Lifelong Steward of the Earth Dies

UA alumnus Stewart L. Udall, an avid conservationist who served as a Congressman and Secretary of the Interior, died this month.
March 25, 2010
Extra Info: 

The UA Libraries maintains the Stewart L. Udall Collection, a collection of manuscripts, photographs and other work. Also, the UA's Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy works to continue the Udall legacy in the realm of environmental policy and conservation. 

In 1961, then-U.S. Secretary of the Interior Stewart L. Udall with U.S. President John F. Kennedy. Udall has spent his life as an lawyer, author, scholar and environmental activist. He was the last surviving member of President Kennedy's original cabinet.(Photo courtesy of UA Special Collections)
In 1961, then-U.S. Secretary of the Interior Stewart L. Udall with U.S. President John F. Kennedy. Udall has spent his life as an lawyer, author, scholar and environmental activist. He was the last surviving member of President Kennedy's original cabinet.(Photo courtesy of UA Special Collections)
Stewart L. Udall attended a UA event in the November, during a renaming ceremony. At that time, the Morris K. Udall Foundation had been renamed the Morris K. Udall and Stewart L. Udall Foundation.
Stewart L. Udall attended a UA event in the November, during a renaming ceremony. At that time, the Morris K. Udall Foundation had been renamed the Morris K. Udall and Stewart L. Udall Foundation.

Lawyers, judges and legislators comprise the lineage of Stewart L. Udall, a University of Arizona alumnus and avid conservationist who is credited with ushering in some of the nation's most important environmental policies.

Born in St. Johns, Arizona, Udall died March 20 at his home in Santa Fe, N.M at the age of 90.

A statement from the Udall family issued Saturday said that Udall died of natural causes. He is survived by six children; Tom, Scott, Lynn, Lori, Denis and Jay; eight grandchildren; and other family.

Udall, who became one of the foremost environmental visionaries of the era, enrolled at the UA in 1938. 

He joined the U.S. Air Force two years into his UA studies during World War II serving as a B24 gunner in Italy and earning the Air Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters for meritorious achievement in an aerial fight.

After the war, he returned to Tucson and continued his studies at the UA.

While a student, Udall and his brothers, David Burr Udall and Morris K. Udall, lived in the infirmary for quarantined students and soldiers. At the time, it was located in the basement of what was then the Student Health Center, said Lee Ann Hamilton, the assistant director for health promotion and preventative services at UA's Campus Health Service. 

"They served as orderlies and night watchmen at the infirmary when we had beds and student patients (who) spent the night under the care of nurses," Hamilton said. 

Udall earned his master's degree from the James E. Rogers College of Law in 1949 and, soon thereafter, open a law practice, Udall and Udall, in Tucson with Morris K. Udall.

Stewart L. Udall and Morris K. Udall would make major contributions to conservation efforts and environmental policy in Arizona and across the Unites States.   

Stewart L. Udall led cases on behalf of members of the Navajo Nation and also uranium miners, among others groups. He served as a member of Congress, representing Arizona from 1955 to 1961 and later was appointed U.S. Secretary of the Interior.

His efforts earned him the Ansel Adams Award for his leadership and also the and United Nations Gold Medal for Lifetime Achievement. 

"He was a passionate person who fought to preserve a marvelous land legacy for us all," said Stephen Cornell, the UA's Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy director.

Established in 1987, the center was named in honor of the Udall family, which has a long history of public and government service.

"Stewart Udall was a fierce believer in the value of open space and wilderness as critical parts of the human experience," said Cornell who is also a UA professor of sociology and public administration and policy.

"Go hike – or just gaze upon – Canyonlands National Park, or a dozen other extraordinary places that were protected under his leadership, and you will feel an enormous sense of gratitude for his energy and vision," he added.

Udall served in the U.S. House of Representatives, was a member of the Joint Committee on Navajo-Hopi Indian Administration, treasurer of the Pima County Legal Aid Society, president of the Amphitheater School Board and a trustee of School District 16.

In 1960, he was named Interior secretary, a position that enabled him to work closely with U.S. President John F. Kennedy. He also served under former U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson.

Over the course of his eight-year tenure as interior secretary, four parks, six monuments, eight seashores and lakeshores, nine recreation areas, 20 historic sites and 56 wildlife refuges were added to the national park system.

"Stewart Udall, in particular, had an enormous influence on the new consciousness of public lands and their preservation, which he helped pioneer during his eight years as Secretary of the Interior," said Robert G. Varady deputy director of the Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy.

"Much of our understanding and appreciation of environmental values and of subsequent discourse on this topic derive from Stewart Udall's thinking and commitment," said Varady who is also a research professor of environmental policy.

In addition to his expansive conservation work, Udall also campaigned in the 1950s for new rules as a member of the education and labor committee and also supported a range of initiatives that led to the founding of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Wolf Trap Farm Park and the National Endowments for Arts and the Humanities.

Udall's book, "The Quiet Crisis," about the nation's environmental practices, was published in 1963 and became a best-seller. The book's release coincided with "Silent Spring," written by Rachel Carson, who has been credited with advancing the environmental movement. Udall authored numerous other books and articles related to environmental issues.

To recognize his legacy, Congress passed a bill last year signed by U.S. President Barack Obama to rename the Tucson-based Morris K. Udall Foundation to Morris K. Udall and Stewart L. Udall Foundation.

Udall attended and spoke at the renaming event at the federal agency in Tucson in November. The agency supports a number of programs and initiatives at the UA, including the Udall Center and Native Nations Institute for Leadership, Management, and Policy.

"Here at the University of Arizona, not only the Udall Center, but dozens of departments, centers, institutes, and individual scholars work on subjects that never appeared in university curricula or research agendas prior to the 1960s, the time of Stewart Udall's tenure at Interior," Varady also said.

"It's not an exaggeration to say that our excellence in water policy, natural resources management, and environmental law can be traced to that period and to the Udall legacy," he added. 

And so, today, what is well known about Udall is that he cared deeply about the world, said Toni M. Massaro, a UA College of Law professor and Dean Emerita.

"He cared about the environment, about the strains on a fragile planet and the ways in which we must be better stewards of the place we inhabit briefly," Massaro said.

"His life was a gift to others and we are proud to have his visage in the major public space of the college, welcoming and summoning up in students who follow this wonderful alumnus pride and a sense of what a lawyer statesperson can contribute to the common good."