Barry Goldwater

"Goldwater" redirects here. For other uses, see Goldwater (disambiguation).
This article is about the late United States Senator and Presidential nominee. For his son, see Barry Goldwater Jr.
Barry Goldwater
Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee
In office
January 3, 1985  January 3, 1987
Preceded by John Tower
Succeeded by Sam Nunn
Chairperson of the Senate Intelligence Committee
In office
January 3, 1981  January 3, 1985
Preceded by Birch Bayh
Succeeded by David Durenberger
United States Senator
from Arizona
In office
January 3, 1969  January 3, 1987
Preceded by Carl Hayden
Succeeded by John McCain
In office
January 3, 1953  January 3, 1965
Preceded by Ernest McFarland
Succeeded by Paul Fannin
Personal details
Born Barry Morris Goldwater
(1909-01-02)January 2, 1909
Phoenix, Arizona Territory, U.S.
Died May 29, 1998(1998-05-29) (aged 89)
Paradise Valley, Arizona, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Margaret Johnson (1934–1985)
Susan Shaffer Wechsler (1992–1998)
  • Joanne
  • Barry
  • Michael
  • Peggy
Alma mater University of Arizona
Religion Episcopalianism
Military service
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch  United States Army (1941–1947)
 United States Air Force (1947–1967)
Years of service 1941–1945 (USAAF)
1945–1952 (ANG)
1952–1967 (USAFR)
Rank Lieutenant Colonel (USAAF)
Colonel (ANG)
Major General (USAFR)
Battles/wars World War II
Korean War

Barry Morris Goldwater (January 2, 1909[1] – May 29, 1998) was an American politician and businessman who was a five-term United States Senator from Arizona (1953–65, 1969–87) and the Republican Party's nominee for President of the United States in the 1964 election. Despite losing the election by a landslide, Goldwater is the politician most often credited for sparking the resurgence of the American conservative political movement in the 1960s. He also had a substantial impact on the libertarian movement.[2]

Goldwater rejected the legacy of the New Deal and fought through the conservative coalition against the New Deal coalition. He mobilized a large conservative constituency to win the hard-fought Republican primaries. Though raised an Episcopalian,[3] he was the first candidate with ethnically Jewish heritage to be nominated for President by a major American party (his father was Jewish).[4][5] Goldwater's conservative campaign platform ultimately failed to gain the support of the electorate[6] and he lost the 1964 presidential election to incumbent Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson, bringing down many conservative Republican office-holders as well. Jeff Fishel says, "The conservative faction of the party was on the defensive as a result of the magnitude of the election losses."[7]

Goldwater returned to the Senate in 1969, and specialized in defense policy, bringing to the table his experience as a senior officer in the Air Force Reserve. In 1974, as an elder statesman of the party, Goldwater successfully urged President Richard Nixon to resign when evidence of a cover-up in the Watergate scandal became overwhelming and impeachment was imminent. By the 1980s, the increasing influence of the Christian right on the Republican Party so conflicted with Goldwater's views that he became a vocal opponent of the religious right on issues such as abortion, gay rights, and the role of religion in public life. After narrowly winning re-election to the Senate in 1980, he chose not to run for a sixth term in 1986, and was succeeded by fellow Republican John McCain. A significant accomplishment in his career was the passage of the Goldwater–Nichols Act of 1986, which restructured the higher levels of the Pentagon by placing the chain of command from the President to the Secretary of Defense directly to the commanders of the Unified Combatant Commands.

Personal life

Goldwater was born in Phoenix, in what was then the Arizona Territory, the son of Baron M. Goldwater and his wife, Hattie Josephine ("JoJo") Williams. His father's family had founded Goldwater's, a leading upscale department store in Phoenix.[8] Goldwater's paternal grandfather, Michel Goldwasser, a Polish Jew, was born in 1821 in Poland, whence he emigrated to London following the Revolutions of 1848. Soon after arriving in London, he anglicized his name from "Goldwasser" to "Goldwater". Michel married Sarah Nathan, a member of a Jewish English family, in the Great Synagogue of London.[9][10]

His father was Jewish and his mother, who was Episcopalian, came from a New England family that included the theologian, Roger Williams of Rhode Island.[11] Goldwater's parents were married in an Episcopal church in Phoenix; for his entire life, Goldwater was an Episcopalian, though on rare occasions he referred to himself as "Jewish".[12] While he did not often attend church, he stated that "If a man acts in a religious way, an ethical way, then he's really a religious man—and it doesn't have a lot to do with how often he gets inside a church".[13][14][15]

The family department store made the Goldwaters comfortably wealthy. Goldwater graduated from Staunton Military Academy, an elite private school in Virginia, and attended the University of Arizona[12][16] for one year, where he joined the Sigma Chi fraternity. Barry had never been close to his father, but he took over the family business after Baron's death in 1930. He became a Republican (in a heavily Democratic state), promoted innovative business practices, and opposed the New Deal, especially because it fostered labor unions. Goldwater came to know former President Herbert Hoover, whose conservative politics he admired greatly.


