Barry Goldwater

Arizona Senator and Conservative

When Barry Morris Goldwater was born January 1, 1909, Phoenix was not much more than a frontier village with dirt streets inhabited by only 10,000 citizens. Completion of Theodore Roosevelt Dam, key to central Arizona's coming prosperity, was still two years away, and statehood was three years in the future.

As the son of a pioneering Arizona family and Phoenix's leading merchant, Barry was a young man who had the freedom and the means to do almost anything he pleased. He acquired expensive tastes and was among the first to own any new gadget. He lived a doctrine of self-reliance and the strenuous life, despite the influences of family wealth and privilege.



Barry GoldwaterBarry grew to love the outdoors, especially the deserts, mountains and canyons of Arizona's northern high country. He spent his youth exploring miles of scenic wonderland throughout Arizona, hunting, fishing and photographing. He acquired a love of Native American cultures and later became one of the staunchest defenders of Indian rights in national politics.

Barry helped build the first commercial radio station in Phoenix when only 12 and learned to fly an airplane when it was still very risky. He ran the treacherous Colorado River rapids in a wooden boat before it was fashionable, shooting a movie which he showed in theaters throughout the state. He discovered and photographed a previously unknown natural bridge in the Grand Canyon, which he named Margaret Arch after his wife. He overcame many barriers in his quest to join the U.S. Air Corps and won sports championships in spite of two severely injured knees.

Barry left college upon the death of his father and began working in the family's Phoenix Goldwater's store, of which he was president from 1937 to 1953. During these years Barry organized the Arizona Air National Guard and desegregated it, served on the Colorado River Commission to help bring water for power and irrigation to central Arizona and led a referendum for right-to-work legislation in the state.

Barry was elected to the Phoenix city council in 1949 and successfully desegregated the municipal airport. In 1952 he narrowly won election to the U.S. Senate and was re-elected in 1958 by a large margin. Barry won the 1964 Republican presidential nomination and fought a valiant campaign against the incumbent president, Lyndon B. Johnson.

Barry opposed arms-control negotiations with the Soviet Union and charged the Democrats with creating a quasi-socialist state at home. After his now-famous acceptance speech in which he stated, "Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice, and moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue," he was branded an extremist who could provoke nuclear war with the Soviet Union and suffered a resounding defeat.

In 1968 Barry was re-elected to the Senate and was re-elected again until he retired in 1987. He led the delegation of senior Republican politicians who on August 7, 1974, persuaded President Richard M. Nixon to resign from office.


Barry was active in supporting repeal of the Military Selective Service Act and in granting the right to vote to 18-year-olds. In the 1990s, the Arizona Senator supported abortion rights and called for tolerance for gays and their admittance into the military. Barry was promoted to the rank of Major General in the Air Force Reserve in 1962. He retired from the Air Force in 1967 after more than 37 years of both active and reserve duty.

Throughout his life, Barry Goldwater was widely admired for his willingness to speak bluntly -- no matter what the cost. By the time of his death in May 29, 1998 in Paradise Valley, Arizona, many members of the political pantheon of both parties had been publicly brought to task by his legendarily tart tongue.

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