He grew tired and wary of handling the family business and at the onset of World War II he enlisted in the United States Army Air Forces, where he rose rapidly through the ranks, from command pilot to Major General.
He served the army for nearly 37 years and was also instrumental in the creation of the ‘United States Air Force Academy’ and the ‘Arizona Air National Guard’.
After he retired from the Army as Air Force Major General, he became active in local politics in Phoenix, in 1949.
In 1952, he was elected to the US Senate, defeating Ernest McFarland. Six years later, he defeated McFarland again and retired from the US Senate in 1964 to campaign for presidency.
In 1960, he authored the book, ‘The Conscience of a Conservative’, which became a significant publication in the political arena of America.
In 1964, he opposed the ‘Civil Rights Act of 1964’ and justified his opposition by stating that he believed, the federal government was being intrusive in the affairs of each individual state and that each state had its right to its own laws and independence.
Thus, he ran a conservative campaign against the federal government, which won him the support of conservatives in southern states including Georgia and South Carolina.
However, his campaign against the ‘Civil Rights Act’ proved to be devastating around the other states in America, which led to his landslide defeat the same year.
In 1964, he contested for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, where he defeated Nelson Rockefeller by a small margin in the primary round.
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However, a number of liberal Republicans opposed his nomination because they believed that his aggressive, anti-Communist stance against Russia might pave way for a nuclear war. This subsequently led to a fall in the percentage of votes, which led him losing the elections to Lyndon Johnson, who became the President.
Despite his loss, he was elected as a Senator to the US Senate in 1968, replacing Carl Hayden.
He was re-elected to the Senate in 1974, during which time he urged Nixon to resign from presidency in the wake of the ‘Watergate Scandal’.
In 1980, he was elected to the Senate once again, before which he had planned to retire. However he decided to contest one last time and this time round, the re-election seemed tougher, because the social fabric had changed in Arizona and not many new voters were agreed to his archaic views and policies. Despite the hardships, he was re-elected to the Senate.
On October 30, 1984, he introduced the Cable Communications Act, which established a number of regulations on cable communications and promoted competition and deregulation in the cable industry.
In 1985, he was appointed as the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Armed Services; a position he served till his retirement.
While serving his final term as a senator, he signed the ‘Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act’, which brought about a number of sweeping changes in the United States Military and the Department of Defense.
He retired in 1987 and during the time of his retirement, he was considered one of the most respectable, influential figures in the US senate.
Following his retirement, he made a number of controversial statements pertaining to the ‘Whitewater Scandal’ and the ban on homosexuals in the military, which distanced many of his own supporters from him. He also played an active part in legalizing ‘medical marijuana’.
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Personal Life & Legacy
He was a radio operator in the early years of his life and played an active part in helping those in the army communicate with their loved ones back home during the Vietnam War.
He married Margaret Johnson in 1934, with whom he had four children; Joanne, Barry, Michael and Peggy. However, she passed away in 1985.
In 1992, he married Susan Wechsler, who was 32 years younger than him.
He was also an avid photographer and showed great interest in the study of UFO’s.
He passed away after suffering a stroke at the age of 89.
Today, ‘The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship’ is presented to college students who wish to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, science and engineering.
A number of buildings and monuments have been named in his honor including, ‘The Barry M. Goldwater Terminal’, ‘The Barry Goldwater Air Force Academy Visitor Center’ and the ‘Barry Goldwater High School’ in Phoenix.