In 1934, he married Margaret "Peggy" Johnson, wealthy daughter of a prominent industrialist from Muncie, Indiana. They had four children: Joanne (born January 1, 1936), Barry (born July 15, 1938), Michael (born March 15, 1940), and Peggy (born July 27, 1944). Goldwater became a widower in 1985, and in 1992 he married Susan Wechsler, a nurse 32 years his junior.[17]

Goldwater's son Barry Goldwater Jr. served as a United States House of Representatives member from California from 1969 to 1983.

Goldwater's grandson, Ty Ross, a former Zoli model, is openly gay and HIV positive, and the one who inspired the elder Goldwater "to become an octogenarian proponent of gay civil rights."[18]

Military career

With the American entry into World War II, Goldwater received a reserve commission in the United States Army Air Forces. He became a pilot assigned to the Ferry Command, a newly formed unit that flew aircraft and supplies to war zones worldwide. He spent most of the war flying between the U.S. and India, via the Azores and North Africa or South America, Nigeria, and Central Africa. He also flew "the hump" over the Himalayas to deliver supplies to the Republic of China.

Following World War II, Goldwater was a leading proponent of creating the United States Air Force Academy, and later served on the Academy's Board of Visitors. The visitor center at the USAF Academy is now named in his honor. As a colonel he also founded the Arizona Air National Guard, and he would desegregate it two years before the rest of the US military. Goldwater was instrumental in pushing the Pentagon to support desegregation of the armed services.[19]

Remaining in the Arizona Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve after the war, he eventually retired as a Command Pilot with the rank of major general.[20] By that time, he had flown 165 different types of aircraft. In retirement, as an Air Force Reserve major general, he continued piloting B-52 aircraft until late in his military career. He would remind those who called him "rash" of the old saying that "there are no old, bold pilots".


Goldwater ran track and cross country in high school, where he specialized in the 880 yard run. His parents strongly encouraged him to compete in these sports, to Goldwater's dismay. He often went by the nickname of "Rolling Thunder."

In 1940, Goldwater became one of the first people to run the Colorado River recreationally through Grand Canyon participating as an oarsman on Norman Nevills' second commercial river trip. Goldwater joined them in Green River, Utah, and rowed his own boat down to Lake Mead.[21]

In 1970, the Arizona Historical Foundation published the daily journal Goldwater had maintained on the Grand Canyon journey, including his photographs, in a 209-page volume titled Delightful Journey.

In 1963, he joined the Arizona Society of the Sons of the American Revolution. He was also a lifetime member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion, and Sigma Chi fraternity. He belonged to both the York Rite and Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, and was awarded the 33rd degree in the Scottish Rite.

Political career

In a heavily Democratic state, Goldwater became a conservative Republican and a friend of Herbert Hoover. He was outspoken against New Deal liberalism, especially its close ties to labor unions he considered corrupt. A pilot, outdoorsman and photographer, he criss-crossed Arizona and developed a deep interest in both the natural and the human history of the state.

He entered Phoenix politics in 1949, when he was elected to the City Council as part of a nonpartisan team of candidates pledged to clean up widespread prostitution and gambling. The team won every mayoral and council election for the next two decades. Goldwater rebuilt the weak Republican party and was instrumental in electing Howard Pyle as Governor in 1950.[22][23]

US Senator

As a Republican he won a seat in the US Senate in 1952, when he upset veteran Democrat and Senate Majority Leader Ernest McFarland. He won largely by defeating McFarland in his native Maricopa County by 12,600 votes, almost double the overall margin of 6,725 votes. As a measure of how Democratic Arizona had been since joining the Union 40 years earlier, Goldwater was only the second Republican ever to represent Arizona in the Senate. He defeated McFarland again in 1958, with a strong showing in his first reelection; he was the first Arizona Republican to win a second term in the Senate. Goldwater's victory was all the more remarkable since it came in a year the Democrats gained 13 seats in the Senate. He gave up re-election for the Senate in 1964 in favor of his presidential campaign.

During his Senate career, Goldwater was regarded as the "Grand Old Man of the Republican Party and one of the nation's most respected exponents of conservatism."[24]

Republican presidential Primary, 1964

In 1964, Goldwater fought and won a bitterly contested, multi-candidate race for the Republican Party's presidential nomination. His main rival was New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller, whom he defeated by a narrow margin in the California primary. His nomination was opposed by liberal Republicans, who thought Goldwater's demand for rollback, defeat of the Soviet Union, would foment a nuclear war.

President Lyndon B. Johnson with Senator Goldwater, January 16, 1964

U.S. presidential campaign, 1964

Republican primaries results by state

  No primary held
  Barry Goldwater

In South Dakota and Florida, Goldwater finished second to "unpledged delegates", but he finished before all other candidates.

