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Evan Mecham
Evan Mecham.jpg
17th Governor of Arizona
In office
January 6, 1987 – April 4, 1988
Preceded byBruce Babbitt
Succeeded byRose Perica Mofford
Member of the Arizona Senate
In office
Personal details
Born(1924-05-12)May 12, 1924
Duchesne, Utah, U.S.
DiedFebruary 21, 2008(2008-02-21) (aged 83)
Phoenix, Arizona, U.S.[1]
Resting placeNational Memorial Cemetery of Arizona, Phoenix, Arizona
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)Florence Lambert
ProfessionAutomotive dealer
Military service
Allegiance United States
US Army Air Corps Hap Arnold Wings.svg
U.S. Army Air Forces
Years of service1943–1945
US-O1 insignia.svg
Second Lieutenant
Battles/warsWorld War II

Evan Mecham (/ˈmkəm/ MEE-kəm; May 12, 1924 – February 21, 2008) was an American businessman and the 17th Governor of Arizona, serving from January 6, 1987, until his impeachment on April 4, 1988. A decorated veteran of World War II, Mecham was a successful automotive dealership owner and occasional newspaper publisher.[2] Periodic runs for political office earned him a reputation as a perennial candidate along with the nickname of "The Harold Stassen of Arizona" before he was elected governor, under the Republican banner.[3] As governor, Mecham was plagued by controversy and became the first U.S. governor to simultaneously face removal from office through impeachment, a scheduled recall election, and a felony indictment.[4] He was the first Arizona governor to be impeached.

Mecham served one term as a state senator before beginning a string of unsuccessful runs for public office. His victory during the 1986 election began with a surprise win of the Republican nomination, followed by a split of the Democratic party during the general election, resulting in a 3-way race. While Governor, Mecham became known for statements and actions that were widely perceived as insensitive to minorities.[5] Among these actions were the cancellation of the state's paid Martin Luther King Jr. Day and creating an unpaid King holiday on a Sunday, attributing high divorce rates to working women, and his defense of the word "pickaninny" in describing African American children. In reaction to these events, a boycott of Arizona was organized.[6] A rift between the Governor and fellow Republicans in the Arizona Legislature developed after the Arizona Republic newspaper made accusations of questionable political appointments and cronyism, accusations that Mecham contended were false.

Having served from January 6, 1987, to April 4, 1988, Mecham was removed from office following conviction in his impeachment trial on charges of obstruction of justice and misuse of government funds – funds that Mecham maintained were private. A later criminal trial acquitted Mecham of related charges. Following his removal from office, Mecham remained active in politics for nearly a decade. During this time, he served as a delegate to the Republican National Convention and made his final runs for Arizona Governor and also for the U.S. Senate.

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • Worst 10 American Governors
  • Prof. Quinn Mecham: Why Yemen Matters


