Henry Fountain Ashurst (September 13, 1874 – May 31, 1962) was an American Democratic politician and one of the first two Senators from Arizona. Largely self-educated, he served as a district attorney and member of the Arizona Territorial legislature before fulfilling his childhood ambition of joining the United States Senate. During his time in the Senate, Ashurst was chairman of the Committee on Indian Affairs and the Judiciary Committee.
Called "the longest U.S. theatrical engagement on record" by ''Time'',
Ashurst's political career was noted for a self-contradictory voting record, the use of a sesquipedalian vocabulary, and for a love of public speaking that earned him a reputation as one of the Senate's greatest orators. Among the sobriquets assigned to him were "the Dean of Inconsistency", "Five-Syllable Henry", and the "Silver-Tongued Sunbeam of the Painted Desert".〔Johnson, pg 111〕
Ashurst was born on September 13, 1874 in a covered wagon near Winnemucca, Humboldt County, Nevada to William and Sarah Ashurst, the second of ten children. His family moved to a ranch near Williams, Arizona when he was two, and he attended school in Flagstaff.〔Johnson, pg 114〕 At the age of ten he showed his ambition to be a Senator by writing "Henry Fountain Ashurst, U.S. Senator from Arizona" into a speller.
After dropping out of school at the age of thirteen, he worked as a cowboy on his father's ranch.
At the age of nineteen, Ashurst was made the turnkey at the county jail in Flagstaff. While working at the jail, he developed an interest in the law by reading Blackstone's ''Commentaries''.〔 He later worked at a local lumber yard and studied law at night. In 1895 he worked as a lumberjack in the Los Angeles area and as a hod carrier in San Francisco. Following a brief return to Flagstaff, Ashurst enrolled at Stockton Business College (now Humphreys College), and graduated in 1896. Ashurst was admitted to the bar in 1897 and began a law practice in Williams. He completed his formal education with a year at University of Michigan Law School beginning in 1903.〔
In 1904 Ashurst married Elizabeth McEvoy Reno, an Irish-born widow with four children from her first marriage. She had moved to Flagstaff with her children to establish and manage a Weather Bureau station. She served as his political advisor for the rest of her life. Mrs. Ashurst died on November 1, 1939.
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