Thursday, September 08, 2011

When Many Arizona Hotels Barred Jews

We often forget the progress made in civil rights in the United States in a relatively short time. This story from the Arizona Republic relates how many Arizona hotels and resorts banned Jewish guests until the 1950s and 1960s. The story focuses on the San Marcos Hotel in Chandler, Arizona.

It also focuses on a Southern California Jewish businessman, Adolph Weinberg, who befriended the Basha family, helped rescue that family's dairy business following the death of his friend Eddie, the patriarch, in 1958. Eddie Basha, Jr., who became a grocery store magnate, fondly remembers Weinberg to this day. A few years earlier, Weinberg even contributed $75,000 to build a convent at St Mary Basha school, the first Catholic school in Chandler, and a pet project of Eddie, Sr.

I did not know about the San Marcos Hotel. (Who went to Chandler?) But I well remember my parents telling me about how the Camelback Inn formerly banned Jews. Indeed, one of the dintinctions between that Scottsdale resort and its neighbor, Del Webb's Mountain Shadows, was that Mountain Shadows welcomed Jewish patronage. Needless to say, for years after the Camelback Inn changed its evil ways, the Phoenix Jewish community tended to book banquets and other events at Mountain Shadows in preference to the Camelback Inn.

This all changed in my lifetime, and legal segregation by race, religion or national origin ended with the Public Accomodation anti-discrimination provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Sadly for the Republican Party, Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater chose to oppose the Civil Rights Act of 1964, because he strongly believed that it unconstitutionally extended federal authority over the use of private property. His opposition, although well-intended, was the beginning of the Southern Strategy of the Republican Party, which contributed greatly to the Presidential electoral victory of Richard Nixon in 1968, but at the same time changed the GOP from the party of freedom for African Americans (which it had been since the first Republican President, Abraham Lincoln) to the party, in the eyes of most African Americans, of former Dixiecrats and segretationists. That sad legacy continues to this day. Many Americans now forget that among the champions of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 were Republican Senators Everett Dirksen of Illinois (who helped draft the law) and Jacob Javits of New York. Other prominent GOP champions of civil rights legislation included New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller and Michigan Governor George Romney (father of Mitt Romney).

Ironically, unlike many GOP former Dixiecrats, Senator Barry Goldwater was no racist or segregationist. His reservations concerning the federal civil rights act were sincerely held. He had no such reservations about local government acting to end racial segregation. As a private citizen, operating his family's Phoenix department store, he was the first Phoenix business man to hire African American sales clerks, and he had been instrumental in integrating Phoenix public schools and restaurants and the Arizona National Guard. Yet he was tarred with the charge of racism, and that charge plagues the Republican Party to this day.


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