At the time of Goldwater's presidential candidacy, the Republican Party was split between its conservative wing (based in the West and South) and moderate/liberal wing, sometimes called Rockefeller Republicans (based in the Northeast). He alarmed even some of his fellow partisans with his brand of staunch fiscal conservatism and militant anti-communism. He was viewed by many traditional Republicans as being too far on the right wing of the political spectrum to appeal to the mainstream majority necessary to win a national election. As a result, moderate Republicans recruited a series of opponents, including New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller, Henry Cabot Lodge Jr., of Massachusetts and Pennsylvania Governor William Scranton, to challenge Goldwater. Goldwater would defeat Rockefeller in the winner-take-all California primary and secure the nomination. He also had a solid backing from Southern Republicans. A young Birmingham lawyer, John Grenier, secured commitments from 271 of 279 southern convention delegates to back Goldwater. Grenier would serve as executive director of the national GOP during the Goldwater campaign, the number 2 position to party chairman Dean Burch of Arizona.

Journalist John Adams says, "his acceptance speech was bold, reflecting his conservative views, but not irrational. Rather than shrinking from those critics who accuse him of extremism, Goldwater challenged them head-on" in his acceptance speech at the 1964 Republican Convention.[25] In his own words:

I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.[26]

His paraphrase of Cicero was included at the suggestion of Harry V. Jaffa, though the speech was primarily written by Karl Hess. Because of President Johnson's popularity, Goldwater refrained from attacking the president directly. He did not mention Johnson by name at all in his convention speech.

Ronald Reagan speaks for presidential candidate Goldwater in Los Angeles in 1964

Former U.S. Senator Prescott Bush, a moderate Republican from Connecticut, was a friend of Goldwater and supported him in the general election campaign. Bush's son, George H. W. Bush (then running for the Senate from Texas against Democrat Ralph Yarborough), was also a strong Goldwater supporter in both the nomination and general election campaigns.

Future Chief Justice of the United States and fellow Arizonan William H. Rehnquist also first came to the attention of national Republicans through his work as a legal adviser to Goldwater's presidential campaign. Rehnquist had begun his law practice in 1953 in the firm of Denison Kitchel of Phoenix, Goldwater's national campaign manager and friend of nearly three decades.[27]

Goldwater was painted as a dangerous figure by the Johnson campaign, which countered Goldwater's slogan "In your heart, you know he's right" with the lines "In your guts, you know he's nuts", and "In your heart, you know he might" (that is, he might actually use nuclear weapons as opposed to using only deterrence). Johnson himself did not mention Goldwater in his own acceptance speech at the 1964 Democratic National Convention.

Goldwater's provocative advocacy of aggressive tactics to prevent the spread of communism in Asia led to effective counterattacks from Lyndon B. Johnson and his supporters, who claimed that Goldwater's militancy would have dire consequences, possibly even nuclear war. In a May 1964 speech, Goldwater suggested that nuclear weapons should be treated more like conventional weapons and used in Vietnam, specifically that they should have been used at Dien Bien Phu in 1954 to defoliate trees.[28] Regarding Vietnam, Goldwater charged that Johnson's policy was devoid of "goal, course, or purpose", leaving "only sudden death in the jungles and the slow strangulation of freedom".[29] Goldwater's rhetoric on nuclear war was viewed by many as quite uncompromising, a view buttressed by off-hand comments such as, "Let's lob one into the men's room at the Kremlin."[30] He also advocated that field commanders in Vietnam and Europe should be given the authority to use tactical nuclear weapons (which he called "small conventional nuclear weapons") without presidential confirmation.[31]

Goldwater countered the Johnson attacks by criticizing the administration for its perceived ethical lapses, and stating in a commercial that "we, as a nation, are not far from the kind of moral decay that has brought on the fall of other nations and people.... I say it is time to put conscience back in government. And by good example, put it back in all walks of American life." Goldwater campaign commercials included statements of support by actor Raymond Massey[32] and moderate Republican senator Margaret Chase Smith.[33]

Before the 1964 election, the muckraking Fact magazine, published by Ralph Ginzburg, ran a special issue titled "The Unconscious of a Conservative: A Special Issue on the Mind of Barry Goldwater". The two main articles contended that Goldwater was mentally unfit to be president. The magazine attempted to support this claim with the results of an unscientific poll of psychiatrists it had conducted. Fact had mailed questionnaires to 12,356 psychiatrists, and published a "sampling" of the comments made by the 2,417 psychiatrists who responded, of whom 1,189 said Goldwater was unfit to be president. Not one of the psychiatrists had actually interviewed Goldwater himself.[34][35]

After the election, Goldwater sued the publisher, the editor and the magazine for libel in Goldwater v. Ginzburg. "Although the jury awarded Goldwater only $1.00 in compensatory damages against all three defendants, it went on to award him punitive damages of $25,000 against Ginzburg and $50,000 against Fact magazine, Inc."[36] According to Warren Boroson, then-managing editor of Fact and now a financial columnist, the main biography of Goldwater in the magazine was written by David Bar-Illan, the Israeli pianist.[37]

Political advertising

Main article: Daisy (advertisement)

