Bill Shover: Valley Visionary and Civic Leader

BillShoverBill Shover’s forty-year career at The Arizona Republic and The Phoenix Gazette is legendary. He came to Phoenix Newspapers in 1962 from The Indianapolis Star. Born in Beech Grove, Indiana, Bill was the first child in his family to be born in a hospital. His Irish Catholic family often struggled to make ends meet but they never considered themselves poor. Shover says, “We were rich in family, but I guess poor in dollars.” He got his first job when he was eight years old, selling newspapers for a nickel at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. 

When he was eighteen, Shover joined the Army. The nation was between wars and he spent much of his military career at Fort Ord in California pitching for the fort’s baseball team. Shover used his G.I. benefits to go to college, and was inspired by an old Jimmy Stewart movie to major in journalism. He felt it was a profession that would enable him to help people. His first newspaper job was with The Indianapolis Star and The Indianapolis News, not as a reporter, but working to promote the papers and the community. In the first few days at his new job, he met newspaper’s larger-than-life publisher, Eugene Pulliam. It was the beginning of a friendship that would change his life. 

In 1962 Pulliam asked Shover to move to Phoenix with the mandate to involve the newspaper in improving the community. Shover says simply, “I had the best job in the world because all Gene said was, “Do good and don’t get into too much trouble, kid.” 

In Phoenix, Shover quickly became known as the man to call when you needed to get something done. He helped establish the Phoenix Forty to fight crime, fraud and corruption in the 70s. That group spawned the successful Valley Leadership program. Shover also helped found the “100 Club” to aid families of public servants killed in the line of duty.

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After Pulliam died in 1975, Shover worked with Pulliam’s widow Nina to continue the newspaper’s commitment to the community. Shover chaired the Phoenix American BiCentennial Commission in 1976 that celebrated patriotism with Valleywide events. He led the campaign to return the anchor of the U.S.S. Arizona battleship from Pearl Harbor to a place of pride at the state capitol. 

In 1987, Shover coordinated the historic visit of Pope John Paul II to Arizona. He calls it, “One of the best things that ever happened to this Valley, not only to show off the leading cleric of the church, but the purpose was to get all religions to come together.” The Pope’s visit culminated with a huge Mass at Sun Devil Stadium where Shover asked his friend, humorist Erma Bombeck, to introduce the Pope. In typical Bombeck fashion, she did so by announcing to the crowd, “Heeere’s Johnny!” Shover said the Pope loved the unique introduction. 

In the world of Arizona professional sports, Bill Shover helped launch the Phoenix Suns. Shover and the late Glenn Hawkins and Jack Stewart formed the group that created the Fiesta Bowl in 1968. He was a key player in the effort to make Martin Luther King’s birthday a holiday in Arizona and he also chaired the effort to bring Super Bowl XXX to Tempe. 

Devoted to cultural and youth organizations, Shover was a founder of the COMPAS (Combined Metropolitan Phoenix Arts) Auction that for decades was a major source of funds for many of the Valley’s cultural organizations.

shover3For seventeen years he coached boys baseball, beginning with Little League when his son was eight, and continuing through American Legion. One of his proudest moments was in 1966 when his team won the State Little League Championship. He says over the years he coached 337 youngsters and still maintains close ties with many of his “boys.” 

Shover retired from the newspaper in 1998, but when asked how long he worked there, his answer is, “Never. I never worked a day. I was employed there, but every day I went to work, when I was in employment, I felt like it was just a new day of having a good time. It never felt like it was a job.” 

Shover continues to devote his days to many causes close to his heart. His philosophy is framed on the wall of his den, “There is no limit to the good a man can do if he doesn’t care who gets the credit.” He says his greatest achievement is his family. 

All Arizona has been the beneficiary of Shover’s tireless work and vision of making the Valley of the Sun a great place to live, work and raise families.

Source – Arizona Historical Society

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