Once upon a time, the Phoenix 40 ran this town, got things done, showed real leadership. The Phoenix 40 was an exclusionary bunch of powerful white men trying to hold onto their power in changing times. The Phoenix 40 was only the tip of an iceberg of evil and corruption that sits deep in the DNA of the city and state. So go the tales, myths and realities long after the legendary group morphed into the benign and toothless Greater Phoenix Leadership.
The real Phoenix 40 was formed in 1974 by Arizona Republic publisher Eugene Pulliam (left), lawyer-civic leader Frank Snell and KOOL owner Tom Chauncey. They sent a letter to prospective members and 40 leaders, including Gov. Raul Castro, showed up at the Biltmore for the first meeting in early 1975. The group hoped to focus on transportation, crime and education — crime getting top billing after the murder of a key witness in the land-fraud trial of Ned Warren Sr. The original membership is no secret, not quite 40, and reads like a Who's Who of mid-1970s Phoenix: Clarke Bean, Hayes Caldwell, Chauncey, Msgr. Robert Donohoe, Junius Driggs, Karl Eller, George Getz, Sherman Hazeltine, Robert Johnson, George Leonard, Stephen Levy, James Maher, Richard Mallery, Samuel Mardian, Jr., James Mayer, Rod McMullin, Loyal Meek, Dennis Mitchem, Pat Murphy, Rev. Culver Nelson, William Orr, Jesse Owens, Pulliam, William Reilly Sr., Newton Rosenzweig, Raymond Shaffer, Bill Shover, James Simmons, Paul Singer, Lawson Smith, Snell, Franz Talley, Thomas Tang, Maurice Tanner, Keith Turley, Mason Walsh, Robert Williams and Russell Williams.
And, yes, it's telling that the list didn't include, say, Lincoln Ragsdale or Rosendo Gutierrez. Yet the Phoenix 40 was never as dangerous as its critics feared nor as benign as it claimed to be, but it's an important touchstone in the city's evolution to the current unpleasantness.