Fife Symington, III
Fife Symington, III
Fife Symington comes from a wealthy Maryland family;
he is a great-grandson of steel magnate Henry Clay
Frick, and his father J. Fife Symington Jr. (1910–2007)
was United States ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago
1969-1971. His cousin, Stuart Symington, was a U.S.
Senator from Missouri and father of James Wadsworth
Symington, a U.S. Representative from that state. He
attended the prestigious Gilman School in Baltimore,
then attended Harvard University, graduating in 1968
with a degree in Dutch art history and was a member of
the Porcellian Club. He served in the United States Air
Force during the Vietnam War, stationed at Luke Air
Force Base in Maricopa County, Arizona. He remained in
Arizona and became involved in real estate
development, founding his own company, the Symington Company, in 1976.
Symington ran for governor of Arizona in 1990, taking 44% of the vote in the Republican and won the
final election with 52% of the vote. During his first term, the governor was the subject of an investigation
over his involvement with Southwest Savings and Loan, a failed Phoenix thrift. He was later cleared, and
won reelection handily in 1994.
Later, Symington was indicted on charges of extortion, making false financial statements, and of bank
fraud. He was convicted of bank fraud in 1997. As Arizona state law does not allow convicted felons to
hold office, Symington resigned his office on September 5, 1997. This conviction, however, was
overturned in 1999 by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
After graduating from the Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts Scottsdale, Symington helped found
the Arizona Culinary Institute, a professional cooking school that teaches the classic French method.
Symington is a founding partner of The Symington Group, a venture capital and strategic
business/political consulting firm.
In November 2006, Symington lost a bid to become the GOP Chair of his local legislative district. The
defeat in this district was the first electoral defeat of Symington’s career.
In April 2007, Symington was named chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Santa Barbara Botanic
In 2007, Fife said that he had witnessed one of the “crafts of unknown origin” during the 1997 Phoenix
Lights event, but noted that he didn’t go public with the information. In an interview with The Daily
Courier in Prescott, Symington said:
I’m a pilot and I know just about every machine that flies. It was bigger than anything that I’ve ever seen.
It remains a great mystery. Other people saw it, responsible people. I don’t know why people would
It was enormous and inexplicable. Who knows where it came from? A lot of people saw it, and I saw it
too. It was dramatic. And it couldn’t have been flares because it was too symmetrical. It had a geometric
outline, a constant shape.
However, when he was Governor in 1997, Symington promised he would look into the mass sighting, but
then quickly ridiculed it at a press conference where he had his chief of staff dress up in an alien
costume, telling reporters that they had found the culprit. His explanation today is that as a public official
he felt a responsibility to avoid public panic and therefore tried to introduce some levity into the situation.
On November 9, 2007, Symington appeared with a panel of guests discussing their UFO experiences on
Larry King Live. A few days later, on November 12, Symington acted as moderator for a UFO press
conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Other speakers included U.S./foreign military
witnesses/public officials involved in some major UFO cases, such as the 1980 Rendlesham Forest
incident, 1990 Belgium UFO incident, and 1976 Tehran UFO incident, and heads of some official foreign
government UFO investigations, such as Nick Pope in the U.K. and Claude Poher of France. They said
the phenomenon was quite real, should be taken seriously, and urged that the U.S. reopen its public
Symington also appeared as a witness of the Phoenix Lights in an updated version of the 2002 UFO
documentary Out of the Blue by filmmaker James Fox. Fox helped organize the witness panels for both
the Larry King show and follow-up National Press Club event.