I’m Mr. Beat, and I’m running for governor of Kansas in 2018. Here’s Chris Christie, the former governor of New Jersey. At one time, he was one of the most popular governors in the United States. However, by the time he left office, his approval rating had dropped all the way down to 14%. (Chris Christie clip) Many in New Jersey say he is the worst governor in their state’s history. But what about the worst governors in other states? Based on my research, here are the 10 worst governors in American history that I could find. Oh, and before we get into this list, I didn’t include the governors who are currently in office or recently got out of office. What can I say? We are always biased to have hatred to more recent politicians. #10 Edwin Edwards Governor of Louisiana from 1972 to 1980, 1984 to 1988, and 1992 to 1996, serving 16 years total in office, or 5,784 days, the sixth-longest amount of time in office for any governor since the Constitution. Widely considered one of the most corrupt governors in American history, he actually got caught for racketeering, extortion, money laundering, mail fraud, wire fraud, and conspiracy. He went to federal prison for eight years. He was unapologetic about receiving illegal campaign donations. He was accused of obstruction of justice and bribery. The only reason why Edwards is not higher up on my list is because is dedication to civil rights and protecting minorities and the poor. #9 Joel Aldrich Matteson Or MATTson. Both pronunciations are correct. I'll call him Mattyson because that's more fun. Oh Louisiana and Illinois. You both have a long history of electing corrupt and just, plain horrible governors. And Matteson is one of them. Governor of Illinois from 1853 to 1857, he actually had a few accomplishments during his tenure. This was when Illinois began public education, and Matteson oversaw a strong economy and the reduction of the state’s debt. However, after he got out of office people started to find out about his shadiness. You see, while in office, Matteson had found essentially IOU money in the form of scrips to pay for the Illinois and Michigan Canal. Even though scrips had already been cashed in, Matteson found out they could be used again due to poor record keeping. So he took a bunch of them for himself and cashed them in later on. They were like blank checks from the state. It was later estimated, that Matteson stole at least $5 million this way, adjusted for inflation. He would have probably stolen more if it weren’t for getting caught. So Matteson stole a bunch of taxpayer money. Oh yeah, and Abraham Lincoln hated him, too, so there’s that. #8 Peter Hardeman Burnett California’s first governor, and probably its worst. He was also the first California governor to resign, in office for just 14 months, from late 1849 to early 1851. He wanted the American West for whites only, supporting laws that banned blacks from living in Oregon when he lived up there and trying to get laws passed in California to ban blacks from living there after it became a state under his watch. He was also outspokenly racist toward Native Americans and Chinese immigrants. He pushed for heavy taxes on immigrants and for Indian removal. Oh, and he wanted the death penalty for theft. Peter, you were not a good start for California. #7 George Wallace Yeah, you’ve probably heard of George Wallace, he’s one of the most infamous in American history and ran for President several times. He was even in Forrest Gump. But if you want a great bio about him, I recommend this video by Connor Higgins. He’s most infamously known for the “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, and segregation forever” and racist stuff of his tenure, in which he embraced the KKK and basically argued that blacks and whites being in the same room was one of the worst things ever. He even freaking stood in front of a door to prevent black students from attending classes at the University of Alabama. But here’s the thing...he lost his first race for governor because he criticized the KKK and spoke out for African Americans. Later in life, after being paralyzed in an assassination attempt, he reversed his ways also by condemning his past racism. This just makes me assume he said whatever the majority of people wanted to hear in his state to get elected. George Wallace, were you racist or were you not? Ok yeah I think he truly was, though. He was so power hungry he got his wife elected after he couldn’t run for re-election due to term limit laws, and to do so, he hid her cancer diagnosis from her. She ended up dying less than 200 days after she took office. The bottom line is, George Wallace was as us vs. them as one could get. He knew how to divide Americans not only in Alabama, but across the country. Wallace would be higher up on this list if not for changing later in life, asking forgiveness from African Americans. "I was wrong. Those days are over, and they ought to be over." #6 Orval Faubus From one Southern racist governor to another, but at least this one has a cool name. Faubus was governor or Arkansas from 1955 to 1967. Now Faubus really just had one major decision that tainted his legacy Similar to Wallace, he was more about his political power, starting out more moderate when it came to civil rights issues, then all of sudden taking a firm pro-segregation stance after the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision. In 1957, he became internationally infamous in what is known as the Little Rock Crisis. After the federal government ordered racial desegregation, he was like, “nope,” sending the Arkansas National Guard to stop African Americans from attending Little Rock Central High School. President Eisenhower had to send in federal troops to escort them in. And then at the end of the year, the school shut down. What’s frustrating about Faubus is that he really didn’t seem that racist. He just stubbornly did the wrong thing fueled the hatred of blacks in the South. And he never apologized for it, like Wallace did. #5 Lilburn Boggs Governor of Missouri from 1836 to 1840 Boggs is best known for Missouri Executive Order 44, or as many Mormons call it, the “Extermination Order.” It was a response to the growing violence during what became known as the 1838 Mormon War, a series of clashes between Mormons and those they threatened in northeast Missouri. Governor Boggs issued the order to drive Mormons out of the state because of their “open and avowed defiance of the laws, and of having made war upon the people of this State.” He also added, “The Mormons must be treated as enemies, and must be exterminated or driven from the State if necessary for the public peace.” Geez, dude. And yep, it worked. The Mormons fled to the town of Nauvoo, Illinois. Other great stuff about Boggs. He wasted a bunch of taxpayer money building a new capitol. Oh, and he almost caused a war with Iowa Territory due to a border dispute. Actually, it was known as a war. The Honey War. Awwww, what a sweet name for a war. #4 Len Small Well, here we go. Another Illinois governor. In office during the Roaring Twenties, from 1921 to 1929. His corruption started long before he was governor, back when he was the Illinois Treasurer. He was charged with embezzling over a million dollars through money laundering, by “misplacing” state funds into a fake bank. He went to trial for it while he was governor, and despite there being pretty good evidence that he was guilty, got off scot-free. Coincidentally, eight of the jurors who said he was not guilty in his trial later got cushy state jobs, and so did the brothers of the judge in that case. Coincidence? In 1925, when the Illinois Supreme Court said that yep, Small was guilty and he had to pay back that $1 million after all, Small fought back with a legal team and forced his own state employees to help pay for his defense. Small pardoned or released more than 1000 convicted felons, including a dude who was convicted of kidnapping young girls and making them slaves in which they were forced to be prostitutes. Also, Small released a bootlegger who later became the leader of one of the most powerful bootlegging gangs in Chicago. Oh Lenny. I can’t make this stuff up, can I? #3 Wilson Lumpkin Another great name, another bad governor. He was in office for the lovely state of Georgia from 1831 to 1835. He thought his biggest accomplishment, you know, something he was most proud of, was the removal of the peaceful Cherokee Indians from north Georgia. Yep, he was proud of kicking the Cherokee off their land, which led to the Trail of Tears and eventual death of 4,000 people. Wow, Wilson. Just wow. Did I mention he went against the Supreme Court by kicking them out? Check out that decision, by the way, I have a video about that called Worcester v. Georgia. He encouraged white settlers to take their land while they were still there. And did I mention he was a big supporter of slavery? Of course he was. And speaking of slavery... For #2, it’s a tie. In fact, 28 governors all tie for #2 on this list. They are the 28 Southern governors who all agreed to secede from the Union and become leaders in the Confederate States of America during the Civil War. Here are their names. I’m not going to read them off for you, but all of them declared allegiance to the Confederacy in the name of preserving the institution of slavery. I’m not going to call them traitors, because they didn’t think they were traitors. But they were wrong, and in my opinion, they do not deserve to be honored. And this last one will likely surprise you… #1 Brigham Young If you’re one of his 1,000 direct descendants, I’m pretty sure you are going to be offended by what I’m about to say. And if you’re Mormon, well I talked trash about Boggs earlier so hopefully this evens out. In case you didn’t know, Brigham Young was governor of the Territory of Utah from 1851 to 1858. Governor? Dictator might be a better word. I mean, he had absolute power. And there was no separation of church and state, it was a theocracy. After he led his Mormon followers into what is now known as Utah, and before the Feds go involved, whatever he said went. He argued slavery was a “divine institution.” Yep, people forget Utah used to allow slavery. Ok, and obviously the polygamy thing. He had 55 wives, for crying out loud. After he couldn’t convert the local Native American population to the Church of Latter Day Saints, he basically ordered to kill them. Yep. Genocide. Ethnic cleansing. And under his watch, the Mountain Meadows Massacre happened. Just Google it. It’s horrific, and it caused him to step down as governor. When the federal government came to challenge him during the Utah War, Young declared marital law and told his followers they may have to burn down their homes, hide in the woods, and conduct guerilla warfare to defend their way of life. He maybe started out as a nice guy, but in the end I think the power corrupted him, as power tends to do. So that’s it. I’m sure that last one surprised you, probably because you didn’t realize how horrible Brigham Young was or maybe you didn't realize he was a governor for a short while. He does have tons of monuments out there celebrating him and even a university named after him that’s one of the biggest universities in the country. Before I go, I want to point out that I was fairly out of my comfort zone when researching for this video There are so many governors in American history. that it's really hard to keep track of them. Plus, there's a lot of really bad ones and a lot of governors that we don't know much about in the early years. So if there are any governors that I did not include, that I totally missed please let me know in the comments. I will not be offended. Just let it all out. I do have a list of honorable mentions. Or should I say "DIShonorable mentions." That I included in the description of this video. They didn't quite make the cut. But as far as I know, this is the only video out there about the worst governors in American history. And thank you to Ian for giving me the idea. This video is dedicated to him. And to his mom. Thank you to you both for your support on Patreon. It means so much. I'll be back with a new episode of Supreme Court Briefs next week. Thank you for watching. And there's just one more thing. I'm really not running for Kansas governor in 2018. I just made that up.


