The Legacy

In April 1991, Morris K. Udall resigned his seat in the House of Representatives after 30 years of service and what Speaker Carl Albert called "one of the most remarkable legislative records of all time." Suffering from Parkinson's disease, Mo had fallen at his home several months earlier and suffered several broken bones and a cerebral contusion which deprived him of the ability to speak.

A few weeks later, Mo's colleagues in the House of Representatives rose one by one to pay affectionate tribute. Wayne Owens of Utah wondered, "How is it possible that a man could serve in this body for 30 years, be a crusading and controversial ideologue who challenged its systems and perks, yet became one of its most productive and creative legislators, and finished his service without any enemy, thousands of devoted friends, and millions of admirers?" As Tom Bevill of Alabama rose to honor "one of the finest colleagues I have ever had the privilege to serve with," he alluded to Mo's famous penchant for humorous stories: "Mo Udall has been one of my closest friends in Congress, despite the fact that he borrowed my mule joke. I won't tell it here, but just remember that it's my joke when you do hear it."

Although many that day praised Mo's charm and sense of humor, again and again they mentioned his integrity, his ability to lead by consensus, and his legislative achievements. Robert A. Roe of New Jersey said simply, "Mo Udall came to Congress to make a difference - and he showed the Members of the House how it could be done." Jim Kolbe of Arizona declared, "There is no Member who has strode across the Halls of this Congress and left such an imprint as he has. It is by virtue of the personality, the integrity and the character of the man himself." George Miller of California summed up Mo's contributions to his two principal concerns, environmental preservation and Native American rights.

"Every day, somewhere in the United States, someone is rafting, canoeing, hiking or camping on land that was, in one way or another, touched by Mo Udall.
Somewhere in the United States, there is wilderness or wildlands that have been preserved for this and future generations by Mo Udall.
Our National Park System is today twice as big as it was because Mo Udall made it happen.
He cared greatly, and worked hard, on behalf of American Indians and the people of America's territories. Mo fought on their behalf for improved education, health, and welfare...
Future generations will talk about what a Member of Congress should be... Those future generations need only point to Mo Udall and say, 'That's how it should be done.'"

In May 1991, Senator Dennis DeConcini of Arizona sponsored legislation to establish a Foundation that would "honor the legacy of Morris K. Udall by carrying on his work" -- the Udall Scholarship and Excellence in National Environmental Policy Act (S. 1176). Senator Edward Kennedy joined in sponsoring the measure, saying, "He will rank as one of the greatest Members of the House of Representatives of all time, and also as one of the most beloved... Somehow, for 30 years, whenever you probed to the heart of the great concerns of the day, you found Mo Udall in the thick of the battle, championing the rights of average citizens against special interest pressures, defending the highest ideals of America, and always doing it with the special grace and wit that were his trademark and that endeared him to Democrats and Republicans alike."

Morris K. Udall

"I wonder how one finds the words to talk about a man who has achieved so much, who has served with such distinction and who has touched the lives of so many. Only two words keep coming back to me, over and over again - thank you."

Senator John McCain of Arizona