Old Ned

Arizona Historymakers™

Arizona Historical Society

Ben Avery

1909 - 1996

Honored as Historymaker 1995

Journalist and Outdoor Recreation Advocate

Oral History Transcript:

Video directed and written by Chris Wooley. Director of photography: Dick Williams. Produced by the Historical League. Narrated by Pat McMahon. Made possible by a financial grant from Dr. Edward B. Diethrich.

Ben Avery, an avid promoter of outdoor recreation, devoted six decades of his life to writing about Arizona and Southwestern subjects. He has been personally acquainted with eighteen of Arizona’s governors. George W. P. Hunt, the first governor after statehood, was in his last term as chief executive when Mr. Avery began covering the Arizona Capitol for United Press in 1931. Mr. Avery and his wife, Donda, were the parents of three daughters, Nancy, Marjorie, and Mary.

Born in 1909 in Clifton, Arizona, Ben Avery attended grade school in one-room schools in Cochise, Aravaipa, and Willcox. His seventh and eighth grades were completed in one year because “there wasn’t anything to do in Copper Creek but study.” After his school years, he had a variety of interesting jobs from trapping raccoons and working in the salt mines in Camp Verde to assessing mining claims in Globe.

Ben Avery’s journalistic apprenticeship began in 1928 on the Miami Silver Belt and the Arizona Record in Globe. Later, he worked for the Prescott Journal Miner until the Great Depression. He joined the Tucson Daily Citizen in 1936. One year later, he began a 38-year career with the Arizona Republic as reporter, columnist, news editor, city editor, and political writer. Ben Avery became interested in Arizona’s historic fight for Colorado River water in 1929. He covered this issue until construction began on the Central Arizona Project in 1973.

In the early 1950s, the women of the Phoenix Garden Club succeeded in involving Mr. Avery in a crusade to prevent the building of a restaurant and nightclub atop Camelback Mountain. The City of Phoenix initiated a campaign to acquire the top of Camelback and finally achieved this objective in 1968. That controversy motivated Avery’s interest and involvement in parks, which led to the acquisition of the county regional park system and the establishment of the Arizona State Parks and the Phoenix Mountain Preserve.

In 1968, Ben Avery received the highest honor the United States Department of the Interior bestows upon a non-employee. He was presented with the Conservation Service Award by Interior Secretary Stewart Udall, who cited Mr. Avery’s writings as having “scored a multitude of triumphs, with many bearing on programs of the Bureau of Land Management and other agencies of the department.”

Historymaker Ben Avery biography published in 1995
Historymakers is a registered trademark of the Historical League, Inc.