Early life and business career

Evan Mecham was born to Mormon parents in Mountain Home, Utah, and raised on his family's farm.[7] The youngest of five boys, with one younger sister, he graduated as salutatorian from Altamont High School in 1942 and enrolled in Utah State Agricultural College (now Utah State University) on an agricultural scholarship. Mecham left college and joined the U.S. Army Air Corps in January 1943. He was trained as a P-38 Lightning fighter pilot before being transferred to England, where he flew P-51 Mustangs. Mecham was shot down on March 7, 1945, while flying escort on a photo reconnaissance mission and was held as a prisoner of war for 22 days.[8] Mecham returned to the United States after recovering from injuries sustained in the lead-up to his capture, and received an Air Medal and Purple Heart for his service.[5] Mecham married Florence Lambert in May 1945 and was discharged in December of the same year.[9] Together, the couple raised seven children: Suzanne, Dennis, Christine, Eric, Teresa, Kyle and Lance.[10]

As a result of his Mormon upbringing, Mecham developed and maintained a strong religious faith. He taught Sunday school and served as a lay bishop in the LDS church from 1957 to 1961.[9] Part of his faith was that God would guide his actions and provide him the strength needed to endure. These beliefs were in part demonstrated during his time as governor when one staff member reported hearing a conversation in Mecham's office before entering the room to find the Governor alone. Another staff member, Donna Carlson, reported that Mecham believed he had obtained office by divine right and was thus not overly concerned about the feelings of others.[11]

Mecham enrolled at Arizona State College (now Arizona State University) in 1947 and majored in management and economics. In 1950, he left school 16 credit hours short of a degree to start Mecham Pontiac and Rambler in Ajo.[12] Mecham relocated to Glendale in 1954 where he acquired and operated a Pontiac dealership until he sold it in March 1988. As a dealer, he appeared regularly in local television commercials and adopted his trademark motto of "If you can't deal with Mecham, you just can't deal." The Glendale dealership served as a base for other family-owned businesses, including Mecham Racing, Hauahaupan Mining Company and several auto dealerships in other states.[10]

In addition to his auto dealership, Mecham owned several short-lived newspapers. One of his papers, the Evening American, was printed as a Phoenix daily with maximum circulation of 27,000 before becoming a weekly journal. As a newspaper publisher trying to break into the Phoenix and Tucson markets, Mecham testified before the U.S. Senate Antitrust and Monopoly subcommittee on July 13, 1967. This testimony was in response to a bill sponsored by U.S. Senator Carl Hayden that provided partial immunity from the Sherman Antitrust Act, allowing an economically healthy newspaper and one that was failing to form a joint venture combining advertising, printing, and distribution operations while maintaining separate reporting and editorial functions. While supporters of the bill claimed it would prevent newspaper failures, Mecham opposed the bill claiming "The major reason that this bill has been presented is because of the power of the press over the decisions of voters at the polls, and the desire of politicians to court the favor of those who control these monopolistic presses." He also added that "the tools of monopoly are in the common advertising and the common circulation department."[13]

Political career

Mecham first sought elected office in 1952, while still living in Ajo, with an unsuccessful run for the Arizona House of Representatives. After moving to Glendale, Mecham used the recognition gained from his television appearances to be elected to the Arizona Senate during the 1960 election.[10] After one term as a state senator, in 1962 Mecham attempted to capture the U.S. Senate seat held by Carl Hayden, running on a platform demanding the United States withdraw from the United Nations and critical of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling limiting school prayer.[9] The campaign first saw Mecham win a victory in the Republican primary over Stephen Shadegg, a former campaign manager for Barry Goldwater. Goldwater remained neutral. In the general election, Mecham received only tepid support from his party because of the value of Hayden's Senate seniority in passing legislation for the proposed Central Arizona Project.[10] Mecham was defeated in the general election but still polled 45 percent of the vote.[14]

Evan Mecham's house located at 5741 West Harmont Drive in Glendale, Arizona
Evan Mecham's house located at 5741 West Harmont Drive in Glendale, Arizona

