Barry Morris Goldwater Biography

Barry Goldwater, a prominent leader of the 20th century, dominated the U.S. Senate for nearly three decades, permanently altering and governing conservative American political affairs. Despite being a college-drop out, Goldwater’s patriotism was ignited during his time in the United States Army Air Forces. From there, he transitioned into the senate after a chance election into the local City Council, launching an uprising within the Republican Party. Although ridiculed for his warmongering and old-fashioned ideologies, Goldwater was elected and re-elected to the US Senate, enforcing his belligerent commands over foreign policy and defense. He even influenced the resignation of former President Richard Nixon. With numerous publications to his name, including ‘The Conscience of a Conservative’ and ‘No Apologies’, Goldwater’s impact on American politics is undeniable.

Quick Facts

  • Also Known As: Barry Goldwater
  • Died At Age: 89
  • Family:
    • Spouse/Ex-: Margaret Johnson (m. 1934–1985), Susan Shaffer Wechsler (m. 1992–1998)
    • Father: Baron M. Goldwater
    • Mother: Hattie Josephine Williams
    • Children: Barry Morris Goldwater Jr., Joanne, Michael, Peggy Jr.
  • Political Leaders
  • American Men
  • Political ideology: Republican Party
  • Died on: May 29, 1998
  • Place of death: Paradise Valley
  • U.S. State: Arizona
  • City: Phoenix, Arizona
  • Education: Staunton Military Academy, University of Arizona

Childhood & Early Life

Barry Morris Goldwater was born into a wealthy Episcopal household, to Baron M. Goldwater and Hattie Josephine Williams, who were the owners of a large chain of departmental stores around the United States called, ‘Goldwater’s’. He studied at Staunton Military Academy and then enrolled in the University of Arizona for a year. Following the death of his father in 1930, young Barry took over the family business and promoted innovative, reformist practices that changed the future of the company for the better.


He grew tired and wary of handling the family business and at the onset of World War II he enlisted in the United States Army Air Forces, where he rose rapidly through the ranks, from command pilot to Major General. He served the army for nearly 37 years and was also instrumental in the creation of the ‘United States Air Force Academy’ and the ‘Arizona Air National Guard’. After he retired from the Army as Air Force Major General, he became active in local politics in Phoenix, in 1949. In 1952, he was elected to the US Senate, defeating Ernest McFarland. Six years later, he defeated McFarland again and retired from the US Senate in 1964 to campaign for presidency. In 1960, he authored the book, ‘The Conscience of a Conservative’, which became a significant publication in the political arena of America. In 1964, he opposed the ‘Civil Rights Act of 1964’ and justified his opposition by stating that he believed, the federal government was being intrusive in the affairs of each individual state and that each state had its right to its own laws and independence. Thus, he ran a conservative campaign against the federal government, which won him the support of conservatives in southern states including Georgia and South Carolina. However, his campaign against the ‘Civil Rights Act’ proved to be devastating around the other states in America, which led to his landslide defeat the same year. In 1964, he contested for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, where he defeated Nelson Rockefeller by a small margin in the primary round.

However, a number of liberal Republicans opposed his nomination because they believed that his aggressive, anti-Communist stance against Russia might pave way for a nuclear war. This subsequently led to a fall in the percentage of votes, which led him losing the elections to Lyndon Johnson, who became the President. Despite his loss, he was elected as a Senator to the US Senate in 1968, replacing Carl Hayden. He was re-elected to the Senate in 1974, during which time he urged Nixon to resign from presidency in the wake of the ‘Watergate Scandal’. In 1980, he was elected to the Senate once again, before which he had planned to retire. However he decided to contest one last time and this time round, the re-election seemed tougher, because the social fabric had changed in Arizona and not many new voters were agreed to his archaic views and policies. Despite the hardships, he was re-elected to the Senate. On October 30, 1984, he introduced the Cable Communications Act, which established a number of regulations on cable communications and promoted competition and deregulation in the cable industry. In 1985, he was appointed as the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Armed Services; a position he served till his retirement. While serving his final term as a senator, he signed the ‘Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act’, which brought about a number of sweeping changes in the United States Military and the Department of Defense.

He retired in 1987 and during the time of his retirement, he was considered one of the most respectable, influential figures in the US senate. Following his retirement, he made a number of controversial statements pertaining to the ‘Whitewater Scandal’ and the ban on homosexuals in the military, which distanced many of his own supporters from him. He also played an active part in legalizing ‘medical marijuana’.

Major Works

‘The Conscience of a Conservative’, published in 1960, became an instant hit with the political circles in the US which covers a wide range of topics ranging from Goldwater’s conservative ideologies to civil rights and social welfare programs. The book continues to stir modern-day radical commentary and has also inspired other publications that have drawn on the themes of his book including, ‘The Conscience of a Liberal’ and ‘Conservatives without Conscience’.

Awards & Achievements

He was honored with the ‘Presidential Medal of Freedom’ by President Ronald Reagan on May 12, 1986. He was awarded the ‘Langley Gold Medal’ in 1987 by the Smithsonian Institution. He was presented the ‘James Madison Award for Distinguished Public Service’ by the American Whig-Cliosophic Society from Princeton University, in 1988.

Personal Life & Legacy

He was a radio operator in the early years of his life and played an active part in helping those in the army communicate with their loved ones back home during the Vietnam War. He married Margaret Johnson in 1934, with whom he had four children; Joanne, Barry, Michael and Peggy. However, she passed away in 1985. In 1992, he married Susan Wechsler, who was 32 years younger than him. He was also an avid photographer and showed great interest in the study of UFO’s. He passed away after suffering a stroke at the age of 89. Today, ‘The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship’ is presented to college students who wish to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, science and engineering. A number of buildings and monuments have been named in his honor including, ‘The Barry M. Goldwater Terminal’, ‘The Barry Goldwater Air Force Academy Visitor Center’ and the ‘Barry Goldwater High School’ in Phoenix.


This prominent US Senator collected 437 Kachina dolls in his lifetime, which was later given to the Heard Museum in Phoenix, in 1969.

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