Barry Goldwater served five terms in the United States Senate representing Arizona and was the 1964 Republican candidate for President of the United States. Author of The Conscience of a Conservative (1960), he is widely recognized as the founder of the modern conservative movement.
He was born Barry Morris Goldwater on January 1, 1909, in Phoenix, which was then the capital of the Arizona Territory. He attended Phoenix public schools, graduated from Staunton Military Academy in Virginia, and studied at the University of Arizona in Tucson for a year. In 1929 he left college to work in the family department store, Goldwater's, which was the largest in Phoenix. There he established a five-day work week and improved employees' benefits. He took over the business upon his father's death in 1930. Around this time he also developed a life-long interest in aviation and became a pilot.
In 1934 he married Margaret Johnson, with whom he had four children; his son Barry Jr. would be elected a U.S. Representative from California in 1969, becoming the first person to serve in the House while his father was in the Senate. In 1985, Margaret passed away; seven years later he married Susan Shaffer Wechsler.
During the Second World War Goldwater served as a pilot in the U.S. Army Air Force in the Asiatic Theater from August 1941 to November 1945, flying chiefly between the United States and India but also crossing the Himalayas to deliver supplies to China. He joined the Air Force Reserve after the war and founded the Arizona Air National Guard, which he desegregated two years earlier than the rest of the U.S. military. In 1967 he retired with the rank of major general, having flown 165 types of aircraft.
After the war, Goldwater served from 1948 to 1950 on an Indian Affairs advisory committee for the Department of the Interior. In 1949 he won a seat on the Phoenix city council, launching his career in public service. Three years later, in 1952, he won his first of two consecutive terms in the United States Senate, where he gained national prominence as a speaker for conservative causes. He supported numerous pieces of civilrights legislation but in 1964 voted against the final version of the Civil Rights Act because he believed it too intrusive upon the rights of states and individuals. Also in that year he won the Republican nomination for the presidency. He was defeated by incumbent Lyndon B. Johnson, but Arizonans returned him to the Senate in 1968, 1974, and 1980; he chose not to seek re-election in 1986.
In 1996, after he suffered a massive stroke, his family announced that he was in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease. Barry Goldwater died on May 29, 1998, at the age of 89 in his home in Paradise Valley, Arizona.
Goldwater was recognized with numerous awards and honors, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1986 and the Langley Gold Medal from the Smithsonian Institution in 1987. Buildings and monuments named for him include the Visitor Center at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs and a terminal at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. In 1986, Congress established the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program to assist college sophomores and juniors studying science, mathematics, and engineering.
The bronze statue depicts Goldwater as a man in his fifties or sixties, during the time he was a United States Senator. Wearing a suit with cowboy boots and a southwestern bolo tie, he stands in a casual pose as if in mid-conversation, gesturing with his right hand; his left hand is hooked in the pocket of his pants. The self base of the statue has two levels, suggestive of the uneven, rocky landscape of the Arizona desert.
The pedestal of Juparana Florence granite supports the statue. On its front is inscribed "BARRY GOLDWATER / 1909–1998 / ARIZONA."
A panel formed by the Arizona Historical Advisory Commission selected sculptor and Arizona resident Deborah Copenhaver Fellows (1948– ) to undertake this commission. An avid horse enthusiast and accomplished rider, she is best known for her small bronzes on western themes. She has also completed portrait statues of several notable figures, including singer Bing Crosby, businessman Adolph Coors, and philanthropist James Irvine. Fellows sculpted Vietnam Veterans memorials located in Missoula, Montana, and Spokane, Washington, as well as the Korean War Veterans Memorial at the state capitol in Olympia, Washington. She has been a member of the National Sculpture Society since 2008.