Distinguished citizens: Navajo Code Talkers, 4 others worthy of historical honors
(Note: The language deception, couched in romantic and airy phrasing, is deliberately used here.)
February 9, 2005
Opinions section (no author given at originating website)
The Arizona Republic
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Bruce Babbitt didn't set out to be governor more than 25 years ago. He loved his job as Arizona's attorney general, viewing it as a "perfect combination of lawyering and public life." A policy wonk before the term was invented, the erudite Babbitt thought the U.S. Senate might be a political destination someday.
But fate stepped in and, in 1978, Babbitt became governor. In a state where governors typically only reacted to legislative initiatives, Babbitt turned the office into a crucial incubator for long-term public policy in groundwater management, land use and health care.
Later, as part of the Clinton administration, Babbitt made his mark as secretary of the Interior. Among his accomplishments: expanding the number of national monuments across the country, including five in Arizona.
Babbitt was among five "historymakers" honored last weekend by the Arizona Historical Society. He's part of an impressive group. They include:
• The late Cloves Campbell. Among the most significant African-American leaders in state history, Campbell, of Phoenix, was Arizona's first Black state senator and the man who first sponsored a Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Arizona. He was founder, owner and editor of The Informant, the Black-oriented newspaper that published news "you won't find in any other news media in Arizona."
• Former Phoenix Mayor John Driggs. His efforts to maintain the state's legacy and enrich history continue into his late seventies. His accomplishments have grown still larger in the decades after he left public life.
Look out the window of a tall building in Phoenix. In any direction, you will see and appreciate our vast urban park system, anchored by the Phoenix Mountain Preserves: Piestewa Peak, Camelback Mountain, South Mountain, North Mountain.
John Driggs helped make sure those treasures were not leveled and bulldozed for rooftops and freeways. Arizona will always be indebted to him.
• Alberto Rios. A gentle man and professor at Arizona State University, he sees significance in the most humble people and corners of our state -- and then writes about them in the most vivid, elegant and moving ways. His footprint is felt in the poetic passages he fashions and portraits he shapes. In truth, he makes history because he will interpret it for future generations.
• The Navajo Code Talkers. Only in recent years, through government declassification of their story and a Nicolas Cage movie, has the role of the Navajo soldiers become recognized by many Americans beyond the Southwest.
Navajos took part in every assault in the Pacific, at Iwo Jima and Guadalcanal. Using Navajo words as English letters, they transmitted strategic messages and instructions in a code the Japanese never broke.
These inductees joined 44 fellow Arizonans last Saturday at the "Historymakers Gala VIII," on behalf of the Arizona Historical Museum at Papago Park.
They're a distinguished group. They made a difference in our state -- and continue to do so.
Copyright 2005, The Arizona Republic.