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As the GI Bill turns 75, WWI veteran Arizona's Sen. Ernest McFarland is remembered for key role 

By Ronald J. Hansen
via the Kitsap Sun newspaper (AZ) web site

Don't expect much fanfare to mark the occasion, but on Saturday one of the nation's most transformational pieces of legislation, the GI Bill of Rights, turned 75.

Ernest McFarland in Navy during WWIArizona Sen. Ernest McFarland, who was known for his role in passing the GI Bill, served in the U.S. Navy during World War I. Even more lost to the passage of time is the central role that Sen. Ernest McFarland, an Arizona Democrat, played in shaping what is widely credited with helping fuel America’s post-war economic boom.

McFarland, who later rose to the position of Senate majority leader, helped stitch together competing ideas for the 1944 plan to help World War II's veterans when they returned from service.

McFarland was known to many as "Mac" and had the distinction of serving not only as U.S. senator, but as Arizona governor and chief justice of the Arizona Supreme Court.

But the native Oklahoman also quietly carried another nickname: "father of the GI Bill."

"It was an amazing, amazing investment in human capital in this country at a time when this country desperately needed human capital, and continues to thrive to this day," said David Lucier, founder of the nonprofit Arizona Veterans and Military Leadership Alliance.

"The GI Bill of 1944 was one of the most significant and impactful pieces of legislation in American history," said Glenn Altschuler, a professor of American studies at Cornell University and co-author of "The GI Bill: A New Deal for Veterans."

"It had an immense impact on the transition from war to peace, a tremendous impact on the prosperity of the 1950s and 1960s, and produced among the Greatest Generation a wonderful and important sense of pride and citizenship. If ever there was a piece of legislation that showed government can work in behalf of the American people, it was the GI Bill."

McFarland was a World War I veteran

Like much of World War II itself, the seeds for the GI Bill grew out of World War I.

McFarland graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 1917 and enlisted in the U.S. Navy as the nation joined the fighting in World War I.

Read the entire article on the Kitsap Sun web site here:

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