A Democratic campaign advertisement known as Daisy showed a young girl counting daisy petals, from one to ten. Immediately following this scene, a voiceover counted down from ten to one. The child's face was shown as a still photograph followed by images of nuclear explosions and mushroom clouds. The campaign advertisement ended with a plea to vote for Johnson, implying that Goldwater (though not mentioned by name) would provoke a nuclear war if elected. The advertisement, which featured only a few spoken words and relied on imagery for its emotional impact, was one of the most provocative in American political campaign history, and many analysts credit it as being the birth of the modern style of "negative political ads" on television. The ad aired only once and was immediately pulled, but it was then shown many times by local television stations.[38]

Ku Klux Klan members supporting Goldwater's campaign for the presidential nomination at the 1964 Republican National Convention

Goldwater did not have ties to the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), but was publicly endorsed by members of the organization.[39][40] Lyndon Johnson exploited this association during the elections,[41][42][43] but Goldwater barred the KKK from supporting him and denounced them.[44]

Past comments came back to haunt Goldwater throughout the campaign. He had once called the Eisenhower administration "a dime-store New Deal", and the former president never fully forgave him. Eisenhower did, however, film a television commercial with Goldwater.[45] Eisenhower qualified his voting for Goldwater in November by remarking that he had voted not specifically for Goldwater, but for the Republican Party.[46] In December 1961, Goldwater had told a news conference that "sometimes I think this country would be better off if we could just saw off the Eastern Seaboard and let it float out to sea". That comment boomeranged on him during the campaign in the form of a Johnson television commercial,[47] as did remarks about making Social Security voluntary,[48] and statements in Tennessee about selling the Tennessee Valley Authority, a large local New Deal employer.[49]

The Goldwater campaign spotlighted Ronald Reagan, who appeared in a campaign ad.[50] In turn, Reagan gave a stirring, nationally televised speech, "A Time for Choosing", in support of Goldwater.[51] The speech prompted Reagan to seek the California Governorship in 1966 and jump-started his political career. Conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly, later well known for her fight against the Equal Rights Amendment, first became known for writing a pro-Goldwater book, A Choice, Not an Echo, attacking the moderate Republican establishment.


Presidential election results by state.

Goldwater lost to President Lyndon Johnson by a massive landslide, pulling down the GOP, which lost many seats in both houses of Congress.

Goldwater only won his home state of Arizona and five states in the Deep South, depicted in red. The Southern states, traditionally Democratic up to that time, voted Republican primarily as a statement of opposition to the Civil Rights Act, which had been passed by Johnson and the Northern Democrats, as well as the majority of Republicans in Congress, earlier that year.[52][53]

In the end, Goldwater received 38.4% of the popular vote, and carried just six states: Arizona (with 50.5% of the popular vote) and the core states of the Deep South: Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina. In carrying Georgia by a margin of 54–45%, Goldwater became the first Republican nominee to win the state. However, the overall result was the worst showing in terms of popular vote and electoral college vote for any post-World War II Republican. Indeed, he wouldn't have even carried his own state if not for a 20,000-vote margin in Maricopa County.

In all, Johnson won an overwhelming 486 electoral votes, to Goldwater's 52. Goldwater, with his customary bluntness, remarked, "We would have lost even if Abraham Lincoln had come back and campaigned with us." He maintained later in life that he would have won the election if the country had not been in a state of extended grief (referring to the assassination of John F. Kennedy), and that it was simply not ready for a third President in just 14 months.

Goldwater's poor showing pulled down many supporters. Of the 57 Republican Congressmen who endorsed Goldwater before the convention, 20 were defeated for reelection, along with many promising young Republicans. On the other hand, the defeat of so many older politicians created openings for young conservatives to move up the ladder. While the loss of moderate Republicans was temporary—they were back by 1966—Goldwater also permanently pulled many conservative Southerners and white ethnics out of the New Deal Coalition.[54]

"In the South, Goldwater broke through and won five states—the best showing in the region for a GOP candidate since Reconstruction. In Mississippi—where Franklin D. Roosevelt had won nearly 100 percent of the vote just 28 years earlier—Goldwater claimed a staggering 87 percent."[55] It has frequently been argued that Goldwater's strong performance in Southern states previously regarded as Democratic strongholds foreshadowed a larger shift in electoral trends in the coming decades that would make the South a Republican bastion (an end to the "Solid South")—first in presidential politics and eventually at the congressional and state levels, as well.[56]

Return to US Senate

Goldwater remained popular in Arizona, and in the 1968 Senate election he was elected (this time) to the seat of retiring Senator Carl Hayden. He was subsequently reelected in 1974 and 1980. The 1974 election saw Goldwater easily reelected over his Democratic opponent, Jonathan Marshall, the publisher of The Scottsdale Progress. His final campaign in 1980 was close, with Goldwater winning in a near draw against Democratic challenger Bill Schulz. Goldwater said later that the close result convinced him not to run again.[57]


Goldwater seriously considered retirement in 1980 before deciding to run for reelection. Peggy Goldwater reportedly hoped that her husband's Senate term, due to end in January 1981, would be his last. Goldwater decided to run, planning to make the term his last in the Senate. Goldwater faced a surprisingly tough battle for reelection. He was viewed by some as out of touch and vulnerable for several reasons; most importantly, because he had planned to retire in 1981, Goldwater had not visited many areas of Arizona outside of Phoenix and Tucson. He was also challenged by a formidable opponent, Bill Schulz, a former Republican turned Democrat and a wealthy real estate developer. Schulz was able to infuse massive amounts of money into the campaign from his own fortune.

