Rose Mofford, Arizona’s first female governor and a shepherd for the state during a period of political turbulence, died Sept. 15 at a hospice center in Phoenix. She was 94.
She had a fall on Aug. 31, but the immediate cause has been determined, former spokeswoman Athia Hardt said.
Mrs. Mofford, a Democrat known for her signature platinum beehive hairdo, served as governor from 1988 to 1991. She was the elected secretary of state when she took over for Republican Gov. Evan Mecham, who was impeached and removed from office by the GOP-led legislature. Arizona does not have a lieutenant governor.
Mrs. Mofford did not run for governor in 1990. She was succeeded by Republican Fife Symington, who resigned amid a real estate scandal in 1997. His fraud conviction was later overturned.
Mrs. Mofford was a Democrat in a traditionally Republican state who was revered by members of both parties. She was the first of four female governors to lead the conservative state over the next two decades. She was followed by Republican Jane Dee Hull, Democrat Janet Napolitano and Republican Jan Brewer.
Mrs. Mofford came close to the governor’s office once before. She had been appointed secretary of state and was serving in that post when Democratic Gov. Wesley Bolin died in 1978. She was not eligible to succeed him because she had been appointed, and Attorney General Bruce Babbitt became governor.
The daughter of Austrian immigrants, Rose Perica was born in the mining town of Globe, Ariz., on June 10, 1922. She was class president of her high school and a champion softball player.
At 18, she became a secretary to the state treasurer and within a decade was executive secretary to the state tax commission. She was let go several years later, she said, because a commissioner “felt it was better to have a man in that job.”
She spent two years as business manager of Arizona Highways magazine and then spent 22 years in the office of the Arizona secretary of state.
Her marriage to T.R. “Lefty” Mofford ended in divorce. They had no children.
CORRECTION: The first name of Mrs. Mofford’s former spokeswoman Athia Hardt was incorrectly reported as Athie. Hardt said the cause of death was erroneously reported as a fall. She said the cause has not been determined. The story has been revised.
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