One Fabulous Phoenician

Much has been written about Bill Shover’s accomplishments for the Valley and state during his tenure as director of public affairs at "The Arizona Republic." The time he orchestrated Pope John Paul II’s visit to the Valley. His role in helping the Martin Luther King holiday pass the public vote. His participation in the founding of the Fiesta Bowl, the Phoenix 40, Valley Leadership and Greater Phoenix Leadership. The saying was if you wanted something done, you called Bill Shover.


To people who know him best, he’s also kind, thoughtful and modest. He’s a family man who values time with his children and was devoted to his wife, Murny, who passed away in 2009. Her home office is left as it was when she died, and the walls are covered with family photos, as are the walls of his home office.


“Bill represents a dying breed of gentlemen,” says Gene D’Adamo, his protégé and successor at The Arizona Republic. “Bill retired in 1998, and shortly after that, I was named his successor. He called in 2008 and said, ‘10 years ago today, you took over for me.’ Who else would remember that? He is a mentor and really a second father to me.


“Bill never forgets a name. His recall is amazing, and he’s known for his wonderful handwritten letters and thank-you notes.


“His motto was prominently displayed on his desk: ‘There is no limit to the good a man or woman can do if they don’t care who gets the credit.’ He really lives by that,” D’Adamo says.


Tom Ambrose, executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters Arizona, says Shover was his first boss when he arrived in Arizona. Ambrose also remembers the quote on Shover’s desk. It impressed him so much that he had a similar plaque made for his own desk.


Ambrose calls Shover a “quiet leader.”


“He led by example. Bill did things that were good for the community, and these things were consequently good for the newspaper.”


Shover enjoys people and loves to have a good time. In D’Adamo’s words, “He just knows everyone.”


Nothing could be more fun than chatting with Bill Shover. Get him started talking and a whole repertoire of stories emerges.



Shover spent his entire career in the newspaper business. Upon graduation from Butler University in 1950, he took his newly minted journalism degree to The Indianapolis Star, where he secured a job in marketing. At the Star, he met Eugene Pulliam, then owner.

Shover interviews Indiana’s Co-Mr. Basketball stars Tom

and Dick Van Arsdale in 1961.


“Even my boss was scared of Eugene Pulliam,” Shover says.


“The Star had a fancy dinner at the downtown Murat Shrine Temple. As we walked in, my boss said, ‘You’re going to introduce Pulliam.’


“Nina Pulliam, Eugene’s wife, asked, ‘Who are you?’


“I said, ‘Shover.’


“She said, ‘I bet you are scared shitless.’

Eugene Pulliam, Nina Mason Pulliam and Bill Shover


“Pulliam and I became friends. We’re about as opposite as we could be. I’m an Irish Catholic liberal. Pulliam was the son of Methodist missionaries, and he was an active supporter of the Republican Party.”


The work relationship of opposites lasted for 11 years at The Star.


At Pulliam’s encouragement, Shover moved to Phoenix in 1962 to work at The Phoenix Gazette (which ceased publication in 1997) and The Arizona Republic, from which he retired in 1998.


“Eugene gave me this advice: ‘Do good, and don’t get into too much trouble.’ ”



Comic strip writer Bil Keane, Vera Williams, wife of

Arizona Governor John Williams, Erma Bombeck and

Bill Shover


“I invited Erma to come out from Ohio to speak to the Phoenix Executive Club (PEC). I also invited Hugh Downs. They came (on separate occasions), and they liked it. I drove them around the Valley to see the sights.”


Both eventually moved to the Valley. The three families became great friends, and Downs spoke at Murny’s memorial service in 2009.



In 1987, then Bishop Thomas O’Brien wanted Pope John Paul II to visit Phoenix as part of his nine-day U.S. tour.  The Pope planned a trip to see the Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope at the Mount Graham International Observatory near Tucson. (“I guess he wanted to see the heavens or something,” Shover says.) So the Pope was persuaded to come to Phoenix, and Shover coordinated the visit.


“O’Brien wanted to have the Pope (perform mass) in Encanto Park, but I talked him into Sun Devil Stadium,” Shover says. So the Pope held mass for 75,000 people. Sparky, the Sun Devil, was put under cover for the event.


The bishop wanted a woman to introduce the Pope, and Shover suggested Erma Bombeck. When he asked Bombeck if she would do it, she responded: “Now how do you do that?”


Until she actually introduced him, Shover had no idea what she was going to say.


When the time arrived, Bombeck said, “Heeeeere’s Johnny!”