Arizona's changing population also hurt Goldwater. The state's population had soared, and a huge portion of the electorate had not lived in the state when Goldwater was previously elected; hence, many voters were less familiar with Goldwater's actual beliefs, and he was on the defensive for much of the campaign. Early returns on election night seemed to indicate that Schulz would win. The counting of votes continued through the night and into the next morning. At around daybreak, Goldwater learned that he had been reelected thanks to absentee ballots, which were among the last to be counted.[58] Goldwater's surprisingly close victory in 1980 came despite Reagan's 61% landslide over Jimmy Carter in Arizona. Republicans regained control of the Senate, putting Goldwater in the most powerful position he ever had in the Senate.

Goldwater retired in 1987, serving as chair of the Senate Intelligence and Armed Services Committees in his final term. Despite his reputation as a firebrand in the 1960s, by the end of his career he was considered a stabilizing influence in the Senate, one of the most respected members of either major party. Though Goldwater remained staunchly anti-communist and "hawkish" on military issues, he was a key supporter of the fight for ratification of the Panama Canal Treaty in the 1970s, which would give control of the canal zone to the Republic of Panama. His most important legislative achievement may have been the Goldwater–Nichols Act, which reorganized the US military's senior-command structure.


Goldwater became most associated with labor-union reform and anti-communism; he was an active supporter of the conservative coalition in Congress. His work on labor issues led to Congress passing major anti-corruption reforms in 1957, and an all-out campaign by the AFL-CIO to defeat his 1958 reelection bid. He voted against the censure of Senator Joseph McCarthy in 1954, but he never actually charged any individual with being a communist/Soviet agent. Goldwater emphasized his strong opposition to the worldwide spread of communism in his 1960 book The Conscience of a Conservative. The book became an important reference text in conservative political circles.

Informal press conference following a meeting between Congressmen and the President to discuss the Watergate scandal, August 7, 1974

In 1964, Goldwater ran a conservative campaign that emphasized states' rights.[59] Goldwater's 1964 campaign was a magnet for conservatives since he opposed interference by the federal government in state affairs. Although he had supported all previous federal civil rights legislation and had supported the original senate version of the bill, Goldwater made the decision to oppose the Civil Rights Act of 1964. His stance was based on his view that the act was an intrusion of the federal government into the affairs of states and that the Act interfered with the rights of private persons to do or not to do business with whomever they chose.[60] In the segregated city of Phoenix in the 1950s, he had quietly supported civil rights for blacks, but would not let his name be used.[61]

All this appealed to white Southern Democrats, and Goldwater was the first Republican to win the electoral votes of all of the Deep South states (South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana) since Reconstruction[52] (although Dwight Eisenhower did carry Louisiana in 1956). However, Goldwater's vote on the Civil Rights Act proved devastating to his campaign everywhere outside the South (besides Dixie, Goldwater won only in Arizona, his home state), contributing to his landslide defeat in 1964.

While Goldwater had been depicted by his opponents in the Republican primaries as a representative of a conservative philosophy that was extreme and alien, his voting records show that his positions were in harmony with those of his fellow Republicans in the Congress. What distinguished him from his predecessors was, according to Hans J. Morgenthau, his firmness of principle and determination, which did not allow him to be content with mere rhetoric.[62]

Goldwater fought in 1971 to stop US funding of the United Nations after the People's Republic of China was admitted to the organization. He said:

I suggested on the floor of the Senate today that we stop all funds for the United Nations. Now, what that'll do to the United Nations, I don't know. I have a hunch it would cause them to fold up, which would make me very happy at this particular point. I think if this happens, they can well move their headquarters to Peking or Moscow and get 'em out of this country.[63]

Political relationships

Goldwater was grief-stricken[64] by the assassination of Kennedy and was greatly disappointed that his opponent in 1964 would not be Kennedy but instead his Vice President, former Senate Majority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas.[65] Goldwater disliked Johnson (saying he "used every dirty trick in the bag"), and Richard M. Nixon of California (whom he later called "the most dishonest individual I have ever met in my life").[65] After Goldwater again became a senator, he urged Nixon to resign at the height of the Watergate scandal, warning that fewer than ten senators would vote against conviction if Nixon were impeached by the House of Representatives.[66] The term "Goldwater moment" has since been used to describe situations when influential members of Congress disagree so strongly with a president from their own party that they openly oppose him.

