Governor Howard J. Pyle House
- Address:1120 S. Ash Ave.
Tempe, AZ 85281
- Historic Buildings
- Tempe Historic Register
- Address:1120 S. Ash Ave.
Survey Number: HPS-339
Year Built: 1938
Architectural Style: Ranch
This home is located in the Park Tract subdivision of Tempe. The Park Tract was an earlier "suburban" subdivision that was platted in August of 1924. The Governor Pyle house was built after the height of construction in the Park Tract (1928 to 1930). Tempe had been experiencing a housing shortage for many years, and the Park Tract was designed to provide comfortable and modern family type housing. This home is an example of later infill construction in a developed area. Many lots had remained vacant from the original subdivision plat. During upswings in the economy, these lots were built on. The result is a mix of older and new houses in close proximity. Without the connection to one of only two of Tempe’s native sons to serve as governor, this property would be considered as contributing to an historic district.
The Governor Pyle House is significant as the former home of one of Arizona’s governors. Governor Howard Pyle (1906-1987), a highly respected elder statesman and Arizona Governor from 1951-1955, was actively involved in several organizations associated with the growth and preservation of Tempe. Governor Pyle and his wife Lucile contracted in 1938 to have the home built. It remained their primary residence for 27 years.
HOWARD PYLE BIOGRAPHICAL CONTEXT
Howard J. Pyle was born on March 25, 1906 in Sheridan, Wyoming to Thomas and Mary Anderson Pyle. At age 11 he worked as a church janitor for two dollars per month, after which he delivered newspapers for a time. At a young age Pyle discovered that he had an unusually good singing voice and sang in his church choir for several years. The family’s association with Tempe, Arizona began in 1925 when they relocated there. Some of the jobs Howard filled during his first years in Tempe included: timekeeper for the Southern Pacific Railroad; real estate salesman; secretary for the Tempe Chamber of Commerce; correspondent for the Arizona Republic; and publisher of promotional literature about the City of Tempe.
Howard proved to be an ambitious man early on in life, beginning a career with the Phoenix-based radio station KTAR on October 22, 1930 at the age of 24. His previous experience singing in the church choir helped him to fine-tune his voice, making him a perfect person for the radio. Pyle initially worked as a staff announcer and vocal on-air soloist for the local radio station. Later, he would head the radio program “Arizona Highlights,” a highly popular program that eventually resulted in Pyle becoming a well-known personality throughout the state of Arizona. “During these years,” wrote one historian, “the voice of Howard Pyle became familiar to almost every Arizonian within earshot of a radio set.” Pyle would continue to work his way up with KTAR over the next twenty years, becoming a senior writer and eventually vice president. On August 9, 1930, Pyle began family life when he was married to Lucille Hanna of Tempe. The couple would have two daughters: Mary Lou and Virginia.
With the beginning of World War II, Pyle would undertake new career roles that catapulted him to previously unforeseen levels of renown. He broadened his radio activities to include international affairs, and the World Security Conference of San Francisco commissioned him to present several broadcasts during the war. Eventually he was selected to accompany United States troops in the Pacific and report on their activities over the airwaves. His work in the Pacific Theatre put him in contact with the leaders of some 50 nations, and he was charged with reporting on the development of what would become the United Nations. As WWII drew to a close in 1945, Pyle traveled alongside the first troops that landed in Japan and reported on the subsequent arrival of General MacArthur and his occupation forces for all four major United States broadcasting networks. At the end of the war, he broadcast the Japanese surrender from the battleship Missouri. Pyle was then tasked with covering the return of General Jonathan Wainwright to the United States following Japan’s surrender. Pyle’s important role as a reporter during the war made him a well known personality in the United States and a celebrity throughout the state of Arizona. As such a well known figure, Pyle became an excellent candidate for political office in the state, despite his overall lack of experience in public office.
He first emerged as a potential Republican nominee for governor in 1948, going so far as to issue a press release announcing his candidacy on February 19 of that year. However, the press release was never made public, as he recanted the statement before it was aired over the radio. “Howard Pyle…said today he would not be a candidate for the Republican nomination for Governor,” the press reported. “He recalled an announcement of his candidacy which was to have been published tomorrow. ‘My decision not to run is predicated on business reasons beyond my control,’ he said.” Pyle thus did not become a candidate in the 1948 Arizona governor election. However, in due time, he would rise to the occasion.
