Bommersbach speech highlights 2017 Arizona Historical League annual meeting

Arizona author and journalist Jana Bommersbach delivers the keynote speech at the 2017 Arizona Historical League annual meeting and volunteer recognition luncheon. (Independent Newsmedia/Terrance Thornton)

Popular Arizona journalist and author Jana Bommersbach delivered the keynote address at the Arizona Historical League 2017 annual meeting and volunteer recognition luncheon.

The event, which was attended by Historical Society officials as well as elected and civic leaders, was held Tuesday, May 9 at the McCormick Ranch Golf Club Pavilion, 7505 E. McCormick Parkway.

The Arizona Historical Society is the state’s oldest historical agency. The group was established Nov. 7, 1864 through an act of the First Territorial Legislature — and serves as steward of state history, fulfilling its mission to collect, preserve, interpret, and disseminate the history of Arizona, according to information provided at the May 9 luncheon.

“The only thing I knew about Arizona was Barry Goldwater — I didn’t like him much then, but I came to love him,” Ms. Bommersbach prefaced her speech. “I didn’t even know who Wallace and Ladmo were!”

But Ms. Bommersbach explained she would come to learn the rich history of Arizona as she embarked on an acclaimed journalism career that appears to have blossomed in 1983 with her being named the “Journalist of the Year” by the Arizona Press Club.

“They were anxious to tell me their stories,” she recalled of her early years reporting and subsequently falling in love with the city of Phoenix and the state of Arizona.

Her biography is filled with notable achievements and prestigious journalism awards spanning a 30-year career, but the book, “The Trunk Murderess: Winnie Ruth Judd” has etched Ms. Bommersbach’s name forever in Phoenix history.

The story of Winnie Ruth Judd enthralled the audience for nearly an hour as Ms. Bommersbach focused on two of her works: the true crime book and a historical novel titled, “Cattle Kate.”

“The only way I was able to re-investigate this case was because Arizona has an amazing historical record,” she told the about 100 people in attendance. “That was one of the first revelations for me with history … the victors are often the people who were behind the issues in the first place.”

Ms. Bommersbach told the tale of mystery and intrigue that was the investigation into the Winnie Ruth Judd case and, along the way, pointed out the importance of keeping accurate records.

“Writing this book without the internet still astonishes me. I would find all of these interesting little tidbits about the history of Phoenix,” she said. At the time of the Judd case, Thomas Road was the northern boundary of the city of Phoenix.

For the audience, it seemed to be another example of the importance of the work of the Historical Society:

“Arizona Historical Society collections not only provide premier resource for recounting Arizona’s past, but are invaluable tools for promoting public understanding of contemporary issues such as water availability, immigration, free trade, mining, ranching and agribusiness, the defense industry, cultural diversity and urban development and revitalization. The Arizona Historical Society — through its exhibits, programs, publications, and outreach — informs and inspires the people of all ages by reminding them of the boldness and daring that characterized countless individuals, past and present, who have made Arizona their home.”

To learn more about the Arizona Historical Society go to

Northeast Valley Managing Editor Terrance Thornton can be contacted at

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