Arizona Organic Act Sponsor James Mitchell Ashley’s Birthday

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Ohio Congressman James Ashley sponsored the 1863 Arizona Organic Act. After winning passage in both houses of Congress, Ashley’s bill was signed by President Lincoln, at which point Arizona Territory was carved out of New Mexico Territory.
Image Credit: Library of Congress

James Mitchell Ashley, a nineteenth-century abolitionist, Republican politician, and railroad executive, was born on this day in 1824. Though best known by historians and political scientists as the initiator of President Andrew Johnson’s impeachment, the five-term Ohio Congressman is significant to our state’s history as the sponsor of the Arizona Organic Act.

Signed into law by President Lincoln on February 24th, 1863, Ashley’s bill carved the Arizona Territory out of land once belonging to New Mexico Territory. Notably, Ashley’s legislation established the Arizona-New Mexico border that is in place to this day – a border drawn to separate the former New Mexico Territory in two along a north-south line. In so doing, the federal government effectively neutralized the would-be Confederate Territory of Arizona that had been organized along an east-west line along the 35th parallel to split New Mexico Territory into a Union-held northern section and a Confederate southern portion. Confederate influence in the newly-formed territory was further weakened when officials selected Prescott as the new capital, thus shifting the base of power from what is now Mesilla, NM, then the center of Confederate territorial government.

Following a ten year career in Congress, Ashley moved west to serve as governor of Montana Territory. Outside of his life in politics, Ashley founded and managed the now-defunct Ann Arbor Railroad, a venture boasting track in the states of Ohio and Michigan.

Carl Hayden – An Arizona Legend

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This Miles Stafford Rolph III-crafted memorial to Arizona’s longest-serving member of Congress is located in the Russell Senate Office Building.
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“They’d probably vote landlocked Arizona a navy if he asked for it.”

The above quote from a 1971 Los Angeles Times article refers to the level of respect with which his fellow members of Congress viewed Arizona’s Carl Hayden, who was born in Tempe on this date in 1877. Hayden, son of Hayden’s Ferry (now Tempe) founder Charles Trumbull Hayden, represented Arizonans in Washington for 56 years and 319 days, a longstanding record now bested only by the many years of service logged by the late Robert Byrd of West Virginia and John Dingell, a still-serving Michigan Democrat who first took office in December of 1955.

Hayden’s birthplace, the National Register-listed adobe home that is now Monti’s La Casa Vieja, stands directly across the street from the Hayden-owned flour mill for which Tempe’s Mill Avenue is named. Indeed, Hayden’s impressive political career began in the then-small town of Tempe, where he served on the town council. Hayden went on to win terms as treasurer and sheriff of Maricopa County prior to being sent to the nation’s capital as Arizona’s first member of the House of Representatives. After fifteen years in the lower chamber, Hayden won election to the United States Senate, where he served for forty-two years. Hayden tirelessly advocated for his home state during his nearly fifty-seven years in D.C., garnering admiration even from those on the other side of the aisle, as evidenced by Republican Barry Goldwater quietly raising funds for Hayden’s final campaign for re-election. In a time now thought of as being relatively free of the partisan rancor plaguing Washington today, Goldwater discreetly supported Hayden because he knew the Tempean passionately and effectively served their shared constituents.

Central among Hayden’s many legislative accomplishments is the 1968 passage of the Colorado River Basin Project Act that authorized the Central Arizona Project. A longtime goal of the then-nonagenarian, this costly and complex endeavor transports Colorado River water to quench the thirst of Phoenicians and Tucsonans, thus facilitating ongoing population growth and economic expansion not possible without the benefit of this far-off water source. Hayden’s greatest legislative victory served as the capstone to his legendary Congressional career. Just months after the bill’s passage, he retired from the Senate, thereby allowing Barry Goldwater to return to the august body as his duly elected successor. Hayden spent much of his final three years of life working at his office in ASU’s Hayden Library, a repository named not for the much-admired public servant, but instead christened in honor of Hayden’s father, Charles Trumbull Hayden. The former Senate president pro tempore passed away on January 25, 1972. His well-attended funeral service was held in ASU’s Grady Gammage Memorial Auditorium, which later served as the venue for the 1998 funeral of Hayden colleague and friend Barry Goldwater.