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​Who is Burton Barr?

Burton S. Barr (1917 - 1997) ​was a successful businessman, a decorated World War II hero and Arizona’s most powerful politician for two decades as Speaker of the House.

Through the halls of state government and in the midst of the marching three-piece-suits, Barr often dressed in a yellow pullover sweater, casual slacks and one of his favorite hats made of wool patchwork with a roller-coaster brim.  Talking, waving, smiling and always making deals for the good of the people who elected him, Barr moved graciously in any setting.

A selfless fundraiser and tireless worker for dozens of charities, a longtime colleague recalled that when Barr was asked to help out, “He just couldn’t say no!”

But Burton Barr was first and foremost a family man.  “My family comes first.  I’ve been successful…in not letting my political career…interfere with all the chores and pleasures every family goes through.”

In recognition for his support of making information services available to all, ​Burton Barr Central Library was named in his honor in 1997.​

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"A study of the right man in the right place at the right time." ~author, Phillip VanderMeer​

Forthcoming from University of Arizona Press​Burton Barr: Mr. Magic, Political Leadership, and Transforming Arizona is a study of Barr’s life and career.  It examines a fascinating character whose strategies, behavior and personality demonstrate effective legislative leadership. It also describes a period in which Arizona politics and policy making were pragmatic and centrist, rather than following a strictly ideological approach. Working at a time and in a place ready for change, Barr was key as a man with impressive leadership skills and a focus on effectiveness and outcomes.

The book is based on a series of interviews conducted by Jack Pfister with local leaders including Alfredo Gutierrez, Terry Goddard, Governor Jane Dee Hull, Eddie Basha and Burton Barr himself.  Listen and learn more.
Image of line drawing of Burton Barr.