Following his campaign against Hayden, Mecham made an unsuccessful run for state chairman of the Republican party in 1963 and unsuccessful runs for governor of Arizona in 1964, 1974, 1978, and 1982.[15] In these four runs, Mecham gained the Republican nomination only for the 1978 election.[16] He developed a political doctrine supporting Jeffersonian democracy and advocating elimination of income taxes, return of federal lands to state control, removing federal involvement in education, and putting welfare under state control.[17] In 1982, Mecham wrote his first book, Come Back America, in which he discusses his earlier life and political views.[18]

In his fifth try for governor, Mecham ran as a political outsider using his standard platform advocating political reform and tax relief. Mecham's opponent in the Republican primary, Burton Barr, had served as the Speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives. Barr had the support of the state GOP leadership, including Barry Goldwater and John McCain. Mecham's core support came from fellow Mormons and the ultraconservative John Birch Society. A sizable portion of the state's retired population joined this core support with Mecham's promises of tax cuts. Because of Arizona's substantial transient population—only about half of the registered voters in 1986 were living in the state in 1980—Mecham's record of previous attempts to gain elected office was not widely known by the voters.[19] The primary election also saw the lowest voter turnout in nearly forty years due to unusual rain. Mecham overcame a fifteen-point deficit in the polls to win the Republican nomination with 54% of the vote.[20][21] Barr failed to spend much of his campaign war chest in the primary, ending his campaign with over a million dollars on hand.

The general election of 1986 saw a three-way race for governor. The Democratic Party had selected the state Superintendent of Public Education, Carolyn Warner, as its candidate. Dissatisfaction among the state's business and political leadership with both candidates allowed Bill Schulz, a real estate developer and Democrat who had withdrawn from the Democratic primary because of a family illness,[22] to obtain enough petition signatures to run as an independent candidate. Six years earlier, Schulz had nearly defeated longtime U.S. Senator Barry Goldwater. Goldwater was slow to endorse Mecham in this race, but did so officially at a dinner in Lake Havasu City, Arizona. During the campaign, the Arizona Automobile Dealers Association's ethics committee placed Mecham's dealership on probation for being chronically tardy in responding to complaints.[23] The Democratic split caused by Schulz's re-entry allowed Mecham's campaign to survive.[24] Mecham won the election with a 40% plurality while Warner and Schulz received 34% and 26% respectively.[25]


Mecham was inaugurated on January 6, 1987. Among his claimed successes were the opening of a trade office in Taiwan that allowed for a $63 million cotton export contract and strengthening drug abuse prevention efforts through legislation allowing the governor to appoint pro tem judges to deal with drug-related issues. The governor also spearheaded an effort within the National Governor's Association to raise the speed limit on rural highways from 55 mph (90 km/h) to 65 mph (105 km/h)[26] and supported a legislative bill to prevent takeover of Arizona businesses. During Mecham's term of office, a $157 million budget deficit was eliminated by reductions in state spending.[27][28][29]

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Evan Mecham gained national attention several days after inauguration by fulfilling his campaign promise to cancel a paid Martin Luther King, Jr. Day holiday (MLK Day) for state employees. The holiday had been created in May 1986 by executive order from the previous governor, Bruce Babbitt, after the state legislature had voted not to create the holiday. Following the creation of the holiday, the state Attorney General's office issued an opinion that the paid holiday was illegal and threatened to sue the incoming governor over the cost of the paid holiday, as it had not been approved by the legislature. Despite the issues of the legality of how the holiday was created, Mecham replied to comments from civil rights activists and the black community after the cancellation by saying "King doesn't deserve a holiday." This was followed by him telling a group of black community leaders, "You folks don't need another holiday. What you folks need are jobs."[30][31]

In reaction to the cancellation, a protest march to the state capital was held on January 19, 1987, the day the holiday would have occurred. Conventions scheduled to be held in Arizona were canceled, and performer Stevie Wonder and writer Harlan Ellison separately announced that they would boycott the state. The rap group Public Enemy released a song in regard to the cancellation of the MLK holiday titled "By the Time I Get to Arizona"; in the video for the song, the group was seen assassinating Mecham by planting a bomb underneath his limousine and detonating it by remote control. The Irish rock band U2, which performed a concert at the State University in Tempe in early April 1987, joined in with the chorus of condemnation of the Governor, publicly announcing that they had donated money to the impeachment campaign, and having him denounced from the stage by a spokesman to their audience and the attending press, television and radio outlets.[32]

After several months of criticism, Mecham declared a non-paid holiday on the third Sunday in January. Reaction in the state to the non-paid holiday was generally poor.[19]

Relations with legislature

Although both houses of the state legislature were controlled by fellow Republicans, Mecham was on poor terms with state lawmakers. He repeatedly asserted that he was under no obligation to cooperate with the legislature, that he was answerable only to the United States Constitution—which, he believed, had been divinely revealed.[33] Several of Mecham's appointments to key executive positions—submitted without consultation with legislative leaders—were found to have highly questionable credentials. Examples included Alberto Rodriguez, his choice to head the Department of Liquor Licenses and Control, who was under investigation for murder;[34] the director of the Department of Revenue, whose company was in arrears by $25,000 on employment compensation payments;[22] the proposed supervisor of prison construction, who had served prison time for armed robbery;[35] and a former Marine, nominated as a state investigator, who had been court-martialled twice.[28] Other political appointees who caused Mecham embarrassment were an education adviser, James Cooper, who told a legislative committee, "If a student wants to say the world is flat, the teacher doesn't have the right to prove otherwise";[19][36] and Sam Steiger, Mecham's special assistant, who was charged with extortion.[28]

