Barry M Goldwater (1909-1998)
Aviator. Athlete. Adventurer. Author. Military Officer. Businessman. Ham Operator. Photographer. Politician.
Barry M. Goldwater was born in Phoenix, Arizona January 1, 1909. He attended grade school in Phoenix and at age 13, succeeded in setting up the first commercial radio transmitter in Arizona, KFDA – the 36th station licensed in the U.S. He attended high school at Staunton Military Academy in Virginia where he became an outstanding cadet and student athlete. He played football, ran track, and was captain of the record-setting swim team. After graduation, he enrolled at the University of Arizona. His academic career was cut short in 1929 by his father’s death whereupon he entered the family business, Goldwater’s Department Store. Starting as a junior clerk, Barry progressed to become President and eventually Chairman of the Board – a position he held until 1953.
He married Margaret (Peggy) Johnson of Muncie, Indiana in 1934. They had four children, Joanne, Barry Jr., Michael, and Margaret. Peggy died in 1985. In 1992, he married Susan Wechlser.
In 1940, he joined the Norman Nevills on a 42-day trip down the Green and Colorado Rivers and became the 71st person to travel from the headwaters of the Colorado to Lake Mead. His film, photographs, slides and lecture “Shooting the Rapids” took him to venues throughout Arizona. He drew large audiences, thus setting the stage for future political campaigns. His award-winning photography was exhibited worldwide and won him membership in the prestigious Royal Photographic Society.
Barry Goldwater’s military career spanned 37 years. He volunteered for active duty in 1942 but was rejected due to his age and previous athletic injuries. He persisted and eventually was assigned to Yuma, Arizona where he was a gunnery instructor and perfected a technique that increased target accuracy. He later became one of 10 pilots to fly P-47 Thunderbolts across the North Atlantic to Europe. He retired as a Major General in the U.S. Air Force Reserves. By the end of his career, he logged 15,000 hours of flight time, flew over 250 aircraft, and received numerous awards, medals, and commendations.
He launched his political career in 1949 on a Republican reform platform and won a seat on the Phoenix City Council. In 1952, Barry Goldwater challenged the incumbent Ernest McFarland and won a seat in the U.S. Senate. He served two terms then ran for President against Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964. Although defeated, Goldwater emerged as a political icon for the conservative movement and the Republican Party. He was re-elected to the Senate in 1968 and served until his retirement in 1986. He served on the Armed Forces, Intelligence, Indian Affairs, and the Commerce, Science and Transportation committees. These reflect his lifelong interests in aviation, amateur radio, technology, defense, national security, and Native American issues.
On May 29, 1998, Barry M. Goldwater died at home from complications of a stroke. His ashes were later scattered along the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon- a place much loved and visited by Arizona’s favorite son.