New Book Recounts Early Life Of Chandler Man’s Granddad - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

New Book Recounts Early Life Of Chandler Man’s Granddad

October 23rd, 2018 SanTan Sun News
New Book Recounts Early Life Of Chandler Man’s Granddad

A Chandler man’s famous grandfather has now been memorialized in a new book about his life.

John D. Lewis is the grandson of Ernest W. McFarland, whose early life before a long history of public service is now recounted in a book by Gary L. Stuart titled “Call Him Mac: The Early Arizona Years of Ernest W. McFarland.”

The book explores the early life and career of an unassuming man whose impact is still being felt by millions of Americans today.

According to Arizona Historian Marshall Trimble, “If Arizona had a Mount Rushmore, the men on it would be Carl Hayden, Ernest McFarland, Barry Goldwater and John McCain. “

McFarland, who died in 1984 at age 90, is most remembered as the Father of the GI Bill. He was a U.S. Senator, Senate Majority Leader, Arizona Governor, Chief Justice of the Arizona Supreme Court and founder of KTVK in Phoenix.

Less well known is his life as a family man, country lawyer, rural judge, visionary, and the story behind his unlikely rise from Oklahoma farm boy to winning the Triple Crown of Arizona politics.

“He was a close confidant, on a first name basis, with the likes of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Winston Churchill, Carl Hayden, Henry Fountain Ashurst – not to mention the thousands of politicians, lawyers, farmers, judges, clients, colleagues, opponents, constituents,” said Stuart.

Lewis cherishes most his grandfather’s work on behalf of military veterans. His GI Bill gave 16 million veterans a chance at a college education and a better way of life.

Lewis’ pride in his grandfather’s accomplishments also is on display with a stunning monument, titled “Ernest W. McFarland and the American Dream” at Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza at the State Capitol complex. Lewis and his family raised $400,000 to erect it.

Literally born in a log cabin in Oklahoma, MacFarland overcame a hardscrabble adolescence, illness and personal tragedy to become one of Arizona’s most accomplished historical figures.

He joined the Navy during World War I and almost died of pneumonia contracted at the Great Lakes Naval School near Chicago. His post-war struggles without veterans’ benefits left an indelible impression on him.

He and his wife lost several infant children to illness, and she later died in 1930 of post-birth complications from their stillborn third child.

After his family’s death, McFarland returned to practicing law and then returned to politics in 1934 when he was elected a judge in Pinal County. He remarried and in 1940 was elected to the U.S. Senate.

He became the father of the GI bill in 1944 but lost his Senate seat to Barry Goldwater in 1953. The next year, he was elected governor.

Lewis said he knew his grandfather “as long as I can remember.”

“He was an active grandfather and family man before I was ever born. I knew Mac from the days I was an infant, to his death in 1984,” he added.

He described him as “caring, loving and giving good advice about our future: Work hard, do well in school, save your money… don’t waste it foolishly. Mac modeled and taught us good, Christian morals, of what was important in life, encouraged us to do what was right and showed us how to think of and care for others,” Lewis said.

“One season he loaned 40 acres of his farm to my older brother and I so we could grow cotton. This was a great experience that I will never forget, as it taught me the basics of cotton farming. He would include us in business meetings,” he continued, noting when he was 16, his grandfather included him in a meeting with bank investment specialists.

After nearly dying while he was in the service, McFarland got an honorable discharge.

Lewis said McFarland was moved by the plight of servicemen returning from war because he “had absolutely nothing in his younger years.”

“Mac always believed that education would make the difference in giving a person a better life. Mac’s educational programs that he got put into the GI Bill not only boosted the lives of millions of American veterans, it also boosted our country’s entire educational system and the quality of life for millions more in the next generations to come,” Lewis said, adding:

“If these veterans could not find work, Mac wanted them to have a chance to better themselves by going to school. This GI bill also made business and home loans available to WWII veterans as well. The WWII GI Bill is referred to by most historians as the most successful social program our nation has ever had.”

According to Arizona historian Vincent Murray, “Mac had seen what had happened to returning vets after WWI who came home to rampant unemployment and long soup kitchen lines. His provisions in the bill ultimately generated 450,000 trained engineers, 91,000 scientists, 67,000 doctors, 22,000 dentists, 238,000 teachers, and other college educated professionals.”

Over 2.4 million also took advantage of the GI Bill’s home loan guaranty.

The new book renders a portrait of a young, ambitious, likable man on the verge of becoming a political force and what was happening in Arizona and Washington at the time.

Using interviews with friends, family and extensive primary source research, Stuart spotlights Mac’s unerring focus as a loving husband, father and grandfather, even in times of great personal tragedy.

His enormous political successes were answers to how he dealt with threats to his own life in 1919, the loss of his first wife and three children due to illness in a two-year period in the 1930s and a political loss in 1952 that no one saw coming.

Lewis of Chandler said, “He was honest and down to earth. When he served as Chief Justice, the other justices didn’t appreciate that everyone called him Mac. They felt it wasn’t dignified. Despite all his accomplishments, he always just considered himself a civil servant.”

After arriving in Arizona for his health, McFarland began his journey as a farmer and teacher in Florence, when he decided to embark on a career in law.

The young lawyer soon pursued a new life as a rural judge, led a successful statewide grassroots campaign for the Senate and was appointed as Senate Majority Leader during his second term in office.

McFarland is also credited for creating the Arizona Parks System. As a staunch advocate for Arizona water rights, he argued in front of the Supreme Court while he was governor.

Trimble observed, “Mac was courteous, fair, impartial and admired – something rarely seen in politics today. He rose Horatio Alger-like to become one of the most distinguished political figures in 20th century America.”

A special book signing and reception will be held Oct. 25, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at Room 544 and the adjoining patio at the new ASU Sandra Day O’Connor School of Law/Beus Center for Law & Society, 111 E. Taylor St. in Phoenix. The event is free to the public. Space is limited. Information/RSVPs: 602-466-3333.

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