Barry Goldwater, the sharp-tongued, uncompromising defender of conservatism whose fierce but futile campaign for the presidency in 1964 began the philosophical reshaping of the Republican Party, died Friday at age 89.
His family released a statement saying Goldwater died at his home in suburban Paradise Valley of natural causes."He was in his own bed, in his own room, as he wished, overlooking the valley he loved with family at his side," the statement said. "He died as he lived: with dignity, courage and humility."
"He is soaring," KTAR Radio quoted Goldwater's wife, Susan, as saying.
Goldwater suffered a stroke in 1996 that damaged the frontal lobe of his brain, which controls memory and personality. In September 1997, his family said Goldwater was in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease.
In recent months, he made no public appearances.
"He was truly an American original. I never knew anyone quite like him," President Clinton said shortly after the death was announced. He called Goldwater "a great patriot and a truly fine human being."
Goldwater was a tough-talking Westerner, a cowboy who never lost all the rough edges despite three decades of Washington politics. It was, in fact, the rough edges that were his most endearing and sometimes infuriating qualities.
He flew planes and climbed mountains. He would take a drink and could tell a joke. His language was sometimes coarse, but what he said was seldom misunderstood.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who served with Goldwater in the 1970s and 1980s, said: "Barry Goldwater was one of the main reasons I ran for the Senate. He was the first senator, other than Jake Garn, I visited with and it was such a privilege to have him befriend me, counsel me, and help me in my the early work. . . . America has lost one of its greatest patriots and I feel a great sense of personal loss because of the close relationship we enjoyed."
Goldwater called Richard Nixon "The world's biggest liar." When Ronald Reagan claimed he didn't know about the diversion of Iranian arms profits to the Nicaraguan contras, he was "either a liar or incompetent." And Jerry Fal-well, leader of the Christian right, deserved "a boot right in the a--" for attempting to foist his religious values upon the Republican political agenda.
In 1974, he was one of a handful of GOP leaders who went to the White House and bluntly informed Nixon that he would be impeached if he did not resign.
Goldwater captured the 1964 presidential nomination after a bruising convention fight with New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller. He lost the presidency in an equally bloody campaign against incumbent Lyndon B. Johnson, who rose to the White House the previous year after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
Goldwater wrapped up the nomination when he invited Rockefeller and his moderate Republican partisans to "take a walk" and they did. He then galvanized the remaining delegates with a Patrick Henry-like proclamation: "Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue."
Goldwater gave up his Senate seat for the 1964 campaign. When it ended in defeat, he called the loss expected.
He was re-elected to the Senate in 1968 and kept working hard to forge a new conservative coalition, headlining thousands of fund-raisers around the country. In 1980, Reagan, the conservative who had worked hard for Goldwater in 1964, was elected president.
But in his later years, Goldwater sometimes seemed to have little in common with the GOP he had worked so hard to forge.
In Arizona, the party has become so conservative that "they think I'm practically a socialist" he said in 1989. "They don't invite me to their meetings."
In 1996, he took a mainstream stance on his party's presidential nomination, backing Sen. Bob Dole even as some saw a parallel between Goldwater in 1964 and Dole challenger Pat Buchanan in 1996.