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J. Howard Pyle; Ex-Governor of Arizona

December 01, 1987|Associated Press

TEMPE, Ariz. — J. Howard Pyle, a broadcaster who went on to become a two-term Arizona governor and aide to President Dwight D. Eisenhower, has died at the age of 81.

Pyle died Sunday at Tempe Saint Luke's Hospital, where he had been taken Oct. 23 after suffering a stroke.

He had served as governor from 1951 to 1955, the first Republican to hold the post in 22 years. His defeat in a campaign for a third term was blamed on his orders for police to raid a polygamous community in 1953.

Republican Gov. Evan Mecham called Pyle "an essential part of the modern Arizona" and a key player "in the rebirth of two-party politics" in the state. "Howard was a peacemaker," Mecham said. "I never knew anyone that didn't like Howard Pyle."

Began as Singer

Pyle was born March 25, 1906, in Sheridan, Wyo., and began his radio career as a singer for KFAB in Lincoln, Neb., before moving to Arizona with his family in 1925.

From 1930 to 1950, he was vice president, program manager and announcer for the Arizona Broadcasting System, which included KTAR Radio and KTAR-TV, now KPNX-TV. During World War II, he was a war correspondent for his own stations and NBC radio. Pyle was the first radio correspondent to land in Japan with U.S. ground forces and covered the Japanese surrender from the deck of the battleship Missouri for all four U.S. radio networks.

In 1950, Pyle and his campaign manager, Barry Goldwater, traveled 26,000 miles in an uphill campaign for governor. He was elected by 3,000 votes, even though 225,000 of the state's 275,000 voters were registered as Democrats.

He was reelected in 1952, but was defeated while seeking a third term in 1954, with political observers attributing his defeat to the nocturnal raid on Short Creek, a polygamous community now called Colorado City, on the Arizona-Utah border.

More than 100 law-enforcement officers descended on Short Creek and arrested 96 men on charges of conspiracy to commit adultery, bigamy, open and notorious cohabitation and marrying the spouse of another. Twenty-seven were convicted and placed on a year's probation each. Charges against 69 others were dismissed.

In a 1985 interview, Pyle said he believed that reaction to the raid cost him his bid for a third term.

"When I die, I know I will be remembered for Short Creek far beyond anything else I did in office," he said. Still, he said, if he were governor again he would mount another effort to end polygamy in Arizona.

After his defeat, Pyle headed to Washington for a four-year stint as deputy assistant for federal-state relations. He also served as president of the National Safety Council, chairman of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act's National Advisory Committee and Tempe city councilman.

Survivors include his wife, Lucile, and two daughters. Services will be held Wednesday.

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