Tempe historian Shirley Blanton has been a champion for local history for many years.  Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Shirley has called Tempe home since 1948.  That’s the year that her parents – Maude and John Randolph – decided that it was time to move out west from Illinois. Shirley immediately embraced her new home, which she remembers as a “very active little town.”  Shirley met her future husband on a blind date, and in 1950 she married Ralph Blanton.  Two years later, Ralph joined Tempe’s volunteer firefighters, a career move that would shape the lives of this young couple for decades to come.  He served the Tempe Fire Department for nearly 30 years, after which Shirley set out to write the department’s history. 

Over the years, Shirley became a student of Tempe history overall.  A long-time member of the Old Settlers of Tempe – a pioneer organization established by Niels Petersen in 1902 – she contributed many stories to the “Memories of Old Settlers” book published in 1996 to celebrate the 125th anniversary of Tempe.  In 2001, Shirley published For Whom the “Town Bull” Tolls: A History of the Tempe Fire Department, 1894 – 2000.  In 2003, the Tempe History Museum turned Shirley’s epic history book into an exhibit.  In 2007, Shirley published another volume of local history which featured over 200 historic photos.  Her Images of America: Tempe book was a wide-reaching history of the city, covering over 130 years of history with a rich assembly of photos and contributors. 

For their lifetimes of dedication to community service and Tempe’s history, Shirley and Ralph Blanton were featured among Tempe’s century-and-a-half of movers, shakers, and community advocates in the 2016 book Legendary Locals of Tempe.  Shirley Blanton’s love of history and community service have placed her among the truly Legendary Tempeans who have inspired love and service dedication in our city.