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Library >> American History >> United States: General History and Description >> Late 20th Century, 1961-2001 > Biography,
Congressman, Secretary of the Interior
Stewart Lee Udall was born in St. Johns, Arizona, on January31, 1920, the son of former Arizona Supreme Court Justice Levi S. Udall and Louise Lee Udall, and the brother of U.S. Congressman Morris K. Udall. He was educated in the local public schools before attending Eastern Arizona Junior College for a year. Afgter spending two years as a Mormon missionary in New York and Pennsylvania, Udall enlisted in the Army Air Corps and participated in several combat operations over Europe as a gunner with the Fifteenth Air Force during World War II. After the war Udall attended the University of Arizona, where he was a member of the first Arizona basketball team to play at the National Invitational Tournament (1946). He graduated from the Law School in 1948, was admitted to the Arizona Bar that same year, and entered into his own practice in Tucson soon thereafter.
Udall began his political career in 1951, when he was elected to the School Board in Tucson. He became president of the School Board in 1952.
Elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1954, Udall served from 1955 to 1961. During his tenure he gained a reputation as a conservationist and advocate of public works. He served on the House Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs (1955-1960), the House, Education and Labor Committee (1955-1956), the House Committee on Education and Labor (1957-1960), and the Joint Committee on Navajo-Hopi Indian Administration (1957-1958).
In 1961, Udall was named Secretary of the Interior by incoming President John F. Kennedy, and served in that capacity through President Lyndon Johnson's administration. In this capacity, Udall was instrumental in the passage of several laws aimed at protecting the environment, including: the Wilderness Act (1964), the Solid Water Disposal Act (1965), the Endangered Species Preservation Act (1966), the National Trail System Act (1968), and the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act (1968). He also oversaw a major expansion of the National Park System to include four new national parks, six new national monuments, eight seashores and lakeshores, nine recreation areas, twenty historic sites, and fifty-six wildlife refuges.
After leaving office in 1969, Udall spent a year as Visiting Professor of Environmental Humanism at the Yale University School of Forestry. During the energy crisis of the 1970's he was a staunch advocate of the use of solar energy. Since then he has continued to work on behalf of the environment in a variety of ways. As a member of the Natural Resources Defense Council he successfully defended the Environmental Protection Agency against closure due to budgetary cuts. He also served on the Central Arizona Water Conservation Board and as a member of the Arizona Parks Task Force.
Books by Stewart Udall include: The Quiet Crisis (1963); National Parks of America (1966); 1976: Agenda for Tomorrow (1968); and, The Energy Balloon (1974).
Stewart Udall died in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on March 20, 2010.
This page was last updated on January 31, 2017.