Governor Hunt

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Description

Governor Hunt was the first governor of the state of Arizona. As he fought for women's right to vote, the common man, and ended the death penalty he also made time to build the state's first highway. One of the most controversial men in Arizona's history, his contribution to the state is undeniable.

Transcript

Narrator:
Arizona's first Governor may be the state's most memorable if not the most recognizable.

Melanie Sturgeon:
He's...bellicose. He's, you know, got the big mustache, big physique, wears the white suits. He really knows how to portray himself politically.

Narrator:
George Wylie Paul Hunt was born in 1859 in Huntsville, Missouri, a town named after his grandfather. Still in his teens, he left home seeking work and adventure in Colorado and New Mexico. Hunt made his way to Arizona a few years later in 1881.

Phil McBride:
When he arrived in Globe, he came in like a prospector, wearing overalls, driving a bull. Got a job as a waiter in...restaurant there in globe.

Narrator:
Hunt later went to work for a local mercantile and bank called the Old Dominion Commercial Company. Within ten years, he was its president. It was in Globe that Hunt found his calling in politics.

Melanie Sturgeon:
He's a very friendly person, a very outgoing person, the perfect politician, I think. and so he decides to run for county office, and that's how he launches his political career.

Narrator:
Hunt lost, but in 1892 was elected as a democrat to the territorial House of Representatives. He served seven terms in both the House and Council, which is now the senate. Hunt was elected to preside over the Arizona Constitutional Convention in 1910.

At Hunt's request, the Constitution did not give women the right to vote.

Melanie Sturgeon:
It was purely political. He felt that there was so much controversy in the state at that time over women's suffrage that if he championed that in the Constitutional convention, it would sidetrack a number of other issues that were not more important but that could have brought the constitution down, and he wanted to make sure that we became a state.

Narrator:
Women got the right to vote the year Arizona became a state and George Wylie Paul Hunt its first governor.

Phil McBride:
He lived in the Ford Hotel when Arizona became a state, and he walked from downtown Phoenix to the capitol for the inauguration. He immediately then authorized the purchase of a car for the state, and critics said that walk was the last time that Hunt walked. The rest of the time he used the car and a chauffeur and traveled about.

Narrator:
Hunt used the car to travel the state, always bringing a camera, pen, and paper. He took thousands of pictures and wrote more personal letters than any other governor.

Phil McBride:
Him driving about the state after he became governor – and he drove constantly almost. He would pick up hitchhikers. It was not unusual to invite indigents in to lunch. He identified with the working people, I think.

Narrator:
The poor treatment of prison inmates became a priority with Hunt.

Phil McBride:
He was interested in prison reform right down to how they lived. When he would go down -- and he would go down frequently, sometimes monthly, spend the night. He slept in a cell. He would eat in the prison dining hall. He started the honor system there at the prison.

Narrator:
Hunt used prison work crews to build some of Arizona's first highways.

Executions were even outlawed for a brief period thanks to Hunt's sheer will and determination. His penchant for the common man helped him get elected governor a total of seven times, but his demanding style wore thin on some.

Phil McBride:
There were those who felt that he was becoming virtually a dictator. He becomes known, as he ran his later elections, as Hunt the V and Hunt the VI and Hunt the VII.

Narrator:
Hunt also served as the ambassador to Siam, which is now Thailand. While there, he continued his prolific writing, a passion that proved its worth 20 years earlier. His letters to the daughter of a Payson rancher helped rekindle a relationship that had broken off because of the woman's duty to her family's ranch.

Melanie Sturgeon:
They really did have a very beautiful relationship, and you can read it -- by reading their letters, you can just feel this incredible closeness that they had.

Narrator:
The legacy of George and Duet Hunt can still be seen today. When Hunt died in 1934, he was laid to rest next to Duet in a white pyramid at Phoenix Papago Park.

Melanie Sturgeon:
I think sort of a capstone to his life, that there he is as large as life in this white pyramid out in the middle of Papago park. You can't miss it, just like you can't miss him. I mean, he really had an indelible effect on Arizona's early years of statehood. He was a very, very, I think, probably the most important figure as far as Arizona goes and what ended up happening in our government.