The Arizonan Who Helped Get the G.I. Bill Passed

The monument to Ernest McFarland at the state Capitol in Phoenix. | Courtesy of Jameson & Associates

Today, June 22, the G.I. Bill turns 72 years old. And a prominent Arizonan helped lead the charge for its passage.

Officially known as the Serviceman's Readjustment Act, the G.I. Bill provided assistance for America's returning World War II veterans, or G.I.'s. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed it into law June 22, 1944, at the White House.

Key to the bill's makeup and passage was Democratic Senator Ernest McFarland of Arizona, an Oklahoma native who came to Arizona after a health issue ended his naval career in World War I. McFarland drafted the portions of the G.I. Bill that gave veterans tuition assistance, zero-down home loans and low-interest business loans. Along with Warren Atherton, he's considered one of the "fathers of the G.I. Bill."

According to one historian, 2.2 million veterans used the business and home loans, and another 2.2 million attended college, under the initial G.I. Bill, which has been succeeded by a series of similar laws providing assistance for the nation's veterans.

McFarland served two terms in the U.S. Senate, from 1941 to 1953. He later became Arizona's 10th governor, from 1955 to 1959, and the chief justice of the Arizona Supreme Court, in 1968. McFarland died in 1984, at age 89, and was memorialized last year with a monument at the state Capitol in Phoenix.

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