Time stands still on the clock tower of the Pinal County Courthouse at Pinal and Twelfth streets.    2-01
Historic Florence

The time on the clock tower of the Pinal County Courthouse has been 11:44 ever since the building was completed 1891.2  Although a functioning clock was planned, a shortage of funds resulted in the painted clock faces which are correct two times a day.  The architectural clock also seems to be frozen in time in Florence.  The Courthouse is the oldest public building in daily use in Arizona.

Other historical buildings abound.  The Chamber of Commerce is housed a the Bunenkant's City Bakery building which was built 1890.  

The Florence Chamber of Commerce in the Brunenkant's City Bakery building at 291 Bailey Street.    2-01

Florence was one of the earliest settlements in Pinal County.  The town was named by Governor Safford in honor of his sister.4

Florence was the home town of Earnest W. McFarland (1894-1984), the only Arizona politician to have served in the U. S. Senate (1941-1953), as governor (1955-1959) and as the Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court (1965-1971).  When he was not serving in public office, he was a teacher, an attorney, the Pinal County Attorney, and television station pioneer, founding KTVK.  McFarland Historical State Park on the north end of Main Street honors the town's and possibly the state's most illustrious citizen. 5

Filmed in Florence3
Riot 1996-Action/Adventure
Director: Joseph Merhi
Cast: Gary Daniels, Sugar Ray Leonard, Paige Rowland, Ken Tigar, Charles Napier, Luke Perry, Dante Basco, Patrick Kilpatrick, Cicely Tyson, Mario Van Peebles, Melvin Van Peebles, Douglas Spain
Story: A riot breaks out on the streets on Christmas Eve, thugs from an IRA front kidnap the British Ambassador's daughter, and a top-notch British Secret Service Agent and martial arts expert is called in.
Posse 1993-Western
Director: Mario Van Peebles
Cast: Mario Van Peebles, Stephen Baldwin, Billy Zane, Richard Gant, Richard Jordan, Charles Lane, Tiny Lister, Tone Loc, Salli Richardson, Big Daddy Kane, Charles Lane
Story: The little known legends of black cowboys in the Old West.
Neon Empire 1989-Drama
Director: Larry Peerce
Cast: Ray Sharkey, Martin Landau, Gary Busey, Linda Fiorentino, Julie Carmen, Harry Guardino, Dylan McDermott
Story: The building of Las Vegas from a desert town to the gambling capital.
Three Amigos 1986-Comedy
Director: John Landis
Cast: Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, Martin Short, Patrice Martinez, Norbert Weisser, Phil Hartman, Jon Lovitz, Joe Mantegna, Alfonso Arau, Tony Plana
Story: A Mexican town mistakenly hires has-been western movie heroes to save it from bandits.
Murphy's Romance 1985-Drama
Director: Martin Ritt
Cast: Sally Field, James Garner (Best Actor Nomination), Brian Kerwin, Corey Haim, Dennis Burkley, Georgann Johnson
Story: A strong-willed woman moves to a small town in Arizona with her young son, where she meets a thoroughly charming middle-aged pharmacist who is also the town's most eligible bachelor.
Best Cinematography Nomination.
Command 5 1985-Action/Adventure
Director: E.W. Swackhamer
Cast: Wings Hauser, John Matuszak, William Russ, Gregory Sierra, Sonja Smits, Stephen Parr
Story: A specially trained task force uses unorthodox crime-fighting techniques.
Stir Crazy 1980-Comedy
Director: Sidney Poitier
Cast: Gene Wilder, Richard Pryor, Georg Stanford Brown, JoBeth Williams, Craig T. Nelson
Story: Two unemployed buddies land jobs as feathered woodpeckers to promote the opening of a bank. When their costumes are stolen and used in a bank robbery, they find themselves falsely convicted of the crime and behind bars with a wild assortment of inmates. ITA award.
Escape from Bogan County 1977-Drama
Director: Steven Hilliard Stern
Cast: Henry Gibson, Pat Hingle, Michael Parks, Mitchell Ryan, Jaclyn Smith, Philip Abbott
Story: A political tyrant's domination of his young wife makes her a prisoner.
Trial of Billy Jack 1974-Drama
Cast: Tom Laughlin, Delores Taylor, William Wellman Jr., Victor Izay
Story: Billy Jack comes to the defense of Freedom School students when the National Guard tries to shut down their TV station.
Sequel to the 1971 Billy Jack, and followed by the 1977 Billy Jack Goes to Washington.
Titles you won't find in any movie catalog
Copper Basin Railway
The Gifted One
Mourning Song
Sheriff of Cochise County
Arizona State Prison
As Arizona moved toward statehood, the legislature moved the territorial prison from Yuma where it had been since 1875 to Florence.  Inmate labor was used to construct the new facility, and the prison population was transferred from Yuma upon its completion in 1909.

One new feature at the Florence facility was the death chamber.  Originally located on the floor above death row, the chamber consisted of a scaffold from which the condemned prisoner would be tethered loosely by the neck, and a trap door on which he would stand.  In executing the sentence, the door would be released allowing the body to fall into the room below.  A total 28 inmates were executed by hanging at Florence while that was the method of execution in Arizona.

In 1933 Arizona adopted a new method of execution which had been first used by the neighboring state of Nevada in 1924.  Seeking a more humane way to carry out the death penalty, executioners in Nevada attempted to pump poison gas into the cell of a condemned prisoner while he slept.  When they found that escaping gas made this impossible, the gas chamber was born.