Goldwater and the revival of American conservatism

Although Goldwater was not as important in the American conservative movement as Ronald Reagan after 1965, he shaped and redefined the movement from the late 1950s to 1964. Arizona Senator John McCain, who had succeeded Goldwater in the Senate in 1987, summed up Goldwater's legacy, "He transformed the Republican Party from an Eastern elitist organization to the breeding ground for the election of Ronald Reagan."[67] Columnist George Will remarked after the 1980 Presidential election that it took 16 years to count the votes from 1964 and Goldwater won.[68]

The Republican Party recovered from the 1964 election debacle, picking up 47 seats in the House of Representatives in the 1966 mid-term election. Further Republican successes ensued, including Goldwater's return to the Senate in 1969. In January of that year, Goldwater wrote an article in the National Review "affirming that he [was] not against liberals, that liberals are needed as a counterweight to conservatism, and that he had in mind a fine liberal like Max Lerner".[69]

Goldwater was a strong supporter of the environment. He explained his position in 1969:

I feel very definitely that the [Nixon] administration is absolutely correct in cracking down on companies and corporations and municipalities that continue to pollute the nation's air and water. While I am a great believer in the free competitive enterprise system and all that it entails, I am an even stronger believer in the right of our people to live in a clean and pollution-free environment. To this end, it is my belief that when pollution is found, it should be halted at the source, even if this requires stringent government action against important segments of our national economy.[70]

Throughout the 1970s, as the conservative wing under Reagan gained control of the party, Goldwater concentrated on his Senate duties, especially in military affairs. He played little part in the election or administration of Richard Nixon, but he helped force Nixon's resignation in 1974.[71] In 1976 he helped block Rockefeller's renomination as vice president. When Reagan challenged Ford for the presidential nomination in 1976, Goldwater endorsed Ford, looking for consensus rather than conservative idealism. As one historian notes, "The Arizonan had lost much of his zest for battle."[72][73][74]

In 1979, when President Carter normalized relations with Communist China, Goldwater and some other senators sued him in the Supreme Court, arguing that the president could not terminate the Sino-American Mutual Defense Treaty with Republic of China (Taiwan) without the approval of Congress. The case, Goldwater v. Carter 444 U.S. 996, was dismissed by the court as a political question.

Later life

Signing autographs at the Fiesta Bowl parade in 1983.

By the 1980s, with Ronald Reagan as president and the growing involvement of the religious right in conservative politics, Goldwater's libertarian views on personal issues were revealed; he believed that they were an integral part of true conservatism. Goldwater viewed abortion as a matter of personal choice and as such supported abortion rights.[75]

As a passionate defender of personal liberty, he saw the religious right's views as an encroachment on personal privacy and individual liberties.[76] In his 1980 Senate reelection campaign, Goldwater won support from religious conservatives but in his final term voted consistently to uphold legalized abortion and, in 1981, gave a speech on how he was angry about the bullying of American politicians by religious organizations, and would "fight them every step of the way".[77][78][79] Goldwater also disagreed with the Reagan administration on certain aspects of foreign policy (for example, he opposed the decision to mine Nicaraguan harbors). Notwithstanding his prior differences with Dwight D. Eisenhower, Goldwater in a 1986 interview rated him the best of the seven Presidents with whom he had worked.

He introduced the 1984 Cable Franchise Policy and Communications Act, which allowed local governments to require the transmission of public, educational, and government access (PEG) channels, barred cable operators from exercising editorial control over content of programs carried on PEG channels, and absolved them from liability for their content.

On May 12, 1986, Goldwater was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Ronald Reagan.

After his retirement in 1987, Goldwater described the Arizona Governor Evan Mecham as "hardheaded" and called on him to resign, and two years later stated that the Republican party had been taken over by a "bunch of kooks".[80]

He is a 1987 recipient of the Langley Gold Medal from the Smithsonian Institution. In 1988, in recognition of his career, Princeton University's American Whig-Cliosophic Society awarded Goldwater the James Madison Award for Distinguished Public Service.[81]

In a 1994 interview with the Washington Post, the retired senator said,

When you say "radical right" today, I think of these moneymaking ventures by fellows like Pat Robertson and others who are trying to take the Republican party and make a religious organization out of it. If that ever happens, kiss politics goodbye.[82]
President Ronald Reagan and Senator Goldwater award General Jimmy Doolittle with a fourth star 26 years after his retirement from the U.S. Air Force, April 10, 1985

Goldwater visited the small town of Bowen, Illinois in 1989 to see first hand where his mother was raised.

In response to Moral Majority founder Jerry Falwell's opposition to the nomination of Sandra Day O'Connor to the Supreme Court, of which Falwell had said, "Every good Christian should be concerned", Goldwater retorted: "Every good Christian ought to kick Falwell right in the ass."[83][84] (According to John Dean, Goldwater actually suggested that good Christians ought to kick Falwell in the "nuts", but the news media "changed the anatomical reference."[85]) Goldwater also had harsh words for his one-time political protegé, President Reagan, particularly after the Iran-Contra Affair became public in 1986. Journalist Robert MacNeil, a friend of Goldwater's from the 1964 Presidential campaign, recalled interviewing him in his office shortly afterward. "He was sitting in his office with his hands on his cane... and he said to me, 'Well, aren't you going to ask me about the Iran arms sales?' It had just been announced that the Reagan administration had sold arms to Iran. And I said, 'Well, if I asked you, what would you say?' He said, 'I'd say it's the god-damned stupidest foreign policy blunder this country's ever made!'",[86] though aside from the Iran-Contra scandal, Goldwater thought nonetheless that Reagan was a good president.[87] In 1988 during that year's presidential campaign, he pointedly told vice-presidential nominee Dan Quayle at a campaign event in Arizona "I want you to go back and tell George Bush to start talking about the issues."[88]

