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

Call Him Mac is available now on Amazon, and in bookstores nationwide. 

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…

Book Highlights Life of Arizona Senator and Governor Ernest ‘Mac’ McFarland – Interview with Steve Goldstein, October 25, 2018, KJZZ

Call Him Mac: Ernest W. McFarland, the Arizona Years – Reception and Book Signing, October 25, 2018, KTVK

Call Him Mac – new book about Ernest W. McFarland, October 21 and 24, 2018, KTVK

Remembering Ernest McFarland, KTVK, October 21, 2018

Popular Pinal Politician Became “Mac” in Florence – Pinal Central, October 17, 2018

Call Him Mac looks at little-known side of man who shaped AZ, founded KTVK – 3TV/CBS5, October 16, 2018

Phoenix Business RadioX podcast with author Gary L. Stuart and hostess Karen Nowicki, October 16, 2018

New book recounts early life of Chandler man’s granddad, SanTan Sun News, pp. 47 and 51, October 15, 2018

“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

Ernest W. McFarland and the American Dream… 

On Arizona Statehood Day, February 14, 2015, a new memorial was dedicated to Mac and to the hopes and dreams for all Americans. 

Learn More about Ernest W. McFarland and the American Dream

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.

“Official Memorial Plaque.”


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.

Mac and troopsArguably Mac’s greatest efforts were in preparation for the millions of returning veterans after World War II. Knowing that without employment and educational opportunities for vets that America would likely face an economic crisis, he drafted a bill that included provisions for home and business loans and educational benefits for returning vets. Read more
12-0024Ernest William McFarland (1894-1984) came to Arizona with only ten dollars in his pocket and became the only Arizonan to serve in the highest office in all three branches of government—two at the state level, one at the federal level. As US Senator, Senate Majority Leader, 10th Arizona Governor, Arizona Justice and later as Chief Justice, he was an American politician (Democrat) simply known as “Mac.”

McFarland-7During 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.

parkThe 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.[2]

McFarland Park reopened February 2011 after repairs and renovations. It had been closed due to Arizona State Parks budget cuts.

indexShortly 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.

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.

McFarland Dedication

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.