Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Ernest W. McFarland (1894 - 1984), an American politician and the "Father of the G.I. Bill", is the only American to serve in the highest office in all three branches of his state's government. He was a Democratic Arizona Senator from 1941 to 1953 (Majority Leader from 1951 to 1953) before serving as the Governor of Arizona from 1955 to 1959. Finally McFarland sat as Chief Justice on the Arizona Supreme Court from 1968 to 1970.
Born on a farm near Earlsboro, Oklahoma on October 9, 1894. McFarland attended the rural schools and graduated from East Central State Teachers' College, Ada, Oklahoma, in 1914 and from the University of Oklahoma at Norman, in 1917.
During the First World War he served in the United States Navy and nearly died of a bronchial infection and following surgery by navy surgeons was discharged in 1919 and sent to live in a drier climate. Thus, after the war McFarland moved to Phoenix, Arizona and was employed as a clerk in a bank. He gathered enough money to pay for tuition and graduated with a law and political science degree from Stanford University in 1921. He moved back to Arizona, passed the bar exam, and commenced practice in Casa Grande. He soon developed an expertise in agricultural and water-use legislation which would suit Arizona well in the future.
Rise to Prominence and Senatorship
After serving as the assistant attorney general of Arizona 1923-1924, county attorney of Pinal County 1925-1930, and judge of the superior court of Pinal County 1934-1940, McFarland entered the Senate race in 1940. The twenty-eight-year Democratic incumbent, Henry Ashurst , appeared to be unbeatable and did not launch an aggressive campaign to retain his seat. While Ashurst remained in Washington, McFarland canvassed the state, giving speeches on water issues and the war in Europe. By a three-to-one margin, he defeated Ashurst in the primary and went on to win the general election. Senator McFarland along with Senator Hayden lobbied successfully for the Central Arizona Project aimed at providing Arizona's share of the Colorado River to the state. Not forgetting his veteran roots, McFarland became interested in legislation to benefit veterans returning from World War II. He outlined his proposals before the American Legion in a speech in 1943 and worked to create support for his G.I. Bill with veteran's organizations and members of Congress.
By unanimous votes, the Senate and the House approved the legislation in March and May, respectively and, on June 22, 1944, President Franklin Roosevelt signed the G.I. Bill into law. McFarland was easily reelected Senator in 1946 and served as chairman of a Commerce subcommittee where he helped plan a post-war role for the U.S. in international communications and rewrote the Communications Act of 1934. After Democratic Majority Leader Scott W. Lucas failed to get reelected due to his link with Truman's administration, McFarland was appointed Senate Majority Leader from 1951 to his loss in 1953 to Barry Goldwater and the tide of Eisenhower conservatism.
Governor of Arizona and the Return to Law
Serving two terms as governor from 1955-1959, McFarland tried unsuccessfully to unseat Goldwater in 1958. He worked with members of the Board of Reclamations and others to pick a location for the Glen Canyon Dam and emphasized education during his two terms as Arizona governor. There after, he returned to his law practice and was elected associate justice of the Arizona Supreme Court in 1964. He took part in Miranda v. Arizona and became Chief Justice of the Arizona Supreme Court in 1968 till 1970 thus completing a political "grand slam."
Later Life and Death
In his mid-seventies he served as the director of Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco and president of the Arizona Television Company before dying in Phoenix on June 8, 1984 .
There is now a monument at the Arizona State Capital honoring him as the "Father of the G.I. Bill." Also, the McFarland State Historic Park in Florence, Arizona contains a preserved courthouse and other buildings from when Arizona was just a territory in 1878 that McFarland purchased and donated to the Arizona State Parks Board .
Sources and Links
- McFarland State Historic Park
- Arizona State Capital Monument
- Congress Biography
- Biography from the Senate
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