Originally Published: April 3, 2008 10:30 p.m.
It was a big day for little Prescott when Sen. Barry Goldwater walked up the steps of the Yavapai County courthouse to launch his campaign for U.S. president as the Republican nominee.
And it is a good move for Sen. John McCain to speak at the same site at 10 a.m. Saturday as he launches his own presidential campaign, agreed Elisabeth Ruffner, an old friend of the Goldwaters, and Jack August, executive director of the Barry Goldwater Center for the Southwest.
"He'll be treading the path of another great man," said Ruffner, whose late husband Budge was the master of ceremonies at Goldwater's presidential bid announcement on Sept. 3, 1964.
"It was wall-to-wall people as far as the eye could see," Ruffner recalled of that Goldwater event.
Goldwater was a symbol of the rise of the New West, yet he combined that with the imagery of the Old West in Arizona's territorial capital for his presidential announcement, August observed.
"He was wise and sensitive, and I think that's the real mark of a good man," Ruffner said.
Many other Republicans have announced their candidacy on the same steps since Goldwater, who founded the country's modern conservative movement.
Barry Morris Goldwater loved Prescott and the childhood memories it held for him. He spent his summers here while growing up.
Barry's Uncle Morris had the strongest connection to Prescott. After helping with family stores along the Colorado River and in Phoenix, he and his brothers Henry and Baron (Barry's father) opened a Goldwater mercantile store in Prescott in 1876.
Morris served as Prescott's mayor for a combined 20 years. He also held many other political titles, including vice president of the Arizona Constitutional Convention, president of the state Senate, state senator, territorial legislator, county supervisor and city council member. History credits him with organizing the Arizona Democratic Party and creating the Arizona Corporation Commission.
Morris lived in what is now the Hampton Funeral Home. His brother Henry lived in a home on Union Street's "Nob Hill" that now is marked with an historical sign.
Morris married his longtime landlady in 1906 but they had no children. He died in Prescott in 1939 and is buried at the Masonic Cemetery here.
Barry said Uncle Morris' example of public service had a major influence on him.
Barry served on the Phoenix City Council before winning a U.S. Senate seat in 1952 in a huge victory over veteran Democrat Ernest McFarland. That was the first year he announced his candidacy on the courthouse steps in Prescott.
"Prescott has always been lucky for me," he told a columnist shortly before beating the Eastern establishment for the Republican presidential nomination.
The town really went all out for Goldwater's 1964 announcement, organizing a parade featuring movie stars Randolph Scott and Tex Ritter, another famous person with local roots.
The city fathers proclaimed it "Welcome Home Barry Day."
Stores closed so employees could attend. The Sam Steiger for Congress committee put on a buffet at the Hassayampa Inn. Steiger was a state senator at the time. Yavapai-Prescott Chieftess Viola Jimulla invited American Indian leaders from all over the state.
"What could be more fitting than to stand here to send forth our message - a message for all who would be free and unafraid, a message for all who would face the future with hope and faith," Goldwater told the crowd gathered below him. "This is truly the home of the free and of the brave."
It was fitting that it also was Prescott's centennial year. Goldwater had been in Prescott toward the start of the year to dedicate the new city hall, and again on July 3 to lead the Prescott Frontier Days Parade.
"Prescott has become a time-honored tradition in terms of symbolism and the rise of the Goldwater movement," said August, himself a Prescott resident. "For McCain to tip his hat to what Goldwater did, I think it's a very wise move."
"Yavapai County has always been the strongest Republican county in the state, and it's an extremely important gesture to make," Ruffner said.
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