Kingman's Dunton, 90, has a lifetime of GOP memories
KINGMAN - After nearly 90 years of service in the Republican Party, Roy Dunton can say he's met a few of the party's big wigs, several dozen, in fact.
Dunton has a section of wall in his office at Dunton and Dunton that is covered with photographs of himself with such Republican notables as former Arizona Gov. Fife Symington, U.S. Sens. Jon Kyl and John McCain, U.S. Rep. Trent Franks, a couple of photos with Barry Goldwater, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, businessman and former presidential candidate Steve Forbes, former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Newt Gingrich, former U.S. Rep. Bob Stump, former U.S. Rep. Phil Gramm and many more, including President Ronald Reagan.
Reagan is one of his favorites, Dunton said. He got to meet "The Gipper" several years ago at his ranch in California. One of Dunton's cousins had a ranch right next door to Reagan's.
"He was a real gentleman and sharp as hell," Dunton said.
Dunton shakes his head when he talks about Gov. Symington.
"He was one of the best governors we ever had. He was very fair and honest. He got railroaded out," he said.
Symington was the governor of Arizona from 1991 to 1997. He was indicted on charges of extortion, making false financial statements and bank fraud. He was convicted of bank fraud in 1997 and resigned. The conviction was overturned in 1999 by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals when it was found that a juror in the case may have been improperly dismissed. Before the case could be retried, President Bill Clinton pardoned Symington.
Dunton, who turned 90 on Aug. 3, said he's had a good life. He grew up in Washington state. His father worked for a streetcar company and he can remember the streetcar strikes in the 1920s.
His first chance to meet some influential people was when he worked as a busboy and then a bartender at a nightclub at the age of 14 in Spokane.
It wasn't long before he moved on and was working as the manager of the women's department at JC Penny's when an uncle who had moved to Arizona returned for a visit. Dunton's uncle moved to Goldroad, just outside of present day Oatman and the Gold Road Mine, several years earlier and bought a garage that supplied and serviced trucks for the mine.
The uncle was so impressed with Dunton he asked him to join him at the age of 17 in Goldroad in 1939.
On to Arizona
Dunton worked in the service station for the garage. Once while he was working on a truck tire in 1941, the tire blew up, taking part of his nose and his front teeth along with the rim of the tire with it.
A dentist friend worked four days straight on repairing Dunton's teeth with 28 crowns and bridges. A doctor in Phoenix repaired Dunton's nose by taking a piece from one of his ribs and reconstructing it.
When the government closed the mine in 1942 in order to focus the country's mining resources and equipment on necessary metals for World War II, Dunton shipped off to war. He served on three ships in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. On VJ Day, his ship was in the Yellow Sea clearing mines from the Yangtze River.
In 1946 he returned to the garage at Goldroad and he and his uncle bought the Ford dealership in Kingman. It was during his years of work at the dealership that he met his wife, Peggy.
A parts dealer had marked up the invoice on a purchase the dealership made and Dunton was sent to Los Angeles to find out what happened. While he was there a friend introduced him to Peggy. The two dated a couple of times and then married nearly 60 years ago.
Dunton worked as a Ford dealer for 17 years and as a General Motors dealer for 24 years. During that time, he became more involved in the Republican Party and eventually served in every party office in the county and several offices at the state level.
He remembers his aunt having to register as Republican in Gold Road just so the town could have an election. He also remembers when the Hotel Beale on Andy Devine Avenue was election day headquarters and the results of each race would be tracked by chalk marks on a giant board on the wall of the bar. He was also a party delegate to two Republican conventions, one in Texas where Reagan was nominated and one in San Diego.
He's still a strong supporter of the Republican Party and well known in the state Republican circles. For his 80th birthday, he received congratulations from the Arizona Secretary of State's Office. Other awards for service are scattered across his office walls with the pictures of him and several party leaders.
But his favorite is a silver plaque that hangs on the wall directly behind his desk. It was given to him on one of his many wedding anniversaries by Peggy and congratulates him on the many long years of marriage the two have had together.
"I've been pretty God damn lucky," Dunton said. Especially since after 90 years he is able to see not only his grandchildren but also his great-grandchildren grow up.
Dunton celebrated his birthday on Saturday during the annual Kingmanite Reunion at the old Elks' Lodge downtown.