Radio executive Charles Garland is credited with first suggesting that Howard Pyle be nominated. Colonel R. M. J. Evjen, the state’s Republican chairman, suggested that Senator Barry Goldwater manage the campaign. Goldwater accepted and undertook the first task, that of convincing Howard Pyle to accept the candidacy and begin campaigning.
It is said that the only question Goldwater asked Pyle was, if he became the candidate, would he “campaign to win?” The prompt reply from Pyle was, “With every ounce at my command.” With this, Pyle became the 1950 Republican candidate for governor of Arizona. The ensuing months would be an uphill battle as Pyle, with the assistance of Barry Goldwater and others, engaged in rigorous campaigning throughout Arizona. Pyle had the added benefit of being able to use Senator Goldwater’s airplane for his campaign, allowing him to reach more places than the average candidate in Arizona at that time. During the course of the campaign, Pyle logged over 26,000 miles in Goldwater’s airplane.
Pyle not only made the usual political campaign speeches that were the norm for such elections, but he visited countless stores, barber shops and community centers all over the state, shaking hands and talking informally with everybody he met. Pyle’s friendly manner and ability to communicate with average, everyday folks were major factors in the campaign. He also visited the Navajo reservation, where, just two years before, the Navajo people had been given the right to vote in state elections. “Without ever criticizing and hardly ever mentioning his opponent,” wrote historian Bert Fireman, “Pyle kept the campaign on a warm, hopeful, and positive note.”
By contrast his opponent, state auditor Anna Frohmiller, described as being “popular and smart at the Arizona Democratic brand of politics,” ran an uninspired campaign. In 1950, there were 279,533 registered voters in Arizona, of which 225,114 were Democrats and only 50,191 were Republicans. When the votes were tallied, Howard Pyle became governor by a majority of just 3,000 votes: Pyle received 99,109 votes to Frohmiller’s 96,118. Based on the number of registered Democrats in the state, it was truly remarkable that Pyle, the Republican candidate, prevailed in the election. Democratic candidates won almost every other state election that year: 19 state Senate seats and 61 out of 72 open House seats in the Arizona Congress went to Democrats.
Pyle’s good sense of humor showed after his election when he stated that, “My wife, Lucille, who is a Democrat with whims of iron, told me she didn’t mind my running – she was just afraid I would be elected.” Others frequently commented upon this humorous anomaly within the Pyle family. Happily, Howard’s election to office as a Republican would have no negative effect on his marriage, as both he and his wife, despite subscribing to differing political ideologies, set that aside in their personal lives.
Pyle was inaugurated on January 1, 1951. In his first three months in office, he signed 76 measures into law and did not issue a single veto. This serves as a testament to Pyle’s uncanny ability, to which his contemporaries readily attested, to work harmoniously across party lines with a state legislature that was almost entirely Democratic. In a 1954 short biography of Pyle, the author noted that, “A political opponent, speaking from the same platform with Pyle, once said that the reason the Republican Governor got along so well with the Democratic legislature was that ‘for years he has been bossed by a Democrat – Mrs. Pyle.’”
As he ran for reelection in 1952, Governor Pyle summarized his various accomplishments over the previous two years. “For the first time in history,” he said in a public statement, “Arizona has had an administration single-heartedly devoted to doing and to guiding what is right for Arizona. Never have so many people joined with the executive in helping to follow this singleness of purpose.” In asking for their vote, he reminded the people that, “pledges made during the campaign two years ago have in every possible case been fulfilled.” One such 1950 campaign promise that he claimed to have fulfilled related to welfare. “Every eligible welfare recipient,” he initially said during his 1950 campaign, “regardless of race, color, or creed, shall receive the maximum assistance to which he or she is entitled by law, and such assistance shall be completely free from all political duress whatsoever.” As he ran for reelection in 1952, he proudly proclaimed that, “limited only by the laws supplied by your legislature, that pledge has been fulfilled to the penny.” Pyle praised the election of another Republican, Dwight D. Eisenhower, to the office of president in 1952, stating that, with Eisenhower’s election “and other urgently needed changes in Washington, we can look forward to a return of responsibility and integrity in domestic affairs which cannot fail to benefit this state that is almost wholly federally controlled.”
Other achievements during Pyle’s administration included an extension of unemployment benefits from 12 weeks to 20 weeks, a salary increase for state employees, the implementation of “Old Age & Survivors Insurance” for public employees, and improvement of state retirement programs. Pyle considered himself a champion of worker’s rights in Arizona, as evidenced by his pro-labor record as governor.
