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Dividing Western Waters

Mark Wilmer and Arizona v. California

Jack L. August

Publication Year: 2007

The Scopes Monkey Trial, the Sacco and Vanzetti case, Brown v the Board of Education, and even subsequent televised high profile murder trials pale in comparison to Arizona v California, argues author Jack August in Dividing Western Waters, August’s look at Arizona’s Herculean legal and political battle for an equitable share of the Colorado River. To this day Arizona v California is still influential.

By the time Mark Wilmer settled in the Salt River Valley in the early 1930s, he realized that four basic commodities made possible civilization in the arid West: land, air, sunshine, and water. For Arizona, the seminal water case, Arizona v California, the longest Supreme Court case in American history (1952–1963), constituted an important step in the construction of the Central Arizona Project (CAP), a plan crucial for the development of Arizona’s economic livelihood. The unique qualities of water framed Wilmer’s role in the history of the arid Southwest and defined his towering professional career. Wilmer’s analysis of the Supreme Court case caused him to change legal tactics and, in so doing, he changed the course of the history of the American West.

Published by: TCU Press


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Title Page, Copyright

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Table of Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xii

Men matter, and can make a difference, for good or ill. In Mark Wilmer we have a man who mattered mightily in the development of the Southwest, and in the ability of our country to achieve what many believe is Manifest Destiny, the inevitable westward expansion of our nation. ...

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pp. xiii-xiv

For years I dreamed about finding the time and resources to write about Phoenix attorney Mark Wilmer and his preeminent place in the history of the American West. Then, in March 2003, while visiting friends in Tucson, I received a call from Patty Johnson, Director of Public Relations at the Phoenix-based law firm of Snell & Wilmer. ...

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pp. xv-xx

On October 9, 1986, I sat in my rental car at the Albuquerque, New Mexico, airport, looking for a self-described “slight, bespectacled, eighty-five-year-old retired judge” and lawyer named Simon Rifkind. One week earlier, the then legendary special master of the Arizona v California Supreme Court case had somehow found my home phone number ...

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Chapter One: Midwest to Southwest

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pp. 1-18

Today, like a century ago, rolling green fields of corn, hay, dairy cows, and grain frame the small town of East Troy, Wisconsin, tucked sixty miles inland from Lake Michigan near the southeastern corner of the state. With a population approaching 4,000, East Troy and its environs form a pastoral community where its largely German and Irish pioneers ...

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Chapter Two: The Firm and the River

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pp. 19-32

Depression-era Arizona offered little for newly minted lawyers and, like everyone else, Wilmer adapted to the culture of scarcity and sacrifice. Bunking with fellow law associate Jim Walsh in their humble Mesa, Arizona, bungalow, Wilmer embarked on his Arizona career with a sense of hope and optimism. ...

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Chapter Three: A Question of Relevance

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pp. 33-42

Wilmer’s later reading of the record also revealed that the informal, not always agreeable, but powerful alliance between IID and the Reclamation Service had alarmed not only Arizona’s congressional delegation but also the representatives of the other Colorado River basin states. ...

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Chapter Four: Arizona Adrift

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pp. 43-58

Just three weeks after President Coolidge signed the Boulder Canyon Project Act bill into law, on January 15, 1929, Arizona’s Colorado River Commission authorized Attorney General K. Berry Peterson to file suit in the U.S. Supreme Court. On October 30, 1930, the State of Arizona formally submitted its petition. ...

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Chapter Five: Arizona v California

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pp. 59-72

Arizona governor Howard Pyle—a war correspondent during World War II and owner of KFAD Radio (later KTAR) in Phoenix—knew how to utilize the print and electronic media to full advantage. On Wednesday, August 13, 1952, he displayed his flair for the dramatic and his considerable political communications skills. ..

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Chapter Six: Enter Mark Wilmer

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pp. 73-98

With Reed in place and Frank ostensibly removed from the case, Governor McFarland, AISC, and others that comprised the Arizona brain trust agreed that further changes were needed to upgrade the legal team. McFarland wanted “the best litigator available in the State of Arizona.” ...

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Chapter Seven: A Brave New Water World: Law, Politics, and CAP

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pp. 99-114

The direct and enduring manifestation of Wilmer’s legal genius before the Supreme Court was CAP. An indirect, and equally enduring, result was a generation of institutional ingenuity concerning water acquisition, distribution, conservation, use, and reuse of Colorado River water within Arizona. ...

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Chapter Eight: That Lawyer from Arizona

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pp. 115-132

When the Supreme Court announced its decision in 1963, Wilmer was a “happy guy,” according to John Bouma, chairman of Snell & Wilmer’s since 1983, but then a recently hired associate at the growing firm. Yet, Wilmer continued on his distinct and singular path, taking little, if any, time to bask in the glory of his legal victory. ...


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pp. 133-136


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pp. 137-158

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 159-166


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pp. 167-172

E-ISBN-13: 9780875654645
E-ISBN-10: 0875654649
Print-ISBN-13: 9780875653549

Page Count: 192
Illustrations: 59 b&w photos., Maps.
Publication Year: 2007

OCLC Number: 608079631
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Dividing Western Waters

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Water rights -- Arizona.
  • California -- Trials, litigation, etc.
  • Arizona -- Trials, litigation, etc.
  • Colorado River (Colo.-Mexico) -- Water rights.
  • Water rights -- California.
  • Water-supply -- Arizona.
  • Water-supply -- California.
  • Wilmer, Mark.
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