Part 2 covers some of Governor Kibbey’s lasting accomplishments as Governor, his second stint as an attorney in private practice, and his political and other activities in later life.
Governor Kibbey acted immediately on the biggest issue facing the Arizona Territory: the proposal pending in Congress to combine New Mexico and Arizona and admit them to the United States as a single state. On March 10, three days after taking the oath of office, he urged the Arizona Legislature to protest to the U.S. Congress. He noted that the opposition of the public and the Legislature was “practically unanimous”. Congress had dismissed multiple petitions sent by the public, public bodies, and private associations as not representative or not authentic. Governor Kibbey urged the Arizona Legislature to call a special election to allow Arizona voters to express their opinions. You can read his letter to the Legislature in the Legislative History, Arizona 1864-1912.
The Legislature did not call for an election, but lobbying persuaded Congress to require a referendum of New Mexico and Arizona voters on the question “Shall Arizona and New Mexico be united to form one State?”. New Mexico voters approved the proposal, but it was soundly defeated by Arizona voters, effectively defeating the proposal in November 1906. Statehood for Arizona finally came on February 14, 1912. New Mexico had been admitted a month earlier, on January 6, 1912.
Another important issue was taxation. Mining was a major industry in the Territory, but Governor Kibbey maintained that the mines were not paying their fair share in taxes. At the time, property tax assessments on all taxable property except railroads and mines were based on 40-70% of their value. Mines were assessed between 3 and 5%. First Governor Kibbey requested the resignation of the chairman of the Territorial Board of Equalization. Upon his resignation, the Board of Equalization increased the assessed value of the mines. Governor Kibbey advocated for another tax increase in his opening address to the 24th Legislature. A summary of his speech can be found in the Legislative History, Arizona 1864-1912.
During the session, the lobbyists for the mines consented to a tax of 25% on the value of its gross product of bullion, believing that the Governor would veto a tax increase that was lower than he had requested. Instead, Governor Kibbey signed the new tax into law, reasoning that although the new tax was less than what was needed, the minimal increase was useful. Furthermore, Governor Kibbey believed that Statehood was imminent and that a more appropriate tax could be imposed by the State Legislature.
Governor Kibbey weighed in on a question posed by the local newspaper, the Arizona Republican, regarding whether Arizona residents should be called “Arizonans” or “Arizonians”. The newspaper preferred Arizonians. His lengthy letter to the editor gave his reasons for choosing Arizonans.
The 25th Territorial Legislature, which convened in 1909, was combative. They voted to disband the Arizona Rangers, a statewide law enforcement authority that was under the control of the state government. They also dismantled the office of the public examiner, which was an investigative office that oversaw government units to identify mismanagement. Governor Kibbey vetoed both bills but was overridden. The Legislature created the office of the State Historian. Sharlot Hall, a longtime leader and chronicler of Arizona history was passed over for the post, to the great disappointment of women’s organizations. The Governor conveyed that he, too, was an admirer of Hall, but that legislators had informed him that they would not create the office of the State Historian if a Republican were appointed to it. The Governor chose to compromise and appointed Mulford Winsor, who was later a delegate to the Arizona Constitutional Convention, legislator, and state librarian. After Kibbey left office, his successor Governor Sloan appointed Sharlot Hall to be the State Historian.
The 25th Territorial Legislature also enacted Arizona’s first direct primary law and established the Pioneer’s Home. A new county, Greenlee, was carved out of Graham County. The Legislature took steps to build the Territorial government by creating the office of the Territorial Engineer, the Horticultural Commission, and the Board of Embalming.
Kibbey vetoed a bill requiring schools to segregate “African” students. In his veto message, Governor Kibbey wrote:
“It would be unfair that pupils of the African race should be given accommodations and facilities for a common school education, less effective, less complete, less convenient or less pleasant so far as the accessories of the school and its operation are concerned than those accorded pupils of the white race in the same school district; and the bill in its terms contemplates nothing less…This, I deem it, is a denial of not only a moral but a legal right.”
The Legislature overrode his veto, and the bill became law, as seen in Acts, Resolutions & Memorials of the 25th Legislative Assembly of the Territory of Arizona, Chapter 67, page 171. Later in private practice Kibbey would again assert his opposition to segregation.
In 1908, President Roosevelt appointed Kibbey for a second term but political opponents delayed confirmation for the remainder of Roosevelt’s term. Incoming President William Howard Taft appointed Richard Elihu Sloan as Governor. Governor Kibbey left office on May 1, 1909 and returned to the private practice of law. Territorial employees toasted the outgoing Governor with gifts.
Kibbey returned to practicing law, providing legal representation on issues he valued. The Arizona Territory was vulnerable to a destructive cycle of floods and droughts that flooded homes, killed livestock, and destroyed cropland. Kibbey participated in the creation of the Salt River Valley Water Users’ Association, in part to establish an entity that would make the Salt River Valley eligible for a federal program that would construct a storage dam. Kibbey served as its legal counsel. During his earlier time in private practice he participated in planning that ultimately led to the construction of Roosevelt Dam near the confluence of Tonto Creek and the Salt River that served as a model for future federal water projects. Construction began in 1903 but was delayed by extreme flooding. It began providing electric power in 1906 and was formally opened by President Teddy Roosevelt in 1911.
