On June 1, 1939, Mac and Edna Eveland Smith married, culminating a multi-year courtship. Edna was a widow with a young daughter named Jewell. Soon after they married, Mac adopted Jewell. With a new family, Mac decided to take the next step in his career path: U.S. Senator.
In 1940, shortly after Mac remarried, he decided to run for U. S. Senate. Despite a late entry in the race, he displaced long-term incumbent, Henry F. Ashurst, who had held the office since 1912, by a 2 to 1 margin.
In 1941, Mac went to Washington D.C. to meet with Arizona U.S. Senator Carl Hayden and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to discuss Arizona’s water issues. It was the first of many efforts that Mac would make to protect Arizona's future.
Almost as soon as he took office, Mac became embroiled in a battle with Isolationists who did not want the United States to interfere, let alone intervene, in the war in Europe. He also supported the Lend-Lease Act, putting him at odds with many of his colleagues.
During this time, Mac also defended freedom of expression in the motion picture industry and the strengthening of the U.S. military in preparation for war. Shortly after arriving in the Senate, Senator Gerald Nye convinced the Senate to create a committee looking into use of propaganda by the radio and motion picture industries. Senator Burton K. Wheeler recommended McFarland be placed on Nye's committee under the assumption the freshman senator "would keep his mouth shut".
Instead of remaining silent, Mac became an outspoken critic of the committee pointing out accusations against films were being made by individuals who had not seen any of the films in question. He gained national attention for his actions on the committee with most of the nation viewing him favorably.
As a member of the Communications subcommittee, Mac was involved in hearings dealing with the impact of developments in airmail, radio, telephones, and teletypes to the nation's telegraph services. At the time, the U.S. telegraph market was dominated by Postal Telegraph and Western Union. Postal had been borrowing money from the Reconstruction Finance Corporation to maintain its infrastructure even though it was becoming obvious that Postal would be unable to pay back the loans. This experience sparked Mac's interest and expertise in communications.
After the U.S. entry into World War II, Mac worked toward assisting farmers and ranchers who were being displaced by the military’s use of public lands. He supported the cotton growers of Arizona against the Farm Security Administration's planned changes in policy from a poundage to hourly rates, fearing a reduction in production. While this ultimately failed, cotton growers ignored the policies and used Japanese internees and prisoners of war to bring in their crops.
Mac’s greatest efforts involved preparing for the return of millions of World War II veterans. He recalled the tragedy of Anacostia Flats following World War I. There would be four times the number of veterans, sixteen million, and America would likely revert to the Great Depression.
While the American Legion promoted a veterans omnibus bill containing health and economic benefits, Mac drafted a bill that included provisions for home and business loans and educational benefits. He then worked with both houses of Congress to incorporate the two bills into what became the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act.
(photo credit: Justin Hamman)
During his second term as US Senator, Mac worked diligently in trying to secure Arizona’s Colorado River water rights. Though the Colorado River Compact had been created in 1922 to allocate the water from the river, Arizona had refused to sign it. With new legislation in motion to allocate water to Mexico, Arizona signed the compact in 1944.
Mac worked closely with Carl Hayden during this time to develop bills to create the Central Arizona Project (CAP) and deliver Colorado River water to central Arizona. In 1947, he introduced Senate Bill 1175, but it failed to obtain the necessary hearings for passage. In 1949, he introduced Senate Bill 75, which passed the Senate but was defeated in the House.
California was in competition with Arizona for Colorado River water and had more representatives in the House due to its larger population. In 1951, Mac reintroduced Senate Bill 75. It was again defeated in the House.
In 1946, Mac helped plan a post-war role in international communications when he rewrote the communications act of 1934. He was also instrumental in the development of the Fairness Doctrine of the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
Introduced in 1949, the Fairness Doctrine required broadcast license-holders to both present controversial issues of public importance and to do so in a manner that was—in the FCC's view—honest, equitable, and balanced.
After Congress authorized a new GI Bill for Korean War veterans, Mac—who was now the Majority Leader—ushered in changes that, like its World War II predecessor, included education and loan benefits.
(photo credit: Justin Hamman)
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