One of Tucson’s longest-serving mayors is memorialized with a midtown overpass that bears his name.
Lewis C. “Lew” Murphy was elected Tucson’s mayor four times, serving for 16 years from 1971 to 1987. Murphy, a Republican, guided Tucson through many changes, including bringing water from the Central Arizona Project to Tucson, starting the Community Food Bank and building a route to the airport along Kino Parkway. He also increased the size of the city by annexing 63 square miles. Through most his years as mayor, Murphy was assisted by City Manager Joel D. Valdez, the namesake for the Joel D. Valdez Main Library.
Murphy was born in 1933 in New York City to H. Waldo and Elizabeth (Curtis) Murphy. His mother was from a wealthy lumber-milling family in Clinton, Iowa, which is where Murphy grew up before moving to Faribault, Minn., to attend Shattuck Military Academy.
He arrived in Tucson in 1950 to attend the University of Arizona, graduating in 1955 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. From 1955 to 1958 he was a pilot in the Air Force, flying B-26 bombers while stationed in Tokyo, Japan. While there, he wed Carol Carney, the granddaughter of Western novelist Zane Grey, in 1957. The couple had met while in college, and went onto have three kids: Grey (1959), Timothy (1962) and Clancy (1964). In 1958, Murphy returned to Tucson and earned a bachelor of laws degree in 1961.
From 1966 to 1970 Murphy worked as a trust officer at Southern Arizona Bank & Trust Co. before being appointed Tucson’s city attorney. He served from 1970 to 1971, until he was elected mayor.
He died in December 2005.
“He truly loved this community and wanted to make it a better place to live for everybody,” said his son Tim. “He made about $14,700 a year for many years, sacrificed a lot of earning potential and family time because he knew his leadership in was needed in the Old Pueblo.”
Murphy’s Overpass was given the name in 1987, the year he retired. The Murphy-Wilmot Branch Library, at 530 N. Wilmot Road, is also named in his honor.