Some of Goldwater's statements in the 1990s alienated many social conservatives. He endorsed Democrat Karan English in an Arizona congressional race, urged Republicans to lay off Bill Clinton over the Whitewater scandal, and criticized the military's ban on homosexuals:[82] "Everyone knows that gays have served honorably in the military since at least the time of Julius Caesar."[89] He also said, "You don't need to be 'straight' to fight and die for your country. You just need to shoot straight."[90] A few years before his death he addressed establishment Republicans by saying, "Do not associate my name with anything you do. You are extremists, and you've hurt the Republican party much more than the Democrats have."[91]

In 1996, he told Bob Dole, whose own presidential campaign received lukewarm support from conservative Republicans: "We're the new liberals of the Republican party. Can you imagine that?"[92] In that same year, with Senator Dennis DeConcini, Goldwater endorsed an Arizona initiative to legalize medical marijuana against the countervailing opinion of social conservatives.[93]

Hobbies and interests

Amateur radio

Goldwater was an avid amateur radio operator from the early 1920s onwards, with the call signs 6BPI, K3UIG and K7UGA.[94][95] The latter is now used by an Arizona club honoring him as a commemorative call. During the Vietnam War he was a Military Affiliate Radio System (MARS) operator.[96]

Goldwater was also a prominent spokesman for amateur radio and its enthusiasts. Beginning in 1969 up to his death he appeared in numerous educational and promotional films (and later videos) about the hobby that were produced for the American Radio Relay League (the United States national society representing the interests of radio amateurs) by such producers as Dave Bell (W6AQ), ARRL Southwest Director John R. Griggs (W6KW), Alan Kaul (W6RCL), Forrest Oden (N6ENV), and the late Roy Neal (K6DUE). His first appearance was in Dave Bell's "The World of Amateur Radio" where Goldwater discussed the history of the hobby and demonstrated a live contact with Antarctica. His last on-screen appearance dealing with "ham radio" was in 1994, explaining a then-upcoming, Earth-orbiting ham radio relay satellite.

Electronics were a hobby for Goldwater beyond amateur radio. He enjoyed assembling Heathkits, completing more than 100 and often visiting their maker in Benton Harbor, Michigan to buy more, before the company exited the kit business in 1992.[97]

Kachina dolls

Over half of the kachina dolls at the Heard Museum were donated by Goldwater

In 1916, Goldwater visited the Hopi Reservation with Phoenix architect John Rinker Kibby, and obtained his first kachina doll. Eventually his doll collection included 437 items and was presented in 1969 to the Heard Museum in Phoenix.[98]


Goldwater was an amateur photographer and in his estate left some 15,000 of his images to three Arizona institutions. He was very keen on candid photography. He got started in photography after receiving a camera as a gift from his wife on their first Christmas together. He was known to use a 4x5 Graflex, Rolleiflex, 16 mm Bell and Howell motion picture camera, and 35 mm Nikkormat FT. He was a member of the Royal Photographic Society from 1941 becoming a Life Member in 1948.[99]

For decades, he contributed photographs of his home state to Arizona Highways and was best known for his Western landscapes and pictures of native Americans in the United States. Three books with his photographs are People and Places, from 1967; Barry Goldwater and the Southwest, from 1976; and Delightful Journey, first published in 1940 and reprinted in 1970. Ansel Adams wrote a foreword to the 1976 book.[100]

Goldwater's photography interests occasionally crossed over with his political career, as well. John F. Kennedy, as president, was known to invite former congressional colleagues to the White House for a drink. On one occasion, Goldwater brought his camera and photographed President Kennedy. When Kennedy received the photo, he returned it to Goldwater, with the inscription, "For Barry Goldwater – Whom I urge to follow the career for which he has shown such talent – photography! – from his friend – John Kennedy." This quip became a classic of American political humor after it was made famous by humorist Bennett Cerf. The photo itself was prized by Goldwater for the rest of his life, and recently sold for $17,925 in a Heritage auction.[101]

Son Michael Prescott Goldwater formed the Goldwater Family Foundation with the goal of making his father's photography available via the internet. (Barry Goldwater Photographs) was launched in September 2006 to coincide with the HBO documentary "Mr. Conservative", produced by granddaughter CC Goldwater.