Mecham's legislative initiatives suffered due to his poor relations with the legislature. His proposal to cut the state's sales tax by one percentage point—a key campaign promise—failed, largely because Mecham did not specify which programs would lose funding, thus preventing lawmakers from determining how their constituencies would be affected.[27][37] His proposed $2.3 billion budget, which cut education funding and froze state employee salaries, was increased by $200 million by the legislature.[27][36] Mecham lost further support by vetoing bills sponsored by key legislators, such as Senate Majority Leader Bob Usdane. "I'd say that the cooperation was not great", Usdane said, "but it's his prerogative". House Majority Leader Jim Ratliff, who had previously been a Mecham supporter, was a veto victim as well. "My only message to the governor is, if he thinks that people advising him to veto [my bill] can help him run the state of Arizona better than I can, then let them", he said in a statement.[38]

Other incidents

Besides the uproar caused by the MLK Day cancellation, Mecham was racist in other ways as well. Claims of prejudice were made against Mecham after he defended the use of the racist word "pickaninny" to describe black children, claimed that high divorce rates were caused by working women, claimed America is a Christian nation to a Jewish audience, and said a group of visiting Japanese businessmen got "round eyes" after being told of the number of golf courses in Arizona. In response to claims that he was a racist, Mecham said, "I've got black friends. I employ black people. I don't employ them because they are black; I employ them because they are the best people who applied for the cotton-picking job."[30] These and other statements only strengthened the allegations of racism made against the governor following the MLK day cancellation.

Mecham made an issue of his relationship with the press. Claiming that many of his problems were caused by media enemies he had made during previous runs for political office, the governor stated, "The Phoenix newspaper monopoly has had my political destruction as its goal for many years."[27][39] The governor also claimed, "Every daily newspaper in the state endorsed a different candidate besides me. It's taking them a little time to get used to the idea that I was the people's choice."[36] In response to his perceived mistreatment by the press, Mecham attempted to ban a journalist from his press conferences. John Kolbe, a political columnist for the Phoenix Gazette and brother of Congressman Jim Kolbe, was declared a "non-person" after a February 25, 1987, column critical of Mecham's performance at the National Governors Association. The Governor then refused to acknowledge the presence of the columnist or answer his questions at a press conference. Mecham left the conference after other reporters repeated Kolbe's questions.[36] Another incident occurred during a televised event in which a reporter questioned the governor's integrity, prompting Mecham to reply, "Don't you ever ask me for a true statement again."[30] An aide later asserted that the press "largely misunderstood" Mecham's retort. "Of course, the governor should not have said that, especially with the TV cameras rolling," he wrote. "In that heated context, what Mecham was telling Sam Stanton was not to challenge his honesty and integrity. Mecham often said the wrong thing, but he never lied."[40]

In September 1987, Mecham received further national attention when Doonesbury began a six strip series of comics lampooning the governor. The first strip depicted Mecham saying, "My! What a cute little pickaninny!" while patting the head of a black child. Other strips satirized Mecham's tolerance of others, political appointments, and the state's loss of tourism business. For a short time, Mecham considered suing the strip's creator, but later said he had decided to leave the dispute "where it belongs—the funny pages."[19][27]

Throughout his administration, Mecham expressed concern about possible eavesdropping on his private communications. A senior member of Mecham's staff broke his leg after falling through a false ceiling he had been crawling over, looking for covert listening devices. A private investigator was hired to sweep the governor's offices looking for bugs. The Governor was quoted as saying, "Whenever I'm in my house or my office, I always have a radio on. It keeps the lasers out." After this was reported, a political cartoon by Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist Steve Benson appeared in the Arizona Republic depicting the governor leaving his house outfitted for laser tag. When asked about this by reporters, Attorney General Bob Corbin replied in amusement, "We don't have any ray gun pointed at him."[30]

Economic impact

Publicity over Mecham's faux pas led to the state experiencing adverse economic effects. Tourism suffered when groups and conventions transferred their meetings out of Arizona. In November 1987, a Phoenix-area convention bureau claimed that Mecham's policies on Martin Luther King Day had caused the cancellation of 45 conventions worth over $25 million.[28] One of these cancellations was a National Basketball Association convention in Phoenix. In response to the cancellation, Mecham was quoted to say "Well, the N.B.A. I guess they forget how many white people they get coming to watch them play."[41]

Public perception of Mecham also slowed down economic development outside the tourism industry. Several corporations looking for locations to build new facilities, including US West and SEMATECH, expressed concern that the governor's statements might indicate problems in the local business climate. The executive director of the Phoenix Economic Growth Corp., Ioanna T. Morfessis, stated "When companies look at a state's environment they don't want anything that sounds to them like the state isn't working right." As the controversy surrounding the governor built even the business interests within the state abandoned support for him. As the chairman of the state chamber of commerce, William L. Raby, observed "We usually back Republicans, but he's a different kind of Republican."[27]

Removal efforts

While criticism plagued Governor Mecham for most of his time in office, it was not until he had been in office for six months that his nominal allies began to break ranks with him. In July 1987, the same month the recall effort officially began, a group of thirteen rank-and-file Republican members of the state legislature met to discuss the governor's image problems. Eleven members of the group, dubbed the Dirty Dozen by the local press, issued a joint statement critical of many of the governor's efforts.[42] Calls for the governor's resignation followed several months afterwards, with former U.S. Senator Barry Goldwater leading the way on October 9, 1987.[19] As Mecham's problems continued to build, other Arizona political leaders, including Congressman Jon Kyl and Senator John McCain, made appeals for Mecham to step down, but the governor steadfastly refused to leave office.[43]

