Filed Under Politics

The Sheriff on Capitol Hill

From the Arizona Desert to United States Capitol

Carl Hayden served Arizona as Sheriff before becoming the State's first representative to Congress and eventually serving as its Senator.

In 1899, after his father became ill, Carl Hayden dropped out of Stanford University, returning to Arizona to care for his family. Hayden soon became active in the Democratic Party and pursued a political career. Early in the new century, Hayden became involved in the Democratic Party in Maricopa County and was elected to the Tempe Town Council. He built solid and productive relationships within the party, which later helped him run for a higher political office. Agricultural interests in Tempe sent him to Washington to lobby for the funding of the Salt River Project--a role that both precipitated and augured Hayden's long interest in the politics of water. His political connections and stellar reputation paid off. Hayden was elected Maricopa County Treasurer in 1904. He later claimed that those two years as treasurer provided him with practical experience with public finance and budgets. During this period (in 1903, to be precise), Hayden enlisted in Arizona Territorial National Guard and was elected Captain within two months of joining.

In 1906, Hayden ran for the position of Sheriff at a time when Maricopa County was but a small agricultural settlement. The Sheriff's job carried a modest travel budget and was considered a relatively lucrative position as the Sheriff's wages were based upon a percentage of fees collected. Hayden set upon the mundane tasks of maintaining order and transporting prisoners. He carried an unloaded revolver, which he later admitted was never used once during his time as Sheriff. Hayden spent a good portion of his time traveling throughout the region to meet other elected officials and build long-term relationships with Arizona's regional leaders. Hayden built on these connections, and when Arizona was admitted to the Union in 1912, he ran for the U.S. House of Representatives, becoming Arizona's first representative to Congress.

After serving in the House for almost 15 years, Hayden took a leap into the United States Senate, where he served from 1927 to 1969, making him the longest-serving member of Congress in history. During his time in Congress, Hayden was known by his colleagues to be a reclamation expert, given his expertise on water conservation.

He was a stalwart defender of Arizona while the state was amidst a water rights dispute with California. The Supreme Court of the United States ultimately intervened and sided with Hayden in the case of Arizona v. California.

Overall, Hayden was known for his sense of fairness while serving in Congress. While Chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, Hayden ensured members from both sides were treated fairly and given a voice on how and where to allocate federal funds. Hayden's fair treatment of his colleagues earned him respect, and he maintained order and collegiality while serving as the President pro-tempore of the Senate. Maricopa County's farmland enjoyed order and civility while Hayden served as the county Sheriff, and the United States Senate was the most deliberative legislative body in the world while Hayden served as its President pro-tempore. In the end, Hayden was a results-oriented politician who fostered amicable relationships wherever he went.


Congressman Carl Hayden
Congressman Carl Hayden Carl Hayden wears a cowboy hat as he walked through the streets of Washington D.C, perhaps nearby the U.S. Capitol. The photo was taken in the years after he first won election to Congress. Source: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. Harris & Ewing Collection; LC-H261- 6304; Digital ID: hec 06898. Creator: Harris & Ewing Date: 1916
Celebrating a Political Life
Celebrating a Political Life President Kennedy and Vice President Johnson walk with Hayden at a dinner in his honor at the Hotel Westward Ho. Source: Cecil Stoughton. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston;"President John F. Kennedy, Senator Carl Hayden, and Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, Trip to Western States: Dinner in honor of Senator Carl Hayden in Phoenix, Arizona," Series Number: 02; JFKWHP-ST-M2-4-61. Creator: Cecil W. Stoughton Date: 1961
Westerner of the Century
Westerner of the Century The heritage group Westerners International honored Senator Carl Hayden for his decades of service to advancing the political interests of the American West. The organization commissioned a painting that depicted his early days as a frontier sheriff. Source: Arizona State University Creator: Wendy Trakes Date: May 26, 1967



Rachel Storts, “The Sheriff on Capitol Hill,” Salt River Stories, accessed June 24, 2024,