On March 28, 1975, Goldwater wrote to Shlomo Arnon: "The subject of UFOs has interested me for some long time. About ten or twelve years ago I made an effort to find out what was in the building at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base where the information has been stored that has been collected by the Air Force, and I was understandably denied this request. It is still classified above Top Secret."[102] Goldwater further wrote that there were rumors the evidence would be released, and that he was "just as anxious to see this material as you are, and I hope we will not have to wait much longer."[102]

The April 25, 1988, issue of The New Yorker carried an interview where Goldwater said he repeatedly asked his friend, Gen. Curtis LeMay, if there was any truth to the rumors that UFO evidence was stored in a secret room at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, and if he (Goldwater) might have access to the room. According to Goldwater, an angry LeMay gave him "holy hell" and said, "Not only can't you get into it but don't you ever mention it to me again."[103]

In a 1988 interview on Larry King's radio show, Goldwater was asked if he thought the U.S. Government was withholding UFO evidence; he replied "Yes, I do." He added:

I certainly believe in aliens in space. They may not look like us, but I have very strong feelings that they have advanced beyond our mental capabilities... I think some highly secret government UFO investigations are going on that we don't know about – and probably never will unless the Air Force discloses them.[104]

Goldwater Scholarship

The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program was established by Congress in 1986.[105] Its goal is to provide a continuing source of highly qualified scientists, mathematicians, and engineers by awarding scholarships to college students who intend to pursue careers in these fields.

The Scholarship is widely considered the most prestigious award in the U.S. conferred upon undergraduates studying the sciences. It is awarded to about 300 students (college sophomores and juniors) nationwide in the amount of $7500 per academic year (for their senior year, or junior and senior years).[106] It honors Goldwater's keen interest in science and technology.


The Goldwater Crypt #64

Goldwater's public appearances ended in late 1996 after he suffered a massive stroke; family members then disclosed he was in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease. He died on May 29, 1998, at the age of 89 at his long-time home in Paradise Valley, Arizona, of complications from the stroke.[107] His funeral was co-officiated by both a reverend and a rabbi.[108][109] His ashes were buried at the Episcopal Christ Church of the Ascension in Paradise Valley, Arizona. A memorial statue set in a small park has been erected to honor the memory of Goldwater in that town, near his former home and current resting place.


Buildings and monuments

Barry M. Goldwater Terminal 4 entrance at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport
Barry Goldwater statue in National Statuary Hall in Washington, D.C.
The Barry Goldwater Memorial Park

Among the buildings and monuments named after Barry Goldwater are: the Barry M. Goldwater Terminal at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, Goldwater Memorial Park[110] in Paradise Valley, Arizona, the Barry Goldwater Air Force Academy Visitor Center at the United States Air Force Academy, and Barry Goldwater High School in northern Phoenix. In 2010 former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods, himself a Goldwater scholar and supporter, founded the Goldwater Women's Tennis Classic Tournament to be held annually at the Phoenix Country Club in Phoenix, AZ.[111] On February 11, 2015, a statue, sculpted by Deborah Copenhaver Fellows, of the late Barry M. Goldwater was unveiled by U.S. House and Senate leaders at a dedication ceremony in National Statuary Hall of the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C.[112]


Goldwater's granddaughter, CC Goldwater, has co-produced with longtime friend and independent film producer Tani L. Cohen a documentary on Goldwater's life, Mr. Conservative: Goldwater on Goldwater, first shown on HBO on September 18, 2006.[113]

In popular culture

In the Batman TV series in the episode entitled Hizzonner the Penguin, aired on November 2, 1966, Batman runs for Mayor of Gotham City against the Penguin. One of the other candidates in the race was "Harry Goldriver of the Monarchist Party".

Senator Goldwater was an occasional roaster on the Dean Martin roasts of the mid-1970s.

In his song "I Shall Be Free No. 10", Bob Dylan refers to Goldwater: "I'm liberal to a degree, I want everybody to be free. But if you think I'll let Barry Goldwater move in next door and marry my daughter, you must think I'm crazy."

Military awards

Other awards



Goldwater's son, Barry Goldwater Jr., served as a Congressman from California from 1969 to 1983. He was the first Congressman to serve while having a father in the Senate. Goldwater's nephew, Don Goldwater, sought the Arizona Republican Party nomination for Governor of Arizona in 2006, but was defeated by Len Munsil.

See also


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External links

Party political offices
Preceded by
Ward Powers
Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Arizona
(Class 1)

1952, 1958
Succeeded by
Paul Fannin
Preceded by
Styles Bridges
Chairperson of the National Republican Senatorial Committee
Succeeded by
Everett Dirksen
Preceded by
Andrew Schoeppel
Chairperson of the National Republican Senatorial Committee
Succeeded by
Thruston Morton
Preceded by
Richard Nixon
Republican nominee for
President of the United States

Succeeded by
Richard Nixon
Preceded by
Evan Mecham
Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Arizona
(Class 3)

1968, 1974, 1980
Succeeded by
John McCain
United States Senate
Preceded by
Ernest McFarland
U.S. Senator (Class 1) from Arizona
Served alongside: Carl Hayden
Succeeded by
Paul Fannin
Preceded by
Carl Hayden
U.S. Senator (Class 3) from Arizona
Served alongside: Paul Fannin, Dennis DeConcini
Succeeded by
John McCain
Preceded by
Birch Bayh
Chairperson of the Senate Intelligence Committee
Succeeded by
David Durenberger
Preceded by
John Tower
Chairperson of the Senate Armed Services Committee
Succeeded by
Sam Nunn
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