“After the mass, the Pope asked, ‘Who’s Johnny?’ Somebody told him Johnny Carson, and he went over and gave Erma a big hug.


“Erma was such a great person. When she died, I told the story of the Pope at her service at Saint Thomas the Apostle.


“The Pope was so jocular. He liked to sing. One of his favorites was ‘It’s a long way to Tipperary.’ ”



Shover was one of the nine founders of the Fiesta Bowl and organized the first meeting in 1968. The inaugural game was held in 1971.

Bill Shover, Governor Rose Mofford, who made the state's

Super Bowl presentation to the NFL, and Bill Bidwill, owner

of the Arizona Cardinals.


The committee initiated the effort to bring the Super Bowl to Phoenix in 1988. At first, Tempe was chosen for Super Bowl XXVII. But the NFL pulled the game when Arizona refused to recognize the Martin Luther King holiday.


Shover was a key player in the effort to get the holiday passed, and in 1992, Arizona became the only state to adopt the holiday by popular vote. “The biggest thing to me,” Shover says, “was the passing of the MLK holiday. I appreciate the significance of it. The public vote in 1992 passed the holiday by 65 percent.“


On January 28, 1996, Super Bowl XXX featured the Dallas Cowboys and the Pittsburgh Steelers (Cowboys won) at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe.



In 1975, Dick Mallery (senior partner at Snell  & Wilmer), Shover and others had the idea of developing a leadership-training forum. They approached Frank Snell and Eugene Pulliam.


“There were things we needed to do for Phoenix,” Shover explains. “We needed to put pressure on the legislature to make things happen. Eugene Pulliam wrote a letter inviting 40 people. He told them what he wanted and when to be where.


“Every guy showed up. Gov. Raul Castro showed up to ask for help. We needed a statewide grand jury. We got the freeway expansion. We needed crime prevention.”


Out of the Phoenix 40 grew Valley Leadership, to train younger leaders. The organization later expanded into other communities. Eventually, the Phoenix 40 became Greater Phoenix Leadership.


The group encountered some skepticism, and a Republic editor wrote a story asking who these people were who called themselves leaders.


To Shover, the question had an irony to it: After all, “five of the original 40 worked for the Gazette or the Republic.” Shover notes that the 40 were mainly Republican, but “in spite of that we banded together to do good things.”


“Gene Pulliam died after the first meeting,” Shover says.



Shover coached Senior League Baseball for 17 years. His Kachina Hopi team won a championship tournament, with two of its star players sitting in the dugout for disciplinary reasons. When the game went to extra innings, Coach Shover handed the bat to one of the two benched players, Jeff Trent (second from the right on the first row), and told him he was up. Trent hit the first pitch for a homerun. Shover fumed with frustration as the young Trent slowly walked the bases. As he approached home plate, he pointed his finger at Shover and said, “I told you that you should have played me.’ ”

Shover's team

The other benched player was Trent’s twin brother, John (second from the left in the back row).


Both players eventually made the Valley their home. Dr. Jeff became the president and scientific director of TGen, and Dr. John is an award-winning author and inspirational speaker. 



Shover is part of a group that goes back 30 years. They call themselves the Uglies. The Uglies meet monthly for lunch at various places around the Valley. They move around, he says, because no one will have them a second time. They’ve met in places from truck stops to gay bars. They’ve carried in liquor in brown sacks.

The Uglies: Bottom row – Len Huck, Hugh Downs, Jerry

Lewkowitz, Bill Shover, Jim Tascarek, Tom Ambrose.

Top row – Lou Grubb, Dick DeAngelis,

Bob Davies and Bruce Cole


People from varied backgrounds make up the Uglies – “a Jew, an Italian, I’m Irish,” Shover points out. Kax Herberger was part of the group, the only woman to break the all-male bond. “We called her our den mother,” Shover says.


Their goal is to have light conversation and serious fun.


Fines are levied for three offenses: Name-dropping, having your name in the paper for doing something good and being late for a meeting. “We needle each other mercilessly.”


The needling includes guests, whom they invite just one at a time.



Shover has not one, not two, but three honorary doctorates, one each from Grand Canyon University, Northern Arizona University and Arizona State University.


“They’re doctor of human relations or something. I don’t know.“


Faithful to his mantra, no credit is necessary. There’s also no limit to the good he has done.

– C.Miller


Bill Shover was honored as the 2011 Fabulous Phoenician by Trends Charitable Fund on Sept. 24.





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