To get a modern-day perspective on the euphoria Arizonans felt on Feb. 14, 1912, when they were granted statehood, try to imagine the Cardinals winning the Super Bowl. Or the Diamondbacks winning the World Series. Or the Suns at long last nailing the NBA Championship. The territory had lusted after the equal status that came with statehood much like a teenager waiting for his driver’s license.
Sen. Albert J. Beveridge, an Indiana Republican and the chairman of the Senate Committee on Territories, was the bane of Arizona. After a three-day fact-finding trip to the territory, he concluded it contained nothing but cactus, heat, rattlesnakes, Gila monsters, scorpions, hell-raising cowboys, cattle rustlers, murderous Native Americans, polygamous Mormons, illiterate Mexicans and Democrats.
On June 20, 1910, Congress passed the Enabling Act, allowing a constitutional convention for Arizonans. Progressive citizens included a provision for recall of elected officials in their constitution, if the voters so wanted. President Taft vetoed the act because of that. Once they removed it, Taft signed the proclamation the morning of Feb. 14. (After the signing, that provision was restored.)
The news that Arizona had become the 48th state — almost 62 years after California’s admission — arrived by telegraph at 8:55 a.m. that February day, and celebrators took to the streets.Washingtonians predicted it would be at least a century before the state would send anybody to D.C. who would make a difference. They were slightly off, especially when you consider Sens. Carl Hayden, Henry F. Ashurst, Ernest W. McFarland, Barry Goldwater, Paul Fannin, Jon Kyl, John McCain; Reps. John Rhodes, Morris Udall and Gabrielle Giffords; Secretaries of the Interior Stewart Udall and Bruce Babbitt; Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.
Not bad for a state full of reprobates.
Trimble is the official Arizona state historian.