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Former Tucson Mayor Bob Walkup has died

Bob Walkup, former Tucson mayor, has died. The news was confirmed by Walkup's son Jonathan in a Facebook post on Saturday morning.

Jonathan said in his Facebook post, "He was everything a dad could be and more. I was/am so proud of him - he was truly an inspiration and my hero."

It is with great sadness that I share the news that my father, Bob Walkup, passed away tonight after a prolonged battle...

Posted by Jonathan Walkup on Friday, March 12, 2021

News 4 Tucson spoke with Bob Walkup back in December. He had just celebrated his birthday. His health was failing him, but he was still flashing his contagious smile. He had been battling Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis.

"That means my lungs are forming scar tissue and that means my genes, somewhere back in Scotland, so somewhere back in Scotland I got a little gene, brother has it and my father had that problem," Walkup said.

After graduating from Iowa State University Walkup served in the Army Corps of Civil Engineers, then he worked in the aerospace industry for 35 years.

"I built the A-10's for Fairchild, it was my job," said Walkup.

In 1999 Walkup entered the world of politics, pulling off something no Republican had done since 1983, he was elected Mayor of Tucson.

"I'm still a Republican, I'm a McCain Republican. I'm a Republican that cares about other people," said the former Mayor.

Walkup worked hard to be "everyone's Mayor."

"I do not make decisions based on an R or a D, I never made not one. My 12 years was, it right? Was it the right thing to do? Would it work? And what can I do to make things better."

When asked about his accomplishments Walkup doesn't say I, he says we.

"We solved the water issue, we solved the transportation through the RTA, we connected downtown with the university, we put the soul back into the city. We made downtown enjoyable and full of life," said Walkup.

Walkup was also the Mayor during Tucson's darkest hour. The January 8th shooting that left 6 dead and 13 others wounded, including Congresswoman Gabby Giffords.

Tucson physicians may not have been able to save Giffords if Walkup hadn't fought for a trauma center in this town.

In 2001 both UMC and TMC said they were going to shut down their trauma centers. But Mayor Walkup wasn't about to allow that to happen.

"I called up every hospital in Tucson and said get down to my office," he said.

After that meeting the wheels to build a world class trauma center were set in motion. In January of 2008 UMC had a world class trauma center and it would be put to the test on day one.

"On Jan. 8th was the first day we had all the doctors and we had all the facility up and running and at 10 minutes after 10:00 on that Saturday morning, we had double staff at the trauma center. "We had everybody we needed at that trauma center," said Walkup.

Walkup accomplished a great deal in his 12 years as Mayor but one achievement stands above the rest.

"The thing I'm most proud about is, I think I made a difference in Tucson being recognized as a knowledge based, global society, with the highest quality of life, a place for all of its people," Walkup said.

Walkup says he only has one regret.

"When I saw angry rhetoric show up in '06 I didn't take it seriously enough. And it got worse, and it got worse. If there was one regret, it was not rallying the people better for kindness and generosity and compassion."

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