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Book Origins

Jack PfisterJack Pfister began researching the history of Burton Barr in 1991, shortly after retiring as Salt River Project’s General Manager, where he had worked with Majority Leader Burton Barr on key water-related legislation. Pfister was impressed with Barr’s ability to solve problems and bring disparate parties to agreement. Following his retirement, Pfister became a professor at Arizona State University’s School of Public Affairs and found a ready collaborator for the project in Brent Brown, a faculty colleague with scholarly and personal interest in Arizona politics.

Pfister and Brown interviewed more than 37 of Barr’s colleagues, friends and family, researched his youth, war years and business, and compiled newspaper stories related to his political career. Although Pfister drafted portions of several chapters and a paper on Barr’s 1986 gubernatorial effort, health problems stopped the project. Brent Brown died in 2008, and Jack Pfister died a year later. Knowing how important the project had been to Jack, the Pfister family invited applications from historians interested in completing the project. In the spring of 2010 ASU History Professor Philip VanderMeer was chosen to complete the project as a publishable book.