Evan Mecham, a firebrand conservative who served 15 months as Arizona's governor before a dramatic impeachment trial removed him from office in 1988, died Thursday (Feb. 21, 2008), a former aide said. He was 83.
Mr. Mecham, a Republican who blamed his downfall on political enemies, had been in deteriorating health with Alzheimer's disease for years.
During his brief tenure, he sharply divided Arizonans and became a beacon for national scorn over remarks about homosexuals, blacks, Jews, Asians and other minorities.
He rescinded a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. state holiday, saying its creation had been illegal.
He also said that working women cause divorce and that he saw nothing wrong with calling black children "pickaninnies."
To his enemies, Mr. Mecham was an intolerant buffoon seeking to impose his moral beliefs on the rest of the state.
Others called him one of the last politicians gutsy enough to stand up for traditional family values and turn the state from liberal government interference.
Mr. Mecham said his primary goal was to "return government to the people."
Mr. Mecham ran for governor four times before he finally won a three-way race in November 1986 with 40 percent of the vote.
In April 1988, he became the first U.S. governor impeached and removed from office in 59 years when the state Senate convicted him of obstructing justice and misusing $80,000 in state funds allegedly funneled to his Pontiac dealership to keep it afloat.