As governor, Howard Pyle worked tirelessly at maintaining amiable relations with citizens throughout the state. He often sent out letters wishing individuals a happy birthday, especially troops in the service. He mailed personal responses to countless letters and inquiries from citizens of Arizona, as well as letters of condolences to people when they lost loved ones or suffered some type of tragedy. Copies of hundreds of these letters are preserved in Pyle’s personal collection at Arizona State University’s archives.
Despite his good relations with the people of Arizona, Pyle, like many politicians, would eventually meet with disfavor among his constituents. For Pyle, this would come in 1953, midway through his second term. The Short Creek Raid, without a doubt the single most well-known and defining incident of Pyle’s governorship, took place on July 26, 1953. It involved some 120 heavily armed Arizona law enforcement personnel who were ordered to descend upon the Mormon polygamist community at Short Creek, Arizona, in the northwestern portion of the state. Short Creek was home to approximately 500 Mormons of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), which continued to encourage polygamy despite the Mormon Church (LDS) having renounced such activities in 1890. The governor noted that he had been “deeply concerned with the welfare and safety of 263 children in the isolated Short Creek area,” which ultimately led him to take this action.
Pyle had previously ordered an extended investigation into the polygamist sect and the marriage of teenage girls to older men. The investigations culminated in Pyle’s order sending law enforcement (both state troopers and National Guardsmen) to the town with orders to arrest the majority of the inhabitants. As the officers approached, members of FLDS saw them coming and warned the rest of the town by setting off a dynamite explosion, thus alleviating the officers of their element of surprise in the raid. A modern journalist succinctly summarized what occurred next: “Fearing a shootout, the lawmen cranked their sirens and sped into town, guns drawn. ‘You are all under arrest!’ shouted the sheriff over a loudspeaker. ‘Stay where you are.’ But no one was going anywhere: officers found the residents of Short Creek gathered in the schoolyard, unarmed and singing hymns.” The peaceful demeanor of the residents when the officers arrived to take them into custody had the effect of swaying public sentiment in the polygamists’ favor and against the Arizona governor.
Immediately afterwards, Pyle addressed the citizens of Arizona via a radio announcement. He told the people that his men had disbanded one of “the foulest conspiracies you could imagine.” A total of thirty-six men were arrested during the raid and taken to jail in Kingman, some 250 miles away. Despite the polygamy involved, the image that emerged among the public was one of women and children being separated from their families, and public opinion quickly turned to disfavor. Shortly afterwards, a front-page photograph from Short Creek, accompanied by an article entitled “Lonely Men of Short Creek,” appeared in LIFE Magazine and was mass distributed across America. “The incident turned into a PR nightmare,” writes one individual, “and within a few years nearly all the families had reunited and returned. For decades, the lessons of Short Creek have exerted great influence on law enforcement's attitudes toward FLDS.”
Years later, during a guest lecture at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Pyle recalled the events surrounding the Short Creek Raid. “We put together a task force of 250 men,” he told the crowd, “moved into Short Creek in the middle of the night, took away the wives and children and arrested the men, some of whom had 5 wives and 27 children. End of Short Creek; end of my governorship.”
Despite his wholehearted efforts, Pyle lost his bid for a third term in the 1954 election by 13,000 votes, due in large part to the controversy surrounding the Short Creek Raid. Following his failed bid for a third term, Pyle received numerous letters of encouragement from supporters. In his responses, he expressed his disappointment and indicated that he had little interest in continuing his political career. “As to my future, that is hard to say,” he wrote to General H.L. Grills in December, 1954. “I am only sure of one thing and that is I don’t want any more of politics. After all, what’s left in this business after you have been Governor of your State. Arizona is booming along at a great clip, and I hope to be a part of the expanding economy and growing potential of the area.” He reiterated his hesitancy at reentering the political arena in a letter to another constituent, writing that, “I am pretty determined not to go back into politics as a candidate…. In Arizona, the idea of a Republican trying to make a career of public service in anything like an important post is so loaded with uncertainty that it is simply not practical to consider it very seriously.”
After serving two terms as Arizona’s governor, Pyle went on to work in the White House under President Dwight D. Eisenhower, acting as head of state and federal relations. Pyle worked in this stead for a period of four years before writing to Eisenhower on January 19, 1959, informing him that, “I find it very difficult to ask to be relieved of my responsibilities. However, there is a challenging new opportunity for service open to me as President of the National Safety Council.” He assured the President that it had been his privilege to serve as his Deputy Assistant for Intergovernmental Relations. “The wisdom and inspiration of your leadership has meant a great deal more to me than I could begin to recount,” Pyle concluded.
