The Norton Trilogy

The Norton Trilogy

The Norton Trilogy

The Norton Trilogy


From the author of Dividing Western Waters comes a book on the development of the arid West--in particular the development of Arizona--as seen through the experiences of three generations of John Ruddle Nortons of Arizona. From the administration of Teddy Roosevelt and the earliest reclamation acts to the monumental case between California and Arizona that would determine how the life-giving waters of the Colorado River would be divided, the Nortons were at the center of Arizona's development into a vital population and agricultural center. Pioneers like the Nortons shaped the very landscape of the western United States--a region that would help to supply the United States with cotton, vegetables, and livestock throughout World War I, the Great Depression, and World War II. The Norton Trilogy follows the lives of John R. Norton (1854-1923) and the beginnings of Arizona farming; John R. Norton, Jr. (1901-1987) and his expansions into diverse crops; and John R. Norton III (1929-present) and the shaping of modern agribusiness as it responded to new water irrigation policies.

As the author points out, "Several themes run through The Norton Trilogy: the most important is the interplay between human values and the waterscape. Technology, of course, played a monumental role in this drama, for dynamite, bulldozers, and reinforced concrete impacted the region's water and shaped the agricultural economy more than any Indian's digging stick. Another theme is the central role played by government--local, state, regional, and national--in shaping water policies. The biographical profiles of each John Norton addressed in this work reveal much about the history of Arizona and the central role that the quest for water has played in the growth and development of the region."

Although the book focuses largely on the state of Arizona, and specifically on one Arizonan family, the story is a template of the hardworking American ideal. Senator John Kyl, a colleague of John Norton III, writes in the foreword, "The Nortons, who never suffered from lack of a work ethic, have made Arizona and the nation a better place. This book is as much an American story as it is an Arizona one." Readers everywhere will be captivated by the generation-to-generation struggles of a family business and how these failures and successes are affected by interstate politics and public policy.


I have known arizona native john R. norton iii for most of my professional life, and first met him in the late 1960s when I was a young lawyer commencing my career at the Phoenix firm of Jennings, Strouss & Salmon. By that time he was one of Arizona’s agribusiness leaders, though his headquarters were then located in Blythe, California, on the west side of the Colorado River, where his land and water rights were perfected and secure. His regional agricultural and ranching operations extended from New Mexico through Arizona to California, and he had already begun his parallel service to the community, whether through board affiliations, philanthropy, or political engagement. I recall also in 1980, as my legal practice moved increasingly into the areas of water and natural resources, that John, a licensed pilot since the early 1950s, was kind enough to fly me in his personal aircraft to Denver, where we attended a quarterly meeting of the Mountain States Legal Foundation. He sat on the board of directors and I served on the board of litigation, and our mutual interests in land and water issues were evident. His service to his industry and his record of achievement in it, as well as his distinguished record in the military during the Korean War, led ultimately to his nomination and confirmation as us Deputy Secretary of Agriculture in the administration of President Ronald Reagan in 1985.

During my time in elective office, which began in the House of Representatives in 1987 and then moved to the us Senate in 1995, John has been a supporter, friend, and champion of Arizona and the nation. His support of the University of Arizona, from which we both graduated, has been manifested in numerous acts of philanthropy. the John and Doris Norton School of Consumer and Behavioral Sciences in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at ua, for example, stands as concrete testament to his support for higher education. Over the past two decades, moreover, John and his wife, Doris, have made charitable donations to the arts, health care, and countless other causes that improve the quality of life in Arizona and the Greater Southwest.

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