The Untold Story of an Arizona Legend
The political life of Ernest W. McFarland — lawyer, judge, senator, governor, Arizona Supreme Court justice, and businessman — is well documented. Less known is his life as a family man, country lawyer, rural judge, and visionary.
Author and historian Gary L. Stuart will have several book-signings for Call Him Mac: Ernest W. McFarland, the Arizona Years in late 2018 and early 2019. Contact (602) 466-3333 for details about upcoming events including:
December 8, 2018, 2:30-3:30pm – Mesa Book Festival
January 16, 2019, 6pm – Changing Hands Bookstore – Phoenix
January 27, 2019, 2pm – Pinal County Historical Society – Florence
January 28, 2019, 7pm – The Poisoned Pen Bookstore – Scottsdale
January 29, 2019, 6pm – University of Arizona – Tucson
March 2-3, 2019 – Tucson Festival of Books
March 30, 2019 – 75th Anniversary of the GI Bill
McFarland State Historic Park/Padilla Park.
Join the McFarland State Historic Park, Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce, American Legion Post 9 and the Town of Florence for a special event to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the signing of the GI Bill and the accomplishes of Ernest “Mac” McFarland. Arizona dignitaries, a presentation by the McFarland family, military parade, food, music, entertainment by local high school bands and more for all ages. Free to the public. For information or to sponsor, please call (520) 868-4496 or (520) 868-9433.
What others are saying…
“A former rural Arizona county judge, Mac was courteous, fair, impartial, and admired – something rarely seen in American politics today. In Washington he was liked and respected by his colleagues on both sides of the aisle. Mac was born on a small farm in Pottawatomie County, Oklahoma in 1894, attended country schools and worked long hours on the family farm. From those humble beginnings, Mac also overcame several personal tragedies, he rose Horatio Alger-like to become one of the most distinguished political figures in Twentieth Century America.” – Marshall Trimble, Arizona State Historian
“Arizona legal historian Gary L. Stuart has reached a new pinnacle of success with is latest biography, Call Him Mac: Ernest W. McFarland, the Arizona Years. Stuart’s scholarship and passion for the “service above self” life of Senator McFarland—and the role he played in shaping post-World War II America—and his beloved state of Arizona—will remind readers of why we owe so much to the “Greatest Generation.” – Stuart Rosebrook, Ph.D., author of At Work in Arizona: The First 100 Years
On Arizona Statehood Day, February 14, 2015, a new memorial was dedicated to Mac and to the hopes and dreams for all Americans.
The concept for the new memorial was developed by Phoenix architect Don W. Ryden, AIA. The focal point of the neoclassical design is a 24 foot Triumphal Arch representing the “Gateway to Opportunity” that Mac provided for so many Americans. Symbolism is used throughout the site to represent Mac’s professional accomplishments and personal hardships. Extensive research for the panels at the memorial depicting the chapters in his life was provided by historian Vincent Murray of Phoenix.
A memorial plaque at the site represents Mac’s reputation as a workhorse and a humble man who simply considered himself a public servant. Ernest William McFarland was born on October 9, 1894 near Earlsboro, Oklahoma and died on June 8, 1984, in Phoenix.
In the fall of 1920, Mac began his clerking for the law firm of Phillips, Cox, and Phillips, a law firm that included John Calhoun Phillips, who later became governor of Arizona. He passed the state bar exam while completing his law studies at Stanford University and began his practice in late 1921. A year later, he earned his Juris Doctorate degree but continued his studies towards a master’s degree in political science.
Mac was appointed Assistant Arizona Attorney General in 1923 and moved to Phoenix. The following year, he earned his Master of Arts in Political Science and successfully ran for the Pinal County Attorney. He then moved to Florence,the county seat, to take office.
During his second term as US Senator, Mac worked diligently in trying to secure Arizona’s Colorado River water rights. Though the Colorado River Compact had been created in 1922 to allocate the water from the river, Arizona had refused to sign it. With new legislation in motion to allocate water to Mexico, Arizona signed the compact in 1944.
Mac worked closely with fellow Arizona Senator Carl Hayden to develop bills to create the Central Arizona Project (CAP) and deliver Colorado River water to central Arizona. In 1947, he introduced Senate Bill 1175, but it failed to obtain the necessary hearings for passage. In 1949, he introduced Senate Bill 75, which passed the Senate but was defeated in the House. California was in competition with Arizona for the Colorado River waters and had a larger number of Representatives in the House due to its larger population. In 1951, Mac reintroduced Senate Bill 75. It was again defeated in the House.
The McFarland State Historic Park consists of a preserved courthouse and other buildings dating to the Arizona Territory period.
The small historic park is located in downtown Florence, Arizona on the corner of Main and Ruggles Streets. The original structure was built in 1878 with the addition of a jail in 1882 and the courthouse in 1891. The courthouse is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
McFarland purchased the old courthouse building in 1974, donated it to the state, and paid for its renovation. McFarland State Historic Park was opened and dedicated on October 10, 1979.
McFarland Park reopened February 2011 after repairs and renovations. It had been closed due to Arizona State Parks budget cuts.
Shortly after he returned from the Senate, Mac and several friends formed the Arizona Television Company to start a television station in Phoenix. McFarland had long been intrigued by the still-new medium.
In 1955, shortly after he became governor, he opened KTVK, Phoenix’s third television station. He chose the call letters “because TV would be our middle name.”
KTVK (Channel 3 Phoenix) was the ABC affiliate for much of Arizona until 1995, and then became one of the nation’s most successful independent stations. It remained in the hands of McFarland’s family until 1999.
National Veterans Magazine
Ernest McFarland and the American Dream
June 22, 2016
How Arizona Man Helped Pass GI Bill
Excerpt from transcript from Eight/KAET Arizona Stories
“McFarland committed his presentation before the Supreme Court to memory. And one of the things he did is he’s up all night writing notes and throwing them in the garbage. Now, archivists would just blanch at that, but he threw his notes away. But he went in before the Supreme Court, argued beautifully; Arizona won its motion.” Dr. Jack L. August, Jr. Arizona Capitol Museum
On March 3, 1963, a young woman was abducted and assaulted. Ten days later, police apprehended Ernest Arthur Miranda as a suspect. The victim selected Miranda from a police lineup. While being questioned by police, the suspect confessed to the crime against the young woman and an earlier robbery. A jury found Mr. Miranda guilty of the crimes. Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Yale McFate sentenced Mr. Miranda to two concurrent twenty- to thirty-year sentences for the kidnapping and assault counts and an additional twenty-five-year sentence for the robbery.
Ernest W. McFarland
McFarland’s grandson, John D. Lewis, told the Arizona Capitol Times the memorial replaces one that was dedicated in 1998 but has since fallen into disrepair. Lewis and McFarland’s other grandchildren led a fundraising effort to get the new memorial made.
McFarland was a senator between 1941 and 1953 until Barry Goldwater unseated him.
The Democrat then became governor and served from 1955 to 1959. He went on to become chief justice of the Arizona Supreme Court. McFarland founded KTVK in 1955.
He died in 1984 at the age of 89.