Pyle was well-suited for the position with the National Safety Council, as he had always advocated safe practices in all aspects of life. Even before receiving the appointment, Pyle stressed the importance of traffic safety. He issued memos while governor outlining the dangers of automobile traffic: “It is unforgivable that we should be killing and maiming so many of our citizens on our highways. The property damage involved is likewise unpardonable.” His position with the National Safety Council would allow him to implement measures to counteract these dangerous traffic situations, and Pyle took great pride in his work. Throughout his many years with the National Safety Council, Pyle operated upon his philosophy that “it takes more than laws, however well written and justified, to make men and nations responsible.” Today, the Arizona Chapter of the National Safety Council calls its most prestigious award the “Howard Pyle Award,” a lasting testament to his lifetime of dedication to the safety of others.
Howard Pyle retired from the National Safety Council at the age of 68 and returned to family life in Arizona. He would remain in the spotlight throughout the rest of his life, frequently receiving public recognition for his many years of service to his state and country. In 1977, he was named citizen of the year by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, during the presentation of which the speaker noted that, “Mr. Pyle has devoted almost his full time at being the local ‘good neighbor.’” Pyle frequently spoke at GOP fundraisers and events in Arizona, using his well-earned popularity to advance his political party’s cause. “He spoke authoritatively, with keen insight,” remembers one individual. “He showed a sense of where he hoped the country would be going. Ne was never mean-spirited in his politics.” Another friend of Pyle’s remarks that he “never met such a talented public speaker.”
He received honorary degrees from multiple universities, including: Chapman College in Los Angeles; the University of Redlands; Lebanon College in Pennsylvania; Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois; and Arizona State University. Pyle must have viewed this as ironic. “I never went to college a day in my life,” he once said. “I learned what I learned in the university of day-to-day experience.”
After retiring from the National Safety Council, Pyle returned to Tempe and remained an active participant in community affairs. Citizens of Tempe held Pyle in high regard, and to this day residents maintain fond memories of him. In his later years, Pyle wrote weekly columns for the Tempe Daily News-Tribune. Lawn Griffiths was a journalist with the News-Tribune beginning in 1984, and remembers Pyle’s weekly visits to the office to drop off his column. “He would come in to the office, drop off the column, and then visit with all the staff,” Griffiths recalls. “He would go down to the newsroom and make his rounds at everybody’s desk, talking about life stories – the Japanese surrender that he covered, his governor years, the National Safety Council. He permeated the room with his character and knowledge.” Another longtime acquaintance of Howard Pyle remembers his radio commercials for a local restaurant, recalling that even then, in the 1980s and well advanced in years, Pyle boasted the same commanding voice that initially won him acclaim as a radio announcer decades earlier. “I used to jokingly refer to him as ‘God,’” he says, “because when he came on the radio, he had such a powerful voice.”
Howard Pyle continued to live in his hometown of Tempe, Arizona until his death at the age of 81 on November 29, 1987. His funeral was held at First Congregational Church in downtown Tempe. “The traffic that day was just amazing,” recalls Lawn Griffiths, “it really brought out the Arizona folks.” Throughout his life, he had remained dedicated to serving the people of Arizona and had acted faithfully in upholding his sense of duty. “He was a loyal Republican,” recalls Ron Pies, a longtime Tempe acquaintance of Pyle, “but that didn’t mean anything to him when it came to doing what was right for the community. The country could sure use a lot more Howard Pyles nowadays.” Today, Howard Pyle is recognized as one of Tempe’s great citizens and his home in that city serves as a lasting reminder of this important, influential individual.
CHRONOLOGY John Howard Pyle (1906-1987)
born March 25, 1906 in Sheridan, Wyoming.
April 10, 1924 – Hugh E Laird and Fred J Joyce, on behalf of the Park Tract Trust organized in 1920, filed a plat for the Park Tract subdivision. Development of the subdivision began in the 1930s on 100 lots in the area roughly bound by 10th Street, Mill Avenue,
13th Street, and Southern Pacific Railroad tracks. The Park Tract Subdivision includes 79 properties surveyed in the Tempe MRA.
1925 – At the age of 19, Howard Pyle’s father, a Baptist minister, moved the family from Texas to Tempe.
1930 – Howard Pyle became the best known voice in Arizona broadcasting. For 25 years he conducted Easter Sunrise services at the Grand Canyon, which were so popular that they were broadcast nationally on NBC.
