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The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture


A U.S. senator from Arizona, Ernest William McFarland was born on October 9, 1894, on a farm near Earlsboro, Oklahoma. He was the third of four children of William Thomas and Keziah Smith McFarland, who had come from Texas in 1891 to participate in the Sac and Fox land opening. After attending East Central State Normal (now East Central University), Ernest McFarland received a bachelor's degree from the University of Oklahoma in 1917. World War I interrupted his studies. After being discharged from the U.S. Navy in 1919, he lived in Oklahoma for one year before moving to Arizona. While working as a bank clerk, he saved enough money to return to college. In 1921 he gained a doctorate of law from Stanford University. In 1925 McFarland married Clare Collins, who died in 1930. They had two children; both died in infancy. In 1933 he married Edna Eveland Smith, who had a daughter named Jewell.

Admitted to the Arizona bar in 1920, McFarland began a law practice in Casa Grande. From 1923 to 1924 he was assistant attorney general in Pinal County. A Democrat in politics, he was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1940, serving to January 3, 1953. While in Congress, he introduced the first of several veterans' benefit bills. The Servicemen's Readjustment Act (popularly known as the GI Bill) was passed by Congress and was signed into law by Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt on June 22, 1944. McFarland was Senate majority leader from 1951 to 1953. In 1952 he lost his bid for the Senate to Barry Goldwater. Returning to Arizona, McFarland served as governor from 1955 to 1959. In 1964 he was elected associate justice for the Arizona Supreme Court and rose to chief justice in 1968.

A Methodist, he was a member of the Knights of Pythias, the Masonic lodge, and the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks. In 1950 he received an honorary doctorate of law from the University of Arizona. McFarland died June 8, 1984, in Phoenix, Arizona.

Linda D. Wilson


Biographical Directory of the American Congress, 1774–1996 (Alexandria, Va.: CQ Staff Directories, 1997).

Ernest W. McFarland, Mac: The Autobiography of Ernest W. McFarland (N.p.: N.p., 1979).

Who's Who In America, 1946–1947 (Chicago: A. N. Marquis Co., 1946).


The following (as per The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition) is the preferred citation for articles:
Linda D. Wilson, “McFarland, Ernest William,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry?entry=MC022.

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