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Obituaries

Paul Fannin, 94; U.S. Senator

January 17, 2002|From the Washington Post

Paul Fannin, an Arizona Republican whose two-term career in the U.S. Senate from 1965 to 1977 was marked by fights to limit the influence of unions, died of a stroke Sunday at his home in Phoenix, his family said. He was 94.

A three-term governor of Arizona, the conservative Fannin won the seat of longtime friend Sen. Barry Goldwater, who did not seek reelection in 1964 after winning the Republican presidential nomination.

As a freshman senator with relatively little clout and name recognition, Fannin struggled in 1965 to focus attention on the proposed elimination of a provision of the Taft-Hartley Act that restricted union activities.

The proposed amendment, championed by organized labor, many Democrats and President Lyndon B. Johnson, would have eliminated so-called right-to-work laws passed by a number of states restricting compulsory union membership.

"Fannin was the only one paying attention to the issue," said Reed Larson, president of the National Right to Work Committee, who was active during the Senate fight. "For a time, it looked like he was going to have to go it alone." Eventually, a coalition of Republicans and Southern Democrats united to defeat the change.

Fannin denounced the strikes of the late 1960s and early 1970s in various industries, saying they threatened the country's economy and security.

The ranking Republican on the Interior Committee, Fannin was often the spokesman for the Nixon and Ford administrations on energy policy. He opposed new limits on strip-mining and expanding Interior Department authority over federal land.

Among his proudest achievements was sponsoring the Central Arizona Project, which piped water from the Colorado River to the Phoenix and Tucson areas, greatly aiding development.

He did not run for reelection in 1976, citing his wife's flagging health.

Born in Ashland, Ky., Fannin's family moved to Arizona when he was a toddler. He attended the University of Arizona before transferring to Stanford, where he graduated with a degree in business.

After graduation, he returned to Phoenix and worked in the family hardware business before starting a gas and petroleum equipment company with his brother. After selling the company, he decided to run for public office, winning the governor's office in 1958, 1960 and 1962.

As governor, he fought to increase public education funding to metropolitan areas and to equalize the state property tax.

After leaving the Senate, he served on the board of the Central Arizona Project and worked with energy concerns.

His wife, Elma, died last year.

His survivors include three sons, Bob, the chairman of the Arizona Republican Party; and Tom, both of Phoenix; and Bill, of Petaluma, Calif.; a daughter, Linda Rider of Phoenix.; 10 grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren.

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