Arizona Republic Reporter Don Bolles Was Blown to Pieces 33 Years Ago Today

A few hours ago, we were driving in the vicinity of the Clarendon Hotel on 4th Avenue south of Indian School Road when it struck us: It's June 2, the anniversary of a day that will live in infamy (to steal a line)  in Arizona and in journalism circles around the nation.

At about 11:30 that morning in 1976, veteran Arizona Republic reporter Don Bolles left his downtown offices for a meeting with a prospective informant named John Harvey Adamson.

A local low-level hoodlum, Adamson said he had some good juice on a fraudulent land deal linked to heavy-duty politicos and the "Mob." Bolles, a ex-investigative reporter who by then was covering the Arizona Legislature, couldn't resist the come-on.

But the 47-year-old scribe couldn't find Adamson in the lobby as planned, and returned to his car in the parking lot south of the hotel. Adamson, by his own account, was attaching a powerful homemade bomb to Bolles' car (that's it in the photo) as the reporter was inside looking for him.


Bolles got into the car and started the engine, moments before six sticks of dynamite exploded. Mortally injured by the blast, Bolles still was able to famously mutter a few words at the grisly scene, "They finally got me. The Mafia. Emprise. Find John [Adamson]," 

(Emprise referred to a firm with ties at the time to Arizona's dog track industry, as well as being the concessionaire for the Phoenix Suns and other entities.)

Bolles died 11 long days later after losing both legs and an arm.

The motive for the assassination always has been cloudy and controversial.

Three people, including the late Adamson (who testified against the other two) ended up getting convicted. One of the other conspirators, Phoenix contractor Max Dunlap, is still incarcerated at the Arizona State Prison.

Enough background.

For more than three decades, a fellow named George Weisz has gone to the location of the Bolles bombing to pay his respects. It's almost a religious pilgrimage.

Weisz currently is a top aide to Phoenix mayor Phil Gordon. But back in 1976, he was a student at the University of Arizona who later worked with the national investigative reporting team that swarmed into Phoenix to see how something like this could have happened.

Weisz knows more about the Don Bolles case than anyone. You could call him obsessed by it -- in a good way. We were fully expecting to see him at the Clarendon a few hours ago, but he didn't show.

All we know about Weisz's absence is that something very pressing must have come up, or he would have been there.

In his stead, we parked in the exact location where Bolles for all intents and purposes lost his life and thought about that awful day for a minute or two.

Then we drove off into the day.