Samuel P. Goddard, who served two contentious years as governor of Arizona in the 1960s while facing a hostile Legislature, died Wednesday after a long illness. Goddard’s short tenure as the state’s chief executive ended after he repeatedly chose to pursue courses of action that proved less than popular with lawmakers and voters.
During his first year in office, Goddard sought to lower property taxes by shifting some of the burden to other levies, including the state sales tax on restaurants, nightclubs, utilities and mining. That resulted in his being labeled a “tax and spend” governor, even though it would have reduced property taxes and increased education funding.
That same year Goddard persuaded the Legislature to ask voters to raise the state’s debt limit, which had been $350,000 since statehood, to $100 million. But voters preferred the pay-as-you-go approach, rejecting the measure and, the following year, rejecting his bid for a second two-year term.
Goddard’s wish for higher state borrowing eventually came true, but not in the way he expected: The debt limit remains the same. But the state has used lease-purchase, revenue bonding and other financial schemes to borrow.
Attorney General Terry Goddard, his son, talked about his father in an oral history done years ago for Arizona State University’s history and libraries department. Terry Goddard said his father’s style sometimes did not win friends. For instance, the elder Goddard once tried to form a new state finance department.
“He couldn’t get the votes in the Senate,” his son recalled. And despite a promise of a vote by the chairman of a legislative committee, weeks passed without a vote.
“Dad finally got angry about that, and he walked over to the Legislature, which the governor is never supposed to do, and actually physically picked the guy up, put his arm around his chest and quick-marched from where he was to the committee where he had to vote,” Terry recalled. “He got the vote, but they didn’t like it.”
Terry also said his father at one point called the Legislature a “group of gibbering idiots.”
“Unfortunately, he meant it,” the younger Goddard said. “And they were. But it didn’t improve relations one bit.”
Goddard’s legislative agenda also was hampered in his second year, when most lawmakers became “lame ducks” because of federal court action redistricting the body. That “one man, one vote” ruling shifted political power in Arizona from the rural areas to largely Republican Maricopa County.
But Goddard’s defeat in the 1966 elections may have had other causes, including his backing of President Lyndon Johnson and the war in Vietnam.
In a post-election letter to a supporter, Goddard recalled a 1952 incident where then-Gov. Ernest McFarland told Harry S. Truman after his loss in that year’s presidential race that “the people will vote against the return of the ‘black boxes’ from the war zone.”
“They’ll vote against high prices, high taxes, they’ll vote against uneasiness and fear of the future,” Goddard wrote in that letter. “Add to this the element of inflation and riots in the streets and you have the story of the last election.”
But Goddard did have some accomplishments, including signing the state’s first civil rights law in 1965. And he created the Governor’s Commission on the Status of Women, charging it with making recommendations on issues such as employment practices, property rights, day care programs and education.
As governor, he also helped work out a compromise with other states on the allocation of Colorado River water, paving the way eventually for the Central Arizona Project to bring water into metropolitan areas.
Born in Clayton, Mo., he received a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University. He served in the Army during World War II, rising to the rank of major before being discharged in 1946.
Goddard and his wife, Julia, then decided to move to Tucson. He received his law degree from the University of Arizona in 1949.
His political interest dates to the 1950s, when he began a series of attacks on the Legislature for failing to provide juvenile protection facilities.
In 1960 he became chairman of the Arizona Democratic Party, making a bid two years later for governor. He won the party primary but could not defeat incumbent Paul Fannin. Two years later he won election, defeating Republican Richard Kleindienst, who later was to become U.S. attorney general under Richard Nixon.
As governor, Goddard also helped launch the political career of future U.S. Sen. Dennis DeConcini by naming him chief of staff.
He was defeated by Republican Jack Williams in 1966 and, two years later, made one other unsuccessful bid for governor. Goddard eventually went back to being chairman of the state party through the 1980s.
Goddard had three children by his first wife: Terry, Tim and Bill, also known as “Twink.” Julia died in 1999. He is also survived by his second wife, Myra Ann.