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J. Fife Symington

Gov. J. Fife Symington

  • March 6, 1991 - September 5, 1997
  • Republican
  • August 12, 1945
  • New York
  • Harvard University
  • Married Ann Olin Pritzlaff; five children
  • Resigned
  • Air Force
  • Bronze Star


J. FIFE SYMINGTON III was born in New York City and raised in Maryland. He earned a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts from Harvard University in 1968. He joined the U.S. Air Force after graduation and in 1971 was awarded the Bronze Star for Meritorious Service in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War; he retired from the Air Force in 1971 with the rank of captain. He founded the Symington Company, a commercial and industrial development firm, in 1976, where he remained president and CEO until May 1989, when he began his gubernatorial campaign. After a runoff election in 1991, he became the 19th Governor of Arizona. As governor, he presided over tax reductions, income growth and surging capital investments. However, after six years in office, Symington was convicted in September 1997 of criminal charges that he defrauded lenders as a real estate developer in the 1980s. He promptly resigned and was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison. Free, pending appeal, Symington earned a degree in culinary arts and restaurant management. In 1999, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit overturned Symington’s conviction. Two years later, he won a pardon from President Bill Clinton. (Interestingly, Symington met Clinton decades before in Hyannis, Massaschusetts. One day, Symington said, Clinton swam too far out and was caught in a riptide. Symington said he swam out to pull Clinton to shore, an act that prompted much needling from Republicans decades later.) Exonerated, Symington founded his own culinary school and now works as a pastry chef at a restaurant in Phoenix.


Governors of the American States, Commonwealths and Territories, National Governors' Association, 1996.

Gov. J Fife Symington webpage by Jeffrey Scott

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