Ed Arnold, former Palo Alto mayor and soft-spoken council member, dies at 96

Palo Alto councilman's terms defined by battle over growth

A memorial service has been scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 30, for Edward Samuel Arnold, Jr., a longtime stockbroker who served on the Palo Alto City Council for a decade during the city's politically tumultuous 1960s, when divisive growth issues dominated community politics.

Arnold, known as "Ed" to friends and the community, died July 6 following a period of declining health. He served on the council from 1961 to 1971, a harsh decade of a political split between so-called "establishment" versus slow-growth/no-growth "residentialists." He was on the establishment side.

Yet as a council member, he was consistently soft-spoken and often wove a twist of wry humor into his comments from the dais. He also wrote down and carefully edited his comments, holding them to a couple of dozen words focused on the main points he wanted to make.

He and his late wife, Margaret, raised four children in Palo Alto after moving to the community following World War II. Margaret died in 2011, a blow to Arnold.

He was born on April 3, 1918, in Findlay, Ohio. He studied government at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania, and graduated in 1940 after serving as editor of the campus humor magazine, The Lyre.

He met Margaret West on a blind date in Princeton, New Jersey. They were married on June 26, 1942, in Live Oak, Florida. He served in the U.S. Army medical service from early 1943 through the end of World War II, and he and Margaret settled in Palo Alto following the war, beginning their family. Their four children are Heidi Arnold of Redwood City, Nancy Goodno of Seattle, Marti Alston of Detroit and James "Jas" Arnold of San Diego. He is predeceased by his grandson, Jesse, while his granddaughter, Meagan Olson, lives in San Diego.

He was a stockbroker for a variety of firms, including J. Earle May & Co., Mitchum Jones & Templeton, and Kidder Peabody & Co., finally working as an independent investment advisor. He served on the board of governors of the National Association of Security Dealers, the predecessor to Nasdaq.

Many of his community activities preceded his 1960 decision to run for the City Council in the spring 1961 election -- then held in odd years for the 15-member council, later reduced to 13 and ultimately nine members. He served on the board of trustees for the Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford and was an emeritus advisory board member for the Palo Alto Community Fund. He served as president of the Mayor's Council of Santa Clara County.

He also served as president of the Peninsula Kiwanis Club and was active in the Cubberley High School PTA, the Palo Alto Community Fund and the Palo Alto Girl Scout Council. He and Margaret were founding members of Covenant Presbyterian Church of Palo Alto. He was a member of the Palo Alto Club, and supported charities and causes focused on the study of multiple sclerosis, his church, and several health organizations.

He twice served on citizens committees to forecast the city's need for capital improvements, serving as chairman of one committee.

"I have been privileged to live and work in Palo Alto, and make a modest contribution to its city government," he said in his 1960 announcement in the Palo Alto Times. "As councilman I would hope to expand that contribution in an effective and intelligent manner."

But soon into his first term, the battle over growth erupted after brewing for several years in proposals for large developments in different parts of town. The growth concerns focused sharply and became community-wide during a June 1962 referendum election on whether Santa Clara County should build the Oregon Expressway through town, linking Highway 101 to the job-heavy Stanford Industrial Park and replacing a traffic-clogged two-lane Oregon Avenue. The expressway was approved narrowly, by about 350 votes after what has been termed the bitterest campaign in city history.

Two years later, bolstered by an initiative to force the city to dedicate park lands to protect them from development proposals, three additional slow-growth candidates won election to a 13-member council, creating the famous "7-to-6 council" that split on virtually every issue, including approval of minutes and merging of council agendas. "Park dedication" was approved overwhelmingly.

His three terms as mayor (1965 to 1966 and 1968 to 1970) were frustrating to him, marked by the council/community split on growth and later by disruptions by a radical pro-housing group, when "establishment" took on a broader countercultural meaning (even though the 6-to-7 council split was resolved in a bitterly fought 1967 "all-council" election usually referred to as the "recall election.")

The memorial service for Arnold -- "A Celebration of Ed's Life" -- has been scheduled for noon Saturday, Aug. 30, at Covenant Presbyterian Church, 670 E Meadow Dr., Palo Alto, CA 94306.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the Palo Alto Community Fund, P.O. Box 50634, Palo Alto, CA 94303 ( and/or Avenidas, 450 Bryant St., Palo Alto, 94301 (

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Like this comment
Posted by Palo Alto native
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 15, 2014 at 6:18 pm

My condolences to the Arnold Clan. So glad Ed made it to 96. We men tend not to live into our 90s; testimony to a part of Eds inner strength. Although on opposite sides of Palo Alto development, nonetheless Ed, thanks 4 your service to our community.

Like this comment
Posted by member
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jul 19, 2014 at 2:06 pm

Ed was a really nice guy and was able to keep Palo Alto functioning when the anti war group in the 1960's were trying to destroy the city. He made some real difficult decision and had great integrity. No one ever questioned his honesty.

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