az civic leadership

Sharing a 50th Anniversary: The Beatles and Burton Barr

March 11, 2014

By Arizona Center for Civic Leadership

The US was never the same after the Beatles appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show 50 years ago this year. But a number of notable Arizona 50th anniversaries deserve just as much attention as the Fab Four’s milestone.

One is that Republican Burton Barr, “the energetic and highly pragmatic consensus-building majority leader” according to political scientist David Berman, first won a seat in the Arizona House of Representatives in 1964. He became Majority Leader in 1966, a post he held for 20 years. Barr presided over significant changes in Arizona government. His leadership helped pass landmark legislation on water, transportation, air quality, taxation, and higher education, among other areas.

Arizona State University history professor Dr. Philip VanderMeer has completed a biography of this unique leader, which is scheduled for release late in 2014. Entitled Burton Barr: Leadership and the Transformation of Arizona Politics, his work completes a project started by Jack Pfister and Brent Brown, important Arizona figures in their own right. Barr’s biographer wrote that “his strength was his ability to recognize truly important issues, bring key individuals together to negotiate solutions, and persuade his colleagues to support the result.”

Barr influenced as many individuals as he did policies. As Arizona House Minority Leader Art Hamilton explained in an interview, Barr was a “master of the process” but he also “understood people.” It was the combination of these that made him the “greatest legislator.”

Barr’s legacy is still clearly evident so many years after his freshman session. Listen to former Representative Art Hamilton’s comments at, courtesy of Arizona State Library, Archives, and Public Records.



As an Arizona state legislator, Flinn Foundation CEO Jack Jewett served with Burton Barr and commented on that time in a recent interview with Arizona Center for Civic Leadership General Manager Emily Rajakovich. Listen to an excerpt about Barr.

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