University of Arizona

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Bill Bowers Scrapbook and Interview

Images of the USS Arizona battleship bell in the University of Arizona Student Union bell tower: in one image, four smiling young women ring the bell in the bell tower. The second image depicts the bell on its own.

This collection comprises materials donated by Wilber "Bill" Bowers (1903-2003), who helped save one of two bells from the battleship USS Arizona from being destroyed. Bowers was an alumnus of the University of Arizona,  graduating in 1927. As a student, he served for three years as photographic editor of the University yearbook The Desert, played saxophone in the University dance band, and had previously played high school football in Bisbee, AZ with UArizona legend John "Button" Salmon. Bowers served in the US Armed Forces during WWII, and later became a professional photographer. 

In 1944, while serving as an Army captain at the Puget Sound Naval Yard in Bremerton, WA, Bowers came across the bell in a wooden crate while looking for metal scrap to signal gunmen. Bowers learned that the bell--forged from Arizona-mined copper and silver--was set to be melted down at the yard. He called on then UArizona President Alfred Atkinson requesting he call then Arizona Governor Sidney P. Osborn to save the bell from destruction. 

The bell was delivered to UArizona in 1946. Surprised by the large scale of the bell, a committee placed it in the Arizona State Museum until a suitable, safe home could be secured. In 1951, the bell was placed in the clock tower of the new Student Union. Although it could be heard ringing after sports victories against out-of-state teams, it was enclosed and could not be seen in the old Union's tower. In its new home, the bell is now visible to all.

A proud and active UArizona alumnus, Bill Bowers received a Bear Down award from the Arizona Alumni Association in 1999 for his efforts to save the USS Arizona bell. 

Note that the scrapbook is considerably fragile due to deteriorated binding.