Clara Osborne Botzum (1894-1986)
Inducted in 1990
Used by permission from the Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records
“She was the epitome of a pioneer. She was very forward-thinking. She wanted to be at the forefront of things. She sought change.” — Mary Salvado, friend
As a private citizen and state legislator, Clara Osborne Botzum devoted more than fifty years to the development of the town of Parker and the Colorado River Valley. Whether she was lobbying for the construction of the Parker Bridge or trying to revive mining in the region, Clara demonstrated her ability to work with people for the benefit of her community and the state.
In 1900, when Clara Osborne was a child, she and her family moved to Parker where her father had a mine. They traveled the last part of the trip by raft down the untamed Colorado River with the assistance of Mohave Indian boatmen. Upon their arrival at Parker, the Osbornes dismantled the boat and then used the lumber to build their house.
Clara attended Wilson School in Pasadena, California, Grand School and the Girls Collegiate School which were both in Los Angeles. She also studied at the Theop Institute in Pasadena. In 1925, she married Lieutenant Charles O. Botzum, who was assigned with the Pacific Fleet Air Detachment, U.S. Mississippi. The marriage did not last, however, and the couple divorced five years later.
Clara returned to Arizona and played an active role in the family mines of Rio Vista and Rio Rico. The mining industry faced an economic slump in the 1920s, and most likely the Osborne mines were not profitable at this time. By 1930, Clara Botzum had found a job as secretary of the Northern Yuma County Chamber of Commerce.
In 1932, Clara became involved in an effort to develop the Parker area’s economic potential. For many years, the residents of northern Yuma County had been pushing for a bridge over the Colorado River at Parker to aid commerce. At that time, the only bridges lay far to the south in Yuma or north at Needles. After gaining authority from the Chamber of Commerce to push for a bridge, Clara spent five years writing letters, making contacts with newspapers, utilities, railroad companies, Arizona and California officials, and the federal government. She gained an ally in Arizona Congresswoman Isabella Greenway. Finally on September 25, 1937, they dedicated Parker Bridge. Clara Botzum chaired the general arrangements committee for the opening celebration which was attended by over 10,000 people.
After this triumphant success, Clara continued her work in the northern Yuma County Chamber of Commerce as secretary manager. She also served as president and vice-president of the Arizona State Chamber of Commerce Secretaries organization.
By the 1940s, her efforts to improve the Parker area led her into a new arena. In 1942, she won election to the Arizona House of Representatives where she served from 1942 to 1948 and 1958 to 1962. In the House, Clara served as vice-chair of the state government committee and chair of the mining committee. Former Arizona Governor Rose Mofford, who started working in the capitol in 1940, recalls Clara Botzum’s “real sense of compassion for everyone who came to see her, not just those from Yuma County.”
During the next twenty years, she worked to improve the economy of the Parker area in several ways. She persuaded federal officials to mine strategic war-metals in the area during World War II. Parker had been without a bank since the 1920s, and Clara convinced bankers to re-establish one. She also lobbied the Civilian Conservation Corps to establish a camp at Lake Havasu and develop wildlife and recreational facilities. To aid in diversification of the Parker area economy, she worked to interest real estate developers in creating new residential and recreational areas in the area around Parker Dam. As she aged, her activities continued as Clara pushed for the creation of a new county, serving as honorary chair of the campaign committee. In 1982, La Paz County was created with Parker as county seat.
In 1979, the Arizona Department of Transportation rededicated the Parker Bridge in Clara’s name in a special ceremony. In 1984, the Arizona Senate presented her with the Spirit of Arizona award. Through all of her achievements, Clara Osborne Botzum believed that “nobody ever does something of ‘great moment’ alone. It takes people working together.” Clara’s work demonstrated her ability to unify people around a common cause. A few years before her death in 1986, Clara commented on her immeasurable good fortune in seeing “northern Yuma County mature and progress.” Much of what she had witnessed resulted from her own initiatives. As Governor Mofford once said, “She was one in a million.”