Another legal issue that was important to Kibbey was segregation. Arizona statutes required that pupils of the ‘African’ race be segregated from pupils of the ‘Caucasian’ race. Segregation laws were on the books in Arizona until the 1950s. Here is a provision from the 1939 Arizona Code:
Representing a parent of school age children, Kibbey sued Phoenix School District 1. He argued that Black parents wanted their children to go to the best schools, just like the parents of white children. The trial court ruled that if facilities were equal, then segregation was legal. It found, however, that since children in the first 4 years of elementary school had to travel farther to the school, it was illegal. The case was appealed and heard by a new appellate court put in place after Statehood. The appellate court reversed the trial court judge and segregation continued (Dameron v Bayless, 14 Arizona 180, 1912).
Kibbey continued to be politically active. Kibbey wrote policy positions in preparation for the Arizona Constitutional Convention that was held in 1910. In the special election held to choose delegates to the convention, Kibbey was not elected. As a Republican, he would have been part of a small minority. The Constitution drafted during the convention was submitted to Arizona voters between October and December of 2010.
In 1911 Kibbey was appointed as one of two local attorneys to the paving commission, created to determine which of Phoenix city streets would be paved and to work out the legal details. Paving had become necessary with the advent of the automobile. In the same time period, Kibbey and his wife learned to drive. She was an apt learner and a good driver. In contrast, Joseph Kibbey had difficulty controlling the automobile at high speed when the car was in third gear. He managed his worries by restricting himself to driving only in first and second gear.
In national politics, the rivalry between Republicans Teddy Roosevelt and William Howard Taft dominated the news. The discord caused Arizona Republicans to send two slates of delegates to the national convention in 1912. Historians note that the party rank and file supported Roosevelt, while party officials favored Taft. Taft was chosen as the Republican candidate for President. Kibbey, an observer at the convention, noted that the Arizona divisions were typical of other states. He also believed that Roosevelt should have been nominated as the Republican candidate for President. Roosevelt’s response to his loss of the nomination was to form the Bull Moose party and run for President as a third party candidate. Kibbey was a supporter. Roosevelt lost nationally and in Arizona. Arizona favored Woodrow Wilson. In Arizona Roosevelt placed second, Socialist Eugene Debs came in third, and Taft was last among the major party candidates. As we know now, Taft was elected the 27th President of the United States. After the election, Kibbey returned to the Republican party.
In 1914 Kibbey ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate, losing to the incumbent Henry Fountain Ashurst, a Wilsonian Democrat who would represent Arizona in the Senate until he was defeated in the Democratic primary in 1940 by Ernest McFarland.
Kibbey continued to serve on the Republican state executive committee. In 1919 his many years of work on water issues were honored by his appointment by Governor Campbell as chairman of the Arizona Resources Board. The Board was charged with protecting Arizona’s interests in the development of the Colorado River.
Kibbey lost his wife on October 22, 1923 after a long illness. Nora Burbank Kibbey was known in the community as a charming and talented woman. Governor Hunt ordered the flag at the Capitol to be lowered in her honor. Her loss was a great blow to Kibbey.
Joseph Kibbey suffered a stroke and passed away less than a year later, on June 14, 1924. His passing was the headline of the Arizona Republican the next day.
The Arizona Republican published a tribute:
“It was during his term (as Governor) that the greatest number of social, civic and fiscal reforms were instituted in Arizona.”
The Arizona State Bar noted: “A good man, a strong man, a useful man, was Joseph H. Kibbey.”
He laid in state in the Arizona Capitol rotunda. He was buried at Greenwood Memory Lawn Mortuary & Cemetery. In the coffin were the ashes of Mrs. Kibbey. Pall bearers included his law partners and two former Arizona Supreme Court justices. Thousands of people paid their respects. Two years later a bronze plaque was placed in the Capitol.
Segregation of Arizona public schools would continue until 1954. In 1951 HB 86 Hayzel B. Daniels and Carl Sims, the first Black legislators in Arizona history, won passage of HB 86 repealing racial segregation in public schools, (Laws 1951, Chapter 74, PDF page 243), but segregation continued. In Phillips vs Phoenix Union High Schools and Junior College District (Maricopa County case No. 72909), Hayzel B. Daniels and Herbert B. Finn sued over the segregation of Carver High School in Phoenix. Superior Court Judge Struckmeyer wrote in February, 1953 that “a half century of intolerance is enough”. He ruled that the Arizona law permitting segregation was unconstitutional and that Phoenix Union’s segregation of African-American students was illegal. (Dismissal of appeal).
While the appeal was pending before the Arizona Supreme Court, Phoenix Union School Board quietly voted to desegregate all of its schools and the case was dismissed as moot. Next Daniels and Finn sued the Wilson Elementary School District for violating the Arizona law which prohibited segregation on the basis of race. Superior Court Judge Bernstein ruled in November of 1953 that segregation in public schools was a violation of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. While the appeal of Bernstein’s ruling was pending, the U.S. Supreme Court requested a copy of Judge Bernstein’s opinion and later ruled that school segregation on the basis of race is unconstitutional in Brown vs Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954).
Goff, John S., Joseph H. Kibbey, Arizona Biographical Series, Black Mountain Press, Cave Creek, Arizona,
Connors, Jo. (1913). Who’s Who in Arizona (Vol. 1). PDF page 157.
Kelly, George H. (1926). Legislative History, Arizona 1864-1912, Manufacturing Stationers Inc, Phoenix.
McClintock, James. (1916). Arizona: Prehistoric – Aboriginal – Pioneer – Modern. (Vol. 2). Chicago, S.J. Clarke Publishing Company. PDF pages 4-5.