George W. P. Hunt was a highly colorful Arizona politician. A territorial representative and seven-time Arizona state governor, Hunt joined Woodrow Wilson in making the Democratic Party the party of Progressive reform. This political biography follows Hunt through his years in the territorial legislature, and then as governor. Author David R. Berman’s well-researched and detailed work features Hunt’s battles to stem the powers of large corporations, democratize the political system, defend labor rights, reform the prison system, abolish the death penalty, and protect Arizona’s interests in the Colorado River. He had a special concern for the down and out. He found the "forgotten man" long before Franklin Roosevelt.
Hunt was proof that style and physical appearance neither guarantee nor preclude political success, for the three-hundred-pound man of odd dress and bumbling speech had a political career that spanned the state’s Populism of the 1890s to the 1930s New Deal. Driven by causes, he was very active in public office but took little pleasure in doing the job. Called names by opponents and embarrassed by his lack of formal education, Hunt sometimes showed rage, self-pity, and bitterness at what he saw as betrayals and conspiracies against him.
The author assesses Hunt’s successes and failings as a political leader and take-charge governor struggling to produce results in a political system hostile to executive authority. Berman offers a nuanced look at Arizona’s first governor, providing an important new understanding of Arizona’s complex political history.