Historica Wiki

Evan Mecham.jpg

Evan Mecham (12 May 1924-21 February 2008) was the Republican Governor of Arizona from 5 January 1987 to 4 April 1988, succeeding Bruce Babbitt and preceding Rose Mofford. Mecham was a known racist whose attempts to cancel the implementation of Martin Luther King Jr. Day in his state, racist remarks against Black and East Asian people, misogyny, anti-Semitic insistence that America was a Christian country in front of a Jewish audience, and cronyism led to him becoming deeply unpopular, and causing his impeachment.


Evan Mecham was born in Duchesne, Utah in 1924 to a family of Mormon farmers from Mountain Home. He went to school in Altamont, and he served in the US Air Force from 1943 to 1945, during World War II. He served as an LDS Church bishop from 1957 to 1961, became a car dealer in Ajo, Arizona in 1950 before relocating to Glendale in 1954, operating a Pontiac dealership there until he sold it in 1988. He failed in his 1952 bid for the State House, served in the State Senate from 1960 to 1962, failed in his 1962 US Senate bid (supporting the United States' withdrawal from the United Nations), failed in his gubernatorial bids in 1964, 1974, 1978, and 1982, and ultimately won a three-way race for Governor in 1986. As Governor, he opened a trade office in Taiwan, strengthened drug abuse prevention efforts, raised the speed limit on state highways from 55 mph to 65 mph, and eliminated a $157 budget deficit through reductions in state spending. He became unpopular for his attempt to cancel the implementation of Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a paid holiday for state employees, resulting in a boycott of the state by several musicians and the rap group Public Enemy portraying Mecham's assassination in a car bombing in their music video "By the Time I Get to Arizona". He also used the word "pickaninny" to describe Black children, claimed that high divorce rates were caused by working women, claimed that America was a Christian nation to a Jewish audience, said that he gave Japanese businessmen "round eyes" after telling them of thte number of golf courses in Arizona, and responded to allegations of racism by saying, "I've got black friends. I employ black people. I don't employ them because they are black; I employ them because they are the best people who applied for the cotton-picking job." He was impeached in 1988 due to the economic side effects of his controversial governorship, as well as because of allegations of cronyism. He later failed in bids for the governorship and the US Senate, and he died in 2008.