Saturday, February 23, 2008

Governor Mecham's Legacy

Arizona just lost former governor Evan Mecham to an undisclosed illness at the age of 83. One of my first cousins married into his family about ten years ago, so I thought I'd read his Wikipedia page to get a sense of the man. Here are some choice excerpts.

"Evan Mecham gained national attention several days after inauguration by fulfilling his campaign promise to cancel a paid MLK Day holiday for state employees. ...Mecham replied to comments from civil rights activists and the Black community after the cancellation by saying 'King doesn't deserve a holiday.' This was followed by him telling a group of black community leaders, 'You folks don't need another holiday. What you folks need are jobs.'"

"Claims of prejudice were made against Mecham after he defended the use of the word 'pickaninny' to describe black children, claimed that high divorce rates were caused by working women, claimed America is a Christian nation to a Jewish audience, and said a group of visiting Japanese businessmen got 'round eyes' after being told of the number of golf courses in Arizona. In response to claims that he was a racist, Mecham said, '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.'"

"Having served from January 6, 1987 to April 4, 1988, Mecham was removed from office following conviction in his impeachment trial of charges of the obstruction of justice and the misuse of government funds."

"Throughout his administration, Mecham expressed concern about possible eavesdropping on his private communications. A senior member of Mecham's staff broke his leg after falling through a false ceiling he had been crawling over, looking for covert listening devices. A private investigator was hired to sweep the governor's offices looking for bugs. The Governor was quoted as saying, 'Whenever I'm in my house or my office, I always have a radio on. It keeps the lasers out.'"



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