Barry Goldwater

A Tribute to Barry Goldwater

Honorary President of the VWOA 1972-1998

Barry Plaque

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The following was delivered by Douglas Stivison at
the VWOA Annual Awards Banquet, June 5, 1998

Barry Goldwater passed away last week, and people of all political persuasions are mourning the passing of a man known for straight talking throughout his life.

And we of the VWOA lose our Honorary President. In fact, we lose the man who held the office longer than any of his distinguished peers including Guglielmo Marconi, Lee DeForest, David Sarnoff, and Herbert Hoover. We will miss him.

Barry’s fascination with radio was lifelong, and like so many of us, it started with a crystal set which he constructed as a boy. He maintained a showcase amateur station that was also, by far, the best-known Military Affiliated Radio System (MARS) station not actually located on a military base. Barry’s legendary generosity extended to letting many others, particularly young people, use his fine equipment, big antenna, and excellent location.

As an influential lawmaker he was a strong advocate for amateur radio, was a strong supporter of the 1964 amateur radio postage stamp, worked behind the scenes to assure amateur representation on international regulatory teams, and he was a force behind loosening the amateur regulations to include reciprocal licensing with many nations.

Barry was a strong advocate on liberalizing (truly a strange term to ever include in the same sentence with his name) the amateur rules, especially those to do with reciprocal licensing and third party traffic handling. In fact, it was in large part due to his pioneering views that the total rewriting of part 97 of the FCC regulations occurred under President Ronald Reagan.

Beside the amateur-radio-specific issues just mentioned, Barry was a strong voice in the Senate in support of a broad range of technology issues, both military and civilian. He expressed many times his belief that technology leadership, technology education, and technology investment were fundamental both to our nation’s economy as well as its defense,

The connection between Barry Goldwater and the VWOA spans more than three decades, not quite half the history of our organization. He joined the VWOA in 1966, fully qualifying as a veteran member for his military service as both pilot and radio operator in the Air Service, later the Air Force. In 1968 he accepted our highest award, the Marconi Gold Medal. Four years later, in 1972, he accepted the office of Honorary President. He held the office for 27 years.

Barry will certainly be remembered for his political views, but I am certain that he will be remembered even longer for his character.

His politics are well known. He lost the 1964 national presidential election, a loss universally attributed to his outspoken conservatism. He was lambasted at the time as too extreme … only to find that his problem was not the extremity of his views so much as timing. President Reagan, one of the most popular presidents in history, ultimately ran and served on a platform of smaller government and greater personal responsibility which was modeled on Barry Goldwater’s platform.

Barry was, in many ways, simply ahead of his time. Though a losing presidential candidate, he was also virtually single-handedly responsible for the redefinition of the power base of his own party, shifting it squarely away from the Northeast into the South and West. This power shift was in many ways directly responsible for the growing strength of his party in later years.

Although routed in the 1964 general election, Barry Goldwater will be remembered for a legacy of political achievement that escaped the man who defeated him for the White House. Both Colin Powell and General Norman Schwartzkopf have repeatedly credited much of the victory in Operation Desert Storm directly to the reorganization of the American military after Viet Nam.

Barry Goldwater and Sam Nunn of Georgia, together studied the operational problems with military command that plagued our forces in Viet Nam, and they worked tirelessly to change them in order to allow for much faster, must more flexible, and much more effective strategic and tactical decision making.

It may be one of the great ironies of American history that possibly Barry Goldwater’s greatest single contribution to our nation may well be the revitalization of the military after the Viet Nam defeat.  And Barry achieved this by studying the mistakes made in Viet Nam by the man who defeated him in the race for the White House — Lyndon Johnson.

Goldwater received a tremendous amount of criticism for his Senatorial votes against the landmark Civil Rights legislation of the 1960’s. The interesting thing is that he was anything but a bigot, anything but a racist.  His opposition to the legislation stemmed from his fundamental belief in restricting the size, scope, and reach of federal power.  He felt deeply that Washington should not legislate morality, should not control every lunch counter, bus, and classroom in the nation . . . even if the goal of the legislation, itself, was undeniably good and noble.

And Barry never missed an opportunity to say that he felt the goal of the Civil Rights legislation was beyond reproach.  In his own life, he organized the Arizona Air National Guard which from day one was the first fully racially integrated National Guard unit in the country.  He was also no stranger to anti-Semitic prejudice against himself, as the son of a Jewish businessman and a Christian mother.  His favorite joke was the apocryphal story of Phoenix’s most restricted country club. Barry claimed that he applied for membership when he was a young, successful businessman, but was refused because he was half Jewish.  He applied again when he entered local politics and was turned down again. When he was elected to the Senate, he was turned down again. But in 1964, when it looked like there was a chance that he might become President of the United States, the club reconsidered how bad it would look to be the club that blackballed the President. So, Barry claims the club membership committee finally offered him membership . . . but only on the condition that he agreed to only play nine holes. Potential President or not, he was still half Jewish.

But Barry is best known for his character.  Despite his often unpopular positions on issues, he was voted by his peers in the Senate, as "the most congenial man in the Senate."  Upon his retirement, his colleagues on both sides of the aisle started the Goldwater Scholarship fund. He counted among his closest friends Hubert Humphrey — as close to his political, philosophical opposite as one could find.

The New York Times of May 30, 1998 contained an eloquent editorial about Barry entitled "The Honorable Senator From Arizona."  It said, "Part of the reason for such fraternal good will was that Mr. Goldwater saw politics as a debate over ideas, not a blood sport for power. The other reason was that all sides knew he was one of those rare creatures on Capitol Hill who talked straight."

Barry was one of a kind — outspoken political thinker, patriot, businessman, Air Force General, United States Senator, father, husband, grandfather, radio amateur, photographer, pilot, and like Marconi, DeForest, Hoover, and Sarnoff a great friend to the VWOA.

We will miss him.