Recall drive

The Mecham Watchdog Committee was organized in January 1987 and changed its name to the Mecham Recall Committee in May 1987. Pursuant to the Arizona Constitution, a recall petition may not be circulated against an official unless he has been in office for at least six months, except that a legislator may be recalled after he has been in office for five days.[44] These petitions needed a number of signatures equal to 25% of votes cast during the official's last election to cause a recall election. On July 6, 1987, the first day that petitions could be circulated, the recall committee began an effort to collect 350,000 signatures, significantly more than the 216,746 signatures required. The recall committee was led by Ed Buck, a registered Republican and gay businessman living in the Phoenix area. In response, Mecham claimed the recall supporters were "a band of homosexuals and dissident Democrats." Mecham supporters printed bumper stickers reading "Queer Ed Buck's Recall" after learning of the recall leader's sexual orientation. Mecham also mailed 25,000 letters during September to conservatives nationwide requesting that they move to Arizona and support him in case a recall election were held.[19][45]

The recall tended to gather signatures in bursts, with most signatures occurring shortly after some action of the governor offended a segment of the state's voters. Anger toward the governor grew to the point that on August 15, Mecham's appearance at Sun Devil Stadium before an exhibition NFL game resulted in cries of "Recall! Recall!" combined with catcalls. By mid-September, signatures in excess of the minimum required had been collected at roadside locations despite the 115 °F (46 °C) afternoon heat of the Arizona summer.[19][46] Signature collection continued for the full 120-day period allowed for by state law. On November 2, the recall committee turned in 32,401 petitions containing 388,988 signatures (more than the 343,913 votes Mecham had received during his election). After the Secretary of State's office received the petitions, Mecham refused to waive verification of the signatures, forcing the petitions to be sent to the counties for verification. On January 26, 1988, Secretary of State Rose Mofford reported to Mecham that 301,032 signatures had been verified—a quantity sufficient to force a recall election.[47] A recall election was scheduled for May 17, 1988, and former Republican Congressman John Rhodes agreed to run against Mecham.[48]

Impeachment and criminal charges

On October 21, 1987, the Arizona Republic ran a story claiming that Mecham had failed to report a $350,000 loan from local real-estate developer Barry Wolfson to Mecham's election campaign as required by campaign financing laws.[49] These claims were added to a grand jury investigation into allegations that Mecham had loaned $80,000 in public funds to help his auto dealership.[50] Upon learning of the alleged Wolfson loan, the Speaker of Arizona's House of Representatives hired a special counsel to investigate the charges.[51] The third and final impeachment charge involved an alleged death threat to a government official by Horace Lee Watkins, a Mecham appointee, in November 1987. When Mecham was informed of the threat, it was reported that he instructed the head of the Arizona Department of Public Safety not to provide information on the incident to the attorney general.[52]

On January 8, 1988, a grand jury issued indictments against Evan Mecham and Willard Mecham, the Governor's brother and campaign finance manager, charging three counts of perjury, two counts of fraud, and one count of failing to report a campaign contribution. Mecham and his brother faced 22 years in prison if convicted on all charges.[53][54]

The special counsel appointed by the Speaker of the House delivered his report to the House on January 15.[53] Based on this report, the House began hearings into possible impeachment proceedings on January 19.[50] These resulted in the passing of House Resolution 2002 on February 8 by a vote of 46 to 14.[55] Upon Mecham's impeachment by the House, his powers as governor were suspended and Mofford became acting governor. Arizona has no lieutenant governor, so the secretary of state stands first in the order of succession if he or she has been popularly elected.[55]

The Arizona State Senate convened as a court of impeachment on February 29.[56] Mecham's supporters compared the impeachment trial to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.[57] The charges against Mecham in the impeachment trial were obstruction of justice, filing a false statement, and misuse of government funds. The false filings charge was dropped by the Senate on a vote of 16 to 12.[58] Arguably, the testimony most damaging to Mecham was his own, during which he repeated his assertion that the Legislature had no authority over him, and berated individual legislators.[33] On April 4, the Senate convicted Mecham on obstruction of justice by a vote of 21 to 9, and on misusing government funds by a vote of 26 to 4. The Senate then voted 17 to 12 to disqualify Mecham from holding state office again, but that was short of the two-thirds majority required for passage.[59] Upon conviction, Mecham was removed from office and Mofford became Governor of Arizona. The recall election was canceled by the Arizona Supreme Court in a 4 to 1 ruling that the constitutionally mandated order of succession took precedence over the state's recall provisions.[60]

The criminal case against Mecham and his brother went to trial on June 2. Attorneys who analyzed the proceedings later concluded that the Mechams' lawyers' most successful strategy was keeping their clients off the witness stand.[61] The jury found that prosecutors failed to prove that the Mechams knowingly erred on their campaign reports, and acquitted the brothers on all six felony charges on June 10.[62]

Later life and legacy

Grave site of Evan Mecham (May 12, 1924 – February 21, 2008) and Florence L. Mecham (May 5, 1925 – September 4, 2012).
Grave site of Evan Mecham (May 12, 1924 – February 21, 2008) and Florence L. Mecham (May 5, 1925 – September 4, 2012).

