By Rushad Thomas
The Southwestern United States is a stunningly beautiful corner of the world. With desert as far as the eye can see, cacti taller than your head, and an ancient heritage of indigenous peoples who pioneered in technology long before the first European settlers arrived, this region of our country holds tremendous treasures that I encourage you all to explore.
I had the pleasure October 3 – 5 of exploring a southwestern treasure directly related to President Calvin Coolidge, the dam on the Gila River in Arizona that is eponymously named for him. Dedicated by Coolidge on March 4, 1930, the Coolidge Dam is a massive edifice, composed of three large domes, approximately 250 feet in height, anchored by two buttresses. The Dam impounds the Gila River for 23 miles when full.
Coolidge played an integral part in the construction of the dam. On June 7, 1924 President Coolidge signed the legislation authorizing the dam, which was passed unanimously by the Senate and House of Representatives, and presented to him by the Arizona Congressional Delegation. He presided at the dedication ceremony, attended by more than 3,000 people, with First Lady Grace Coolidge at his side. Satirist Will Rogers, also in attendance, looked down from the dam at the grass in the lake bed, and quipped “If this were my dam, I’d mow it!” You can view footage of the dedication by
In addition to exploring the wonders of the Coolidge Dam, I also had the privilege of staying in the City of Coolidge, Arizona, about an hour southeast of Phoenix, which was named for President Coolidge in 1925. Nearly 90 years later, the City of Coolidge is a wonderful, vibrant community. While there, I spoke to the town historical society about President Coolidge and the work of the Foundation, and invited them all to join us here at the Notch for our
Worldwide Coolidge Reunion to be held next summer. I was also privileged to be able to ride in the Coolidge Days Parade as the representative of the Coolidge Foundation. That was quite a ride!
85 years later the Coolidge Dam still stands as a monument to the wonders of modern engineering, providing needed water to residents of Southeastern Arizona.