He died at his home in Phoenix, Arizona. He had been ill for some time, suffering a stroke in 1996. Last year he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. A family spokesman quoted the politician's widow as saying: "He is soaring through the skies - what a pilot he has been". Goldwater, former Senator from Arizona, had also been an Air Force pilot.
President Bill Clinton, politically very distant from the right-wing Republican, said he was "truly an American original," adding: "I never knew anybody quite like him".
In recent years Goldwater lambasted the Whitewater investigation, said he had no problems with gays in the military, and argued that the state had no role in deciding on abortion.
But that was not how he made his name. Goldwater stood against Nelson Rockefeller for the Republican presidential nomination in 1964, repudiating the party's older, moderate reputation and staking out a distinctive conservative position. He lost to Lyndon B Johnson, and was painted as a right-wing fanatic. "Extremism in defence of liberty is no vice!," he told Republicans.
Goldwater had no time for many of those who followed him in the Republican party, excoriating George Bush, Newt Gingrich, Jesse Helms and Ronald Reagan. But he was always a demonic figure for the left of his party and the Democrats, who regarded him as a warmonger. The slogan of Goldwater's supporters was: "In your hearts you know he's right." His opponents countered: "In your guts, you know he's nuts."
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