Arizona Capitol memorial proposed for slain reporter Don Bolles

Howard Fischer Capitol Media Services

PHOENIX — Lawmakers took the first steps Wednesday to honor slain reporter Don Bolles in the same way Arizona honors various veterans, women pioneers, the Ten Commandments and Jesuit missionary Father Kino.

The House Government Committee unopposed the erection of a memorial to the Arizona Republic’s investigative reporter in Wesley Bolin Plaza. This area, directly across from State Houses, is already home to more than two dozen plaques, statues and other memorabilia, including big guns from the USS Arizona and USS Missouri.

House Bill 2171 approving the Bolles memorial must be approved by the full House of Representatives before going to the Senate.

But even if it survives the entire legislative process, that does not guarantee that something will be built.

The measure and its Senate companion, Senate Bill 1039, only authorize the placement of a memorial. It would be up to private sources to raise the funds for design and construction.

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There are already some memorials for Bolles, who died 11 days after a car bomb went off after going to the Clarendon Hotel in Phoenix in 1976 to meet with a source later identified as John Harvey Adamson, who never showed up. These include one at the hotel, which was named a Journalism Historic Site in 2019 by the Society of Professional Journalists chapter.

What remains of Bolles’ 1976 Datsun 710 was on display at the Newseum in Washington, DC until its closure.

“Arizona’s Front Yard”

“But I think more is needed for a man like Don Bolles than to commemorate a place where he experienced the worst day of his life,” said Tim Eigo, editor of Arizona Attorney Magazine, appropriately calling it “Arizonas Front yard where we display our most honored and cherished aspects.”

“It is here that people from all walks of life, all places and all ages stop to read, reflect, smile and sometimes even cry at the sacrifices made for others by those around them,” Eigo told lawmakers. “And so there’s appropriate recognition in Reserved for the Most Deserving, which I think makes Don a worthy candidate.”

The assassination of Bolles, unusual in a country like the United States, sparked an immediate and unique reaction within the journalistic community. Nearly 40 reporters from newspapers across the country, sponsored by Investigative Reporters and Editors Inc., launched an extensive investigation that led to a series of stories about organized crime in Arizona.

The series was printed in the Arizona Daily Star and in many newspapers across the country, though not by The Arizona Republic, where Bolles had worked.

Eigo acknowledged the request comes at a time when the work is under scrutiny and criticism from journalists who disagree with its reporting and claim they are biased. But he told lawmakers none of this should undermine efforts to get Bolles recognized for his work.

“Thinking back on the history of journalism and Arizona, I’ll say this: Whatever you might think about news today, no one could ever blame Don Bolles for fake news or misrepresentation,” Eigo said. on guy.”

Adamson, who wanted to avoid the death penalty, agreed to testify against Max Dunlap and said he ordered the killing of Bolles, which police say was due to a story the reporter told about his friend, liquor magnate Kemper Marley, had written.

Dunlap was eventually sentenced to life in prison after an initial conviction was overturned. He died in prison after a plea for clemency was denied.

Adamson and James Robison, who were accused of planting and detonating the bomb, have also since died.

Plaza controversies

Monuments at Wesley Bolin Plaza have not been without controversy.

In 2011, the Senate voted to demolish part of a memorial to the victims of the 2001 World Trade Center terrorist attack after some lawmakers said they were upset with some of the phrases carved into the ring. Sen. Al Melvin, R-Tucson, said the memorial should contain only “patriotic, pro-American words” and not phrases reflecting attitudes at the time, such as “fear of foreigners.”

And in 2020, at the request of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, a memorial to Confederate troops was removed from the park following controversy over whether it would be appropriate in a public place.

Memorials and memorials that remain include those honoring Purple Heart recipients, crime victims, dogs who worked with law enforcement, former Gov. Ernest McFarland, and the 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshot Crew who Killed in wildfire in 2013.


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