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BULLEThistory archive
History Archive Photo
Army Ranger and former Arizona State Sun Devils and Arizona Cardinals football player Pat Tillman was killed in Afghanistan in April 2004.

© The Arizona Republic


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Editor's Note:
In February 2012, Arizona will celebrate 100 years of statehood, and Arizona Highways will publish a special Centennial issue. Leading up to that milestone, we're presenting a 10-part history of the state. This is Part 10.
Arizona: 2002-2012
In Arizona's 10th decade, the bottom falls out on the economy, local football hero Pat Tillman dies in Afghanistan, and the Wallow Fire consumes 817 square miles of forest in the White Mountains, making it the largest wildfire in state history.

By Jana Bommersbach

The decade leading up to next month's Centennial has been a mixed bag. Over the past 10 years, women dominated the governor's office. Democratic Attorney General Janet Napolitano succeeded Republican Governor Jane Dee Hull in 2003. Then, in 2009, when Napolitano left Arizona to join President Barack Obama's cabinet as Secretary of Homeland Security, Republican Jan Brewer was sworn in.

Governor Brewer took over as the national economy was plummeting, and thus, her first years in office were dominated by cuts in an attempt to balance the state's budget.

Prior to the economic downturn, things were looking up in Arizona. The state continued to grow, housing prices climbed and the medical-research industry — including cancer-research institutions — found a new home in downtown Phoenix. Plus, a light-rail public-transit system began operation, connecting Phoenix to Tempe and Mesa. It became a runaway hit, both with commuters and with tourists.

On the sports front, Arizona celebrated in 2002 when Lute Olson, the University of Arizona's beloved basketball coach, was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. However, the state grieved in 2004 when one of its true heroes, Arizona State University and Arizona Cardinals football star Pat Tillman, was killed in Afghanistan. Tillman walked away from a lucrative contract with the Cardinals to join the Army Rangers in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks. His Cardinals went to the Super Bowl in 2009, and even though the Cardinals lost, their mere presence on the gridiron after New Year's Day was a boon to the state's morale.

Arizona also made national news for a subject that would dominate state politics for the rest of the decade: immigration. In 2004, voters passed Proposition 200, which required voters to exhibit proof of citizenship. Six years later, the Legislature passed S.B. 1070, the first law to make it a crime to be in the state illegally.

Guns were in the news, as well. The biggest headlines resulted from the January 8, 2011, shooting in Tucson that left 13 people — including U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords — wounded and six people dead. After the shooting, hope sprung up around the state as communities came together on various fronts, and in Tucson, residents pitched in to build playgrounds in honor of 9-year-old victim Christina-Taylor Green. A couple months after the Tucson shooting, state legislators voted the Colt revolver the state's official gun.

As 2011 unfolded, the news turned from gunfire to forest fires as the human-caused Wallow Fire became the largest in Arizona history, charring 817 square miles of land in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests of Eastern Arizona. A year earlier, the Schultz Fire burned more than 15,000 acres in the Coconino National Forest near Flagstaff, forcing nearly 750 people from their homes. Later this summer, the state will mark the 10th anniversary of the second-largest fire in Arizona history: the Rodeo-Chediski Fire, which scorched nearly a half-million acres on the Mogollon Rim.

>> Back to History Archive


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