Arizona Centennial Top 10

10 Top Political Events in Arizona’s History

10 Top Political Events in Arizona’s History

Officially gaining its statehood February 14, 1912, Arizona became the 48th state in the Union.  With a history of the Wild West, Cowboys and Indians, and gorgeous sunsets, the Grand Canyon State has a long and impactful history.  In the political realm, Arizona has seen several major political events, policies and leaders in its 100 years of statehood, and these are the events we felt were the most influential.


1963: Arizona vs. California

It was in 1963 when the United States Supreme Court decision Arizona vs. California delegated water rights amongst local Indian reservations in the Grand Canyon Lower Basin. It was a landmark case and a topic of concern that had been a controversial subject matter in Nevada, California, Arizona, New Mexico and Utah government. Ultimately, it went on to help resolve an ongoing debate for control of the Colorado river.


1948: Native Americans officially granted the right to vote

A lawsuit was filed by a Native American who fought in World War II and ultimately led to voting equality in Arizona. In 1948, Frank Harrison and Harry Austin (Mohave-Apaches) at Fort McDowell Indian Reservation were denied voter registration and took the case to court, citing that their constitutional rights as American citizens had be violated. Native Americans had previously been exempt from proper voter registration, as they were deemed “wards of the government” – not independent citizens. They ultimately won and in effect overturned a 20-year-old court case (Porter v. Hall).

Native Americans gained the right to vote in 1948 in a Supreme Court case


1992: Martin Luther King Jr. Day

There had been much controversy surrounding New Hampshire and Arizona in the early ’90s as the only two states whom had not yet officially recognized the MLK Day. Ultimately, the National Football League relocated its Super Bowl XXVII plans from Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California in 1993 in the wake of media controversy. Eventually, the law was passed despite much controversy, and Arizona finally established Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a nationally recognized holiday for Arizonans.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Arizona


January 8, 1988: Republican Governor Evan Mecham of Arizona is impeached

Republican Governor Evan Mecham of Arizona was impeached in January of 1988 on charges of money laundering, perjury and failing to report $350,000 to a real estate developer (according to an October 1987 Arizona Republic story). After a string of controversial campaign decisions, however, he was acquitted on all six felony charges in June. Although he attempted to stay in the political and journalism sphere, he was never able to fully reenter.


1919: President Woodrow Wilson signed the Grand Canyon National Park Act

In 1919 Woodrow Wilson signed the Grand Canyon National Park Act, making Arizona’s Grand Canyon one of the nation’s oldest and most popular physical landmarks. Over 1,900 square miles, the National Park is also considered one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the world and attracts tourists of all walks of life to hike, climb, explore and vacation. A trademark of Arizona geography, the Grand Canyon Act has helped to preserve this natural wonder and allow its over five million annual visitors to experience a wonder of the world.

President Woodrow Wilson signed the Grand Canyon National Park Act


1964 Election: Barry Goldwater of Arizona runs for president

Republican Barry Goldwater of Arizona became the first Arizonan to run for President of the Untied States in 1964, after his party’s nomination. Known as “Mr. Conservative,” he was a harsh conservative when it came to fiscal responsibility and is credited with the Libertarian Party movement of the 1970’s.  Later in his political career, he was critical of his own Republican party of the 1980’s and it’s sudden explosion of religious influence. Although he later lost the election of 1964 to Lyndon B. Johnson, he would continue to have lasting influence in traditional Republican politics for decades to come, until his death in May of 1998.


January 16, 1917: The Zimmerman Telegram

Just prior to America’s involvement in WWI,  The Zimmerman Telegram was a secretive message sent from Germany to Mexico, stating that Mexico would regain Arizona as a territory if they aided Germany in the war. It was intercepted by British Intelligence, translated and sent to United States for analysis.  It was eventually release to the public in March, angering the American people. It dramatically influenced our foreign policy towards the Axis countries, catapulting the United States into WWI

The Zimmerman Telegram was an intercepted message from German officials, asking Mexico to join their war efforts in exchange for Arizona


September 30, 1935: The Hoover Dam was dedicated

The Hoover Dam began construction in 1931 during the Great Depression and was dedicated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1935. This 726.4-foot-tall dam spans the Colorado River between Nevada and Arizona, and supplies large amounts of electricity to Nevada, California and Arizona. According to the Department of the Interior, the Dam has a rated capacity of 2,998,000 horsepower, 17 turbines and 4.2 billion kilowatt-hours produced annually. It provides 15.4 percent of Los Angeles’ power and 18.9 percent of Arizona’s power every year. A necessity for Arizonans way of life, the Hoover Dam was a marvel of man that continues to bring energy to millions every year.


April 23, 2010/July 29, 2010: Arizona Senate Bill 1070

In April of 2010, Arizona Senate Bill 1070 was signed and went into effect under Republican Governor Jan Brewer later that year. A highly controversial bill, SB 1070 is the most stringent anti-immigration law in recent decades and allowed police officers to make arrests for “looking like” an illegal alien. Controversy surrounded its legality and accused the supporters of it of utilizing racial overtones in order to target Mexican immigrants as riots and marches throughout the Phoenix area captivated the nation. Hundreds of thousands of self-proclaimed illegal immigrants gathered in the Grand Canyon State in opposition to the bill in 2010, intensifying the immigration debate on all levels.

Arizona Senate Bill 1070


September 25, 1981: Sandra Day O’Connor is the first female member of the U.S. Supreme Court

On September 25, 1981, Sandra Day O’Connor became the first woman member of the U.S. Supreme Court and represented Arizona until her resignation on January 31, 2006. Born in El Paso, TX, she would go on to receive a B.A. in economics from Stanford University but was met with strong opposition due to her sex in multiple law firms after graduation. However, she would later become Attorney General of Arizona (1965 – 1969) and appointed to the Arizona State Senate in 1969. Eleven years later, she would be appointed the first woman Supreme Court Justice in U.S. history by President Ronald Reagan and continue to inspire women in politics for years to come.