Following his removal from office and acquittal in his criminal trial, Mecham remained active in politics for several years. He served as an at-large delegate to the 1988 Republican National Convention[63] and in 1990 he made an unsuccessful attempt to regain the governor's office. In 1992, he received one nomination vote for President of the United States at the Constitution Party National Convention, and then made a run for the U.S. Senate as an independent against incumbent John McCain, receiving 145,361 votes (about 10%). In 1995, Mecham became chairman of the Constitutionalist Networking Center, a group attempting to create a grassroots organization called the Constitutionally Unified Republic for Everybody (CURE). CURE advocated political candidates supporting a strict interpretation of the United States Constitution.[17]

Mecham spent several years attempting to start a new newspaper, but was unable to secure sufficient financial backing.[64] In 1999, Mecham wrote his third book, Wrongful Impeachment. Health issues, such as Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease, first reported in 2004, forced Mecham's withdrawal from the public arena and his commitment to the dementia unit of the Arizona State Veteran's Home in Phoenix.[65] Evan Mecham died on February 21, 2008.[1][66] A successful business career left him relatively well-off at the time of his death.[67] He is interred at the National Memorial Cemetery of Arizona alongside his wife, who died in 2012.[68]

The canceled Martin Luther King Day served as a point of controversy for years following Mecham's removal from office. In 1989, an Arizona law making a MLK holiday by canceling the state's Columbus Day holiday was challenged by two different groups, one opposed to the King holiday due to King's communist ties and the other composed of Italian-Americans opposed to the removal of the Columbus Day holiday, and the new holiday was forced to undergo voter approval.[69] Neither of the two competing ballot initiatives during the 1990 election—one removing the Columbus Day holiday to make way for a new MLK day holiday, the other to add an extra paid holiday—managed to obtain a required majority even though 65% of voters supported at least one form of the holiday. In response to the voters' rejection of a King holiday, Arizona tourist officials estimated that concert and convention business worth $190 million were canceled and the National Football League moved Super Bowl XXVII, worth an estimated US $150 million from the state, to Pasadena, California. Another initiative in 1992 succeeded in creation of a statewide MLK day holiday (without removing Columbus Day).[70] Afterwards, the NFL awarded Super Bowl XXX to Arizona.

Arizona's election laws were affected by Mecham's legacy. In 1988, Arizona voters passed an initiative that amended the state constitution to require a runoff election when no candidate received a majority of the votes in a general election.[71] This runoff requirement came into play during the 1990 election of Fife Symington,[72] who defeated Democratic candidate Terry Goddard but fell just shy of a majority because of a minor independent candidate. The amendment requiring the runoff was repealed by the voters in 1992.[73]

Mecham's former press secretary argued, in retrospect, that his overriding legacy was unfair:

The tragic fact ... is that Mecham will be remembered as an incompetent, bumbling bigot who got what he deserved. But ... he had some charming personal qualities. He had a genuine interest in helping the disadvantaged. He understood economic development far better than his predecessor, Bruce Babbitt, or his successor, Rose Mofford. He believed in economic equality for all races and minorities, arguing this would be necessary before political and social equality could be achieved. He was deeply troubled by rampant drug abuse. And, his pet project this year [1988] would have been a statewide campaign to help illiterate adults learn to read. This side of Mecham was lost in a fog of controversy that he helped create.[74]