Whether the execution by gas is more humane than by hanging may never be answered, since those who really know aren't telling.  Properly done, death from hanging can be instantaneous, since the drop from a sufficient distance will cause a rapid fracture dislocation of the neck.  Too much of a drop and decapitation results--gory for the witnesses, but still instantaneous.  Too little of a drop and death will result from slow asphyxiation lasting as long as 45 minutes, with its own gore--engorged face, protruding tongue, popping eyes, defecation, and flailing limbs.

Before Caryl Chessman was executed in California's gas chamber in 1960, he told reporters that he would nod his head if he was in pain. Witnesses reported seeing his head nod for several minutes.  At least one physician has described death by poison gas as similar to the pain felt by a person experiencing a heart attack where the heart is similarly deprived of oxygen.

More humane or not, 38 executions have been carried out in the gas chamber in Florence.P1  A further attempt at humane executions was made with the adoption of lethal injection on November 23, 1992.  The first state to adopt this method of execution was Oklahoma in 1977.

In lethal injection, the prisoner is strapped onto a gurney, and a needle is inserted into his vein.  A tube connects the needle to equipment to dispense the chemicals in an adjoining room.  A second needle and line are similarly attached as a backup.  At the designated time, the prisoner is first given an anesthetic (sodium thiopental) through the needle, which puts him to sleep.  This is followed by a chemical (pavulon) that paralyzes voluntary muscles and stops breathing, and a third chemical (potassium chloride) to stop the heart.  As of November 8, 2000, 20 executions have been conducted by lethal injection in Arizona.

Because of the appeals process, an inmate sentenced to the death penalty may held on death row for a substantial period of time.  As of March 15, 2002, there were 127 men on Death Row in Florence.  The two women on Death Row are in the Phoenix Perryville facility.P2

Death Row residents seem to have their own groupies, suitors and sympathizers.  Although inmates are prohibited from communicating on the internet, there sites where one can locate a real pen pal on the internet.  Voices from the Inside list 11 Arizona Death Row prisoners seeking to correspond with those on the outside.

The Arizona State Prison, Florence.    2-02
The Death Penalty in Arizona
February 14, 1912 Arizona becomes a state bringing the death penalty and execution by hanging
December 8, 1916 Death penalty deleted by voter initiative
December 5, 1918 Death penalty restored by legislature
October 28, 1933 Execution by gas adopted
1963-1992 Inactive
1972 U. S. Supreme Court strikes down the death penalty in every state.
May 1, 1979 Arizona legislature enacts new death penalty to meet U. S. Supreme Court requirements.
April 6, 1992 First execution under new Supreme Court requirements.
November 23, 1992 Execution by lethal injection adopted
Top Ten Reasons to Have A Death Row Boyfriend
  1. You know where he is at all times.
  2. He's not going to step out on you.
  3. You won't be stuck with him for that  long.
  4. You don't have to pick up after him around the house.
  5. You never have to cook for him.
  6. Whatever you did, he probably did something worse.
  7. He's not going to leave town unexpectedly.
  8. The risk of unintended pregnancy is extremely low.
  9. He won't be asking you to do his laundry.
  10. You'll have something really different to tell your friends.
The Prison Outlet store, just outside the state prison.    2-02
A bumper sticker available from the Prison Outlet .    3-02

1.           "Table DP-1. Profile of General Demographic Characteristics: 2000--Arizona," American FactFinder, U.S. Census Bureau. Back to text

2.           Time also stands still on. but at 12:35, on the clock tower at Paradise Valley's Camelback Resort. Back to text

3.           Florence Chamber of Commerce, 291 Bailey Street, Florence, 2-10-01. Back to text

4.           Will C. Barnes, Arizona Place Names, The University of Arizona Press, Tucson, 1997, p. 164.  The McFarland Collection, Pinal County Library, accessed 3-17-01. Back to text

5. Marshall Trimble, Roadside History of Arizona, Mountain Press Publishing Company, Missoula 1986, p. 88-90, 419-420. Back to text

Sources for Arizona State Prison

P1.        As of 11-28-2000. Although the death penalty is now carried out through lethal injection, prisoners sentenced prior to adoption of the law on November 23, 1992, may choose gas or lethal injection.  "Arizona State Prison Complex- Florence," below.Back to text

P2.        A list of inmates on Death Row, a synopsis of each crime, and the inmate's picture can be seen at "ADC Inmates on Death Row," below.Back to text

__________, "DEATH PENALTY HISTORY," Arizona Department of Corrections, accessed 3-21-02.

__________, "Early Agency History," Arizona Department of Corrections, accessed 3-21-02.

__________, "Arizona State Prison Complex- Florence," Arizona Department of Corrections, accessed 3-21-02.

__________, "Gas Chamber," The Death Penalty - Teacher Edition, Michigan State University Comm Tech Lab and Death Penalty Information Center, � 2000.

Robert Robb, "DEATH PENALTY JUSTIFIED, BUT IT'S NOT THE BEST IDEA." The Arizona Republic, 02-09-2000, pp B11.

Marshall Trimble, Roadside History of Arizona, Mountain Press Publishing Company, Missoula, 1986, pp. 86-90, 419.

This page was last revised on 07/13/04.