, who brought Isabella to a ranch near Bisbee, where he was manager of the Calumet and Arizona Mining Co. In 1927, a year after her husband died suddenly, Isabella moved her family to Tucson.

That same year, using money from selling her copper stock, Isabella bought a ranch in Williams and a year or so later became owner and operator of Los Angeles-based Gilpin Airlines.

Greenway’s political activities intermixed with her successful entrepreneurial operations, blazing a trail for remarkable women in Arizona politics today. During the late 1920s in Tucson, she opened a furniture factory employing disabled veterans and their immediate families. In 1928 she became Arizona’s Democratic national committeewoman, and in 1932 she campaigned heavily for Roosevelt.

Greenway was elected as Arizona’s sole representative to the 73rd Congress in 1932 and won re-election in 1934, working to improve Arizona’s economy, provide employment, expand irrigation and flood control, improve roads and protect veterans’ benefits.

Meanwhile, in 1929-1930, Greenway built Tucson’s Arizona Inn, greatly enhancing Tucson’s reputation as a tourism destination. The Arizona Inn is considered among the top hotels in the world, still active today and in the National Register of Historic Places.

Morris Udall

Morris Udall (1922-1998) was born in St. Johns and lost his right eye in a childhood accident. Still, he served in the Army during World War II, graduated from the UA where he was a star basketball player and played basketball professionally for the Denver Nuggets for a year.

He returned to UA to earn a law degree in 1949, after which he quickly established a record as a great trial lawyer, particularly in personal injury law.

In 1961 “Mo” won a special election for his brother’s vacant seat in the U.S. Congress, when Stuart Udall was appointed Secretary of the Interior in the Kennedy administration. Mo Udall was re-elected 13 more times as a Democrat, championing environmental causes, campaign finance reform and the welfare of American Indians until he resigned in 1991 because of Parkinson’s disease.

In 1976 he ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination for president as a liberal alternative to Jimmy Carter.

As a congressman, Udall wrote the Alaska Lands Act of 1980, which doubled the size of the National Park System, as well as legislation to protect archaeological finds, enact civil service reform, legalize Indian casinos and provide for the safe disposal of radioactive waste. He was respected for his vision and integrity — even by Republicans.

Bob Ring is a longtime Southern Arizonan and avid historian. E-mail him at ringbob1@aol.com

Selected sources and information: Greenway, John Campbell and Isabella, Arizona Historical Society, MS0311; “Isabella Greenway – An Enterprising Woman,” Kristie Miller, 2005; “Henry O. Jaastad: Architect of Tucson’s Future,” Mona L. McCroskey, Smoke Signal, Spring 1990; “Overpass memorializes Tucson’s Mayor Murphy,” David Leighton, Arizona Daily Star, Sept. 3, 2013; “Mo: The Life and Times of Morris K. Udall,” Donald W. Carson and James W. Johnson, 2004.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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