GI Bill’s 75th anniversary special for Chandler man - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

GI Bill’s 75th anniversary special for Chandler man

June 13th, 2019 development
GI Bill’s 75th anniversary special for Chandler man

By Suzanne Jameson
Staff Writer

Peter Drucker, the founder of modern management once called GI Bill of Rights the impetus for “the shift to the knowledge society” and that historians might one day “consider it the most important event of the 20th century.”

Since it was signed into law in 1944, millions of deserving veterans have received their educations, zero-down, low-interest home and business loans and other benefits through the GI Bill of Rights.

Celebrating its 75th anniversary on June 22, few know of Arizonan Ernest W. McFarland’s relentless fight to get the bill passed into law, but his grandson who lives in Chandler has made efforts to get that story out.

Born in 1894 in a log cabin in Oklahoma, Ernest W. McFarland, or “Mac” as he was known, came to Arizona in 1919 for his health after nearly losing his life to illness during a brief stint in the Navy.

With only $10 in his pocket, the recovering sailor began life in his adoptive state first as a farmer to later rise to the ranks of US Senator, U.S. Senate majority leader, governor, chief justice of the Arizona Supreme Court, founder of KTVK in Phoenix.

Instead of facing unrelenting unemployment and standing in soup lines as returning World War I veterans had, the GI Bill allowed World War II vets to come back to a land of opportunity, where higher education, home ownership and business loans were not just entitlements for the privileged, but realistic goals for the common man.

First elected to the Senate in 1940, Mac felt the first duty of Congress was not only to win WWII but to also help veterans readjust to civilian life after the war.

McFarland, along with 1943-1944 American Legion Commander Warren Atherton, shepherded the legislation through Congress and are jointly considered the “Fathers of the GI Bill.”

According to American RadioWorks, “The GI Bill increased the country’s intellectual capital exponentially. The bill funded the educations of 22,000 dentists, 67,000 doctors, 91,000 scientists, 238,000 teachers, 240,000 accountants, and 450,000 engineers, as well as three Supreme Court justices, three presidents, a dozen senators, 14 Nobel Prize winners, and two dozen Pulitzer Prize Winners.”

The GI Bill provision for low-cost mortgages written by McFarland also allowed returning veterans to purchase houses. From 1944 to 1952, the VA backed nearly 2.4 million home loans.”

John D. Lewis of Chandler, McFarland’s grandson, added that “This created a housing boom. This, and the increased earning capacity of veterans due to their ability to get an education, coupled with pent-up demand for consumer goods, resulted in the prosperity of the 1950 and 1960s.”

McFarland was recently celebrated on March 30 in Florence, where he began his political career.

On Arizona Statehood Day, Feb. 14, 2015, a new memorial entitled “Ernest W. McFarland and the American Dream” was dedicated at Wesley Bolin Plaza in Phoenix.

“Mac was so humble that he wouldn’t have wanted a memorial – he always considered himself just a public servant,” Lewis said. “ For this reason, we designed the monument to represent the hopes and dreams of all Americans – and not just one man.”

A recently published book, Ernest W. McFarland – The Arizona Years was commissioned by the McFarland Historical State Park Advisory Committee and was officially released by the U. of A. Press on Oct. 16, 2018.

The book outlines the untold story of the early Arizona years of Mac as a young farmer, lawyer, judge, his ascent to higher office and how he overcame personal tragedies, including the loss of his first wife and three young children to illness within a two-year period.

McFarland sponsored an additional 40 bills to benefit veterans and fought equally hard for Arizona’s water rights. He was instrumental in the development of the Central Arizona Project (CAP), a portion of which still bears his name, and is credited with creating the Arizona Parks System.

Arizona State Historian Marshall Trimble said Mac rose from humble beginnings “to become one of the most distinguished political figures in 20th century America. He was an original.”

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