1938 – Howard Pyle and his wife, Lucile Hanna Pyle, built their home at 1120 South Ash Avenue. They would own this home for the next 27 years.
1944 – Howard Pyle served as a war correspondent in the Pacific during World War II, and broadcast Japan's surrender from the USS Missouri.
1950 – Howard Pyle was drafted by the Republicans to run for governor in 1950. Under the management of his friend Barry Goldwater, his campaign had a surprise victory.
1951 – Governor Howard Pyle becomes Arizona’s youngest governor.
1952 – Governor Howard Pyle elected to serve a second term as Arizona Governor. In the 1952 Presidential Election “I Like Ike” WWII Supreme Allied Commander Dwight David Eisenhower beat Illinois Democrat Adlai Stevenson in Arizona (58.4% to 41.7%) in the big Republican year of 1952 that saw the election of Barry Goldwater to the Senate, John Rhodes to Congress and Howard Pyle re-elected Governor by a wide margin.
1953 – Arizona Highway Patrol stages surprise raid on Short Creek, taking the polygamists to Kingman and the women and children to Phoenix where the latter were placed in foster homes. In a 1985 interview, Governor Pyle said he believed reaction to the raid had cost him the 1954 election. ''When I die, I know I will be remembered for Short Creek far beyond anything else I did in office,'' he said.
1954 – Governor Howard Pyle defeated in his run for a third term as governor by Ernest McFarland.
1955 – Howard Pyle served as Deputy Assistant to President Eisenhower for federal-state relations in the White House directing policy and liaison in the field of federal-state-local government relations. He was primarily responsible for development of the work of the Joint Federal-State Action Committee for stronger, more responsible local government
1957 – Howard Pyle receives an honorary degree from Arizona State College at Tempe (ASU). Honorary degrees are an opportunity for universities to single out people who have made contributions to society. At ASU Honorary Degree recipients are nominated by faculty members.
1959 – Howard Pyle appointed as president of the National Safety Counsel where he served for 15 years. The National Safety Council was delighted that Mr. Pyle could accept an invitation to become its president, noting his background of public service and safety that fits him admirably for his responsibilities with the Council.
1973 – Howard Pyle appointed president emeritus of the National Safety Council. Now retired and living in Tempe, Pyle became deeply involved in community service. His newspaper column often brought the perspective of community history and historic preservation to his readers and, as he was also much in demand as a speaker, his message carried throughout the community.
1984 – Tempe St. Luke’s Governors established by Tempe St. Luke’s Hospital to address development needs for the expansion of hospital facilities named in honor of Governor Howard Pyle, one of the founding members.
1987 – John Howard Pyle (1906-1987) dies in Tempe, Sunday, December 1, 1987. He was 81 years old. He had been hospitalized since Oct. 23 after suffering a stroke.
The Governor Pyle House retains all of the typical Ranch house features including steel casement windows and a low-pitch roof.
The Governor Pyle House is significant for its association with Governor Howard Pyle, governor of Arizona from 1951-1955, and a citizen of Tempe who contributed in many ways to both the growth and preservation of Tempe through his numerous civic activities as outlined above.
This property is also significant by association with the context of Community Planning and Development. It falls under the theme of housing - custom house. This building represents one of the larger Ranch houses in the neighborhood. It is very wide and shallow in size with most of its massing fronting onto the street. This is a typical feature of many Ranch style homes. Other typical features include steel casement windows and low-pitch roof. Mature landscaping frames much of the front facade view from the street.
Historic Preservation Staff recommends that the Historic Preservation Commission approve the nomination and recommend to the Planning and Zoning Commission and City Council that the property be designated as a Tempe Historic Property.
Goff, John F. 1983 – Arizona Biographical Dictionary. Black Mountain Press. Cave Creek, AZ.
Kiser, Billy 2010 – Governor Howard J. Pyle: a brief biography. Tempe Historic Preservation Office.
Myers, John L. (Ed.) 1989 – The Arizona Governors, 1912-1990, Heritage Publications, Phoenix, Ariz.
Pyle, Lucile Hanna – Oral History interview, OH-114: Lucile Hanna Pyle, 12 June 1987, with Jean Stengel. Tempe History Museum.
Rector, Pam 2006 – Draft/Governor Pyle House staff summary, Tempe Historic Preservation Office.
Ryden, Don 1997 – Tempe Multiple Resource Area Update, Tempe Historic Preservation Office.
Solliday, Scott 2001 – Tempe Post World War II Subdivision Study, Tempe Historic Preservation Office.