John Rhodes was a member of the US House of Representatives from 1953-1983. He was elected to serve on the CAWCD Board of Directors in 1983, resigning in 1986.
John J. Rhodes: The driving force behind congressional authorization of CAP
(The story below is built around a recorded interview)
Legendary Arizona politician John J. Rhodes’ political career started with a loss.
“Barry Goldwater called me and told me that he was running Howard Pyle’s gubernatorial campaign and he was drafting me to run for Attorney General,” Rhodes recalled. “I told him that I didn’t want to be Attorney General and he assured me that I wouldn’t be. He said that Arizona was so Democratic that Republicans didn’t have a chance. Well, that was mainly true. But Howard Pyle did win.”
But that loss wasn’t the end of Rhodes’ political career. Despite Arizona being primarily Democratic, in 1952 he was the first Republican elected to represent Arizona in the House of Representatives and he served in Congress for 30 consecutive years.
One of his memorable achievements was being the driving force behind Congressional authorization of Central Arizona Project, which was not an easy task.
“California’s support was absolutely necessary. When we were turned on by our former friends and allies in the upper basin, there we were standing alone with California on one plank and them on the other,” said Rhodes. “And there we were a very small state with two members of the house and two senators. Thank God we had Carl Hayden who was very important indeed. And that’s also when Stewart Udall became very important because when he became the Secretary of the Interior in the Kennedy Administration, he was able to get California to come over to our side.”
He worked tirelessly to not only pass the legislation that authorized construction, the Colorado River Basin Project Act, but also to finance the project.
“So I told him (chairman of the Public Works Subcommittee) that it was going to be necessary for us to put some money in the Appropriations Bill in 1968,” said Rhodes. “And he said what did you have in mind, and I said a million dollars. So he said okay. And so when the bill was marked up I had a million dollars appropriated hard cash money to begin the Central Arizona Project.”
One million in the first year was just a start. After Rhodes and Paul Fannin spoke with the Director of the Office of Management, he gave them the schedule of appropriations for completion of CAP and that was followed.
“It was done,” Rhodes said. “The water is flowing and whenever our children crossed the CAP canal they’d say ‘There’s daddy’s ditch!’”