  1. ^ a b Sullivan, Patricia (February 23, 2008). "Evan Mecham, 83; Was Removed as Arizona Governor". The Washington Post.
  2. ^ Biggers, Jeff (2017-02-14). "Arizona Once Elected A Governor Like Trump... And Impeached Him". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2018-08-20.
  3. ^ Johnson, p. 38.
  4. ^ Watkins, p. 11.
  5. ^ a b Johnson, p. 36.
  6. ^ Chu, Dan (August 24, 1987). "Arizona's Outspoken New Governor, Evan Mecham, Seems to Enjoy Diving Straight into Political Hot Water". People. 28 (8).
  7. ^ Flannery, Pat; Crawford, Amanda J. (February 22, 2008). "Former Arizona Gov. Evan Mecham dies at 83". The Arizona Republic.
  8. ^ Watkins, p. 25.
  9. ^ a b c "The Lost Coattails". Time. 80: 24. September 21, 1962.
  10. ^ a b c d Johnson, p. 37.
  11. ^ Watkins, pp. 27–28.
  12. ^ Jennings, p. 169.
  13. ^ Herbers, John (July 14, 1967). "Arizona Publisher Says Papers In His State Dictate to Politicians". The New York Times. p. 41:2.
  14. ^ "The Voting for United States Senate". The New York Times. November 11, 1962.
  15. ^ Jennings, pp. 169, 171.
  16. ^ Watkins, pp. 28–36.
  17. ^ a b Dougherty, John (July 6, 1995). "None Dare Call it Reason: Arizona is a Hotbed of Constitutionalist Dissent, And Here are Four Who Fuel the Patriot Flame". Phoenix New Times. Archived from the original on November 2, 2004.
  18. ^ Johnson, p. 39.
  19. ^ a b c d e f g Weisman, Alan (November 1, 1987). "Up in Arms in Arizona". The New York Times. p. VI 50:4.
  20. ^ Watkins, p. 48.
  21. ^ Johnson, p. 40.
  22. ^ a b Jennings, p. 171.
  23. ^ Watkins, p. 56.
  24. ^ "Wild Cards". Time. 128: 35. September 29, 1986.
  25. ^ State of Arizona Official Canvass – General Election – November 4, 1986 (PDF). Arizona Secretary of State. Archived from the original (PDF) on November 2, 2013.
  26. ^ Tim Franklin, with contributions from Daniel Egler (February 24, 1987). "Thompson Backs 65 M.p.h. Rural Limit". Chicago Tribune. Arizona Gov. Evan Mecham, a Republican and the sponsor of the governors`policy statement, called those federal sanctions an attempt to `blackmail us into submission.` `I don't find anyplace I go anyone really driving 55,` said Mecham, whose state includes vast, sparsely populated areas. `I think it makes a mockery out of the national speed limit.`
  27. ^ a b c d e f Ronald Grover & Mark Ivey (September 28, 1987). "When Evan Mecham Talks, Arizona Shudders". Business Week: 110, 112–113.
  28. ^ a b c d Jon D. Hull (November 9, 1987). "Evan Mecham, Please Go Home". Time. 130: 61.
  29. ^
  30. ^ a b c d Hawkins, Steve L. (February 22, 1988). "Inside the Wacky World of Evan Mecham". U.S. News & World Report. 104: 29–30.
  31. ^ Watkins, pp. 62–63, 65.
  32. ^ 'U2 Starts National Tour on a Political Note', New York Times, April 4, 1987
  33. ^ a b Pagan, E. Razing Arizona: The Clash in the Church Over Evan Mecham. Sunstone Magazine archive. Retrieved April 3, 2015.
  34. ^ Watkins, p. 77.
  35. ^ Watkins, pp. 158–159.
  36. ^ a b c d Lindsey, Robert (March 9, 1987). "A `Hot' Week For Governor of Arizona". The New York Times. p. I 12:4.
  37. ^ Watkins, pp. 66–67.
  38. ^ Watkins, pp. 120–121.
  39. ^ Watkins, p. 106.
  40. ^ Arizona governor v. the press., retrieved May 11, 2016.
  41. ^ Johnson, p. 41.
  42. ^ Watkins, pp. 135–137.
  43. ^ Watkins, p. 253.
  44. ^ Ariz. Const. Art. VIII, Part I, Sec. 5.
  45. ^ Watkins, pp. 127–130, 159–160.
  46. ^ Watkins, pp. 143–144.
  47. ^ Watkins, pp. 194–195, 274.
  48. ^ Johnson, p. 42.
  49. ^ Watkins, p. 175.
  50. ^ a b Jennings, p. 173.
  51. ^ Watkins, pp. 179–182.
  52. ^ Watkins, pp. 199–200.
  53. ^ a b Watkins, p. 238.
  54. ^ "Arizona:Indicting a Wild-Card Governor". Newsweek. 111: 31. January 8, 1988.
  55. ^ a b Jon D. Hull (February 15, 1988). "An Impeachment Vote in Arizona". Time. 131: 22.
  56. ^ Watkins, p. 320.
  57. ^ Coates, K. The Holy War Surrounding Evan Mecham. Dialogue Journal archive. Retrieved April 3, 2015.
  58. ^ Watkins, pp. 346–347.
  59. ^ Watkins, pp. 354, 356–357.
  60. ^ "Arizona's Supreme Court Blocks A Special Gubernatorial Election". The New York Times. April 13, 1988. p. A20.
  61. ^ "Defense Strategy, Lack of Evidence Led to Acquittal, Local Lawyers Say", Phoenix Gazette, June 17, 1988, pg. A13.
  62. ^ Watkins, p. 367.
  63. ^ "Mecham Wins Spot at G.O.P. Convention". The New York Times. May 15, 1988. p. A22.
  64. ^ Pasztor, David (December 15, 1993). "Ev's Latest Inkling Mecham Still Longs to be a Newspaper Tycoon". Phoenix New Times. Archived from the original on May 7, 2005.
  65. ^ "Ex-Arizona governor Evan Mecham shows symptoms of dementia". Associated Press. October 20, 2004. Archived from the original on October 26, 2004.
  66. ^ Flannery, Pat (February 22, 2008). "Former Arizona Gov. Evan Mecham has died". The Arizona Republic.
  67. ^ Sullivan, Patricia (2008-02-23). "Evan Mecham, 83; Was Removed as Arizona Governor". ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2018-08-20.
  68. ^ "Services for former Gov. Evan Mecham Saturday in Glendale". Arizona Daily Star. February 27, 2008. Archived from the original on January 18, 2013.
  69. ^ "Arizona Holiday for Dr. King May Face Ballot Test in 1990". The New York Times. September 26, 1989. p. A28.
  70. ^ Gross, Jane (January 17, 1993). "Arizona Hopes Holiday for King Will Mend Its Image; People are still embarrassed by a former governor". The New York Times. p. 16.
  71. ^ "State of Arizona Official Canvass – General Election" (PDF). Arizona Secretary of State. November 8, 1988. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 20, 2013.
  72. ^ "State of Arizona Official Canvass – General Election" (PDF). Arizona Secretary of State. November 6, 1990. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 14, 2009.
  73. ^ "State of Arizona Official Canvass – General Election" (PDF). Arizona Secretary of State. November 3, 1992. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 14, 2009.
  74. ^ Smith, KV. Mecham ignored advice, created own road to ruin. Mesa Tribune, May 15, 1988, p. B1


  • Jennings, Marianne M. (1989). "Evan Mecham". In Myers, John L. (ed.). The Arizona governors, 1912–1990. Phoenix: Heritage Publishers. pp. 168–74. ISBN 0-929690-05-2.
  • Johnson, James W. (2002). Arizona Politicians: The Noble and the Notorious. illustrations by David `Fitz' Fitzsimmons. University of Arizona Press. ISBN 0-8165-2203-0.
  • Watkins, Ronald J. (1990). High Crimes and Misdemeanors : The Term and Trials of Former Governor Evan Mecham. New York: William Morrow & Co. ISBN 0-688-09051-6.

Further reading


  • Evan Mecham (1982). Come Back America. M P Press.
  • Evan Mecham (1988). Impeachment: The Arizona Conspiracy. M P Press.
  • Evan Mecham (1999). Wrongful Impeachment. Prime News Press. ISBN 978-1-929360-00-0.

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Bruce Babbitt
Governor of Arizona
January 6, 1987 – April 4, 1988
Succeeded by
Rose Perica Mofford
Party political offices
Preceded by
Ross F. Jones
Republican nominee for United States Senator from Arizona
(Class 3)

Succeeded by
Barry Goldwater
Preceded by
Russell Williams
Republican nominee for Governor of Arizona
Succeeded by
Leo Corbet
Preceded by
Leo Corbet
Republican nominee for Governor of Arizona
Succeeded by
Fife Symington III
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