About Stewart L. Udall

Visit the University of Arizona's Stewart L. Udall Collection.

Stewart Udall’s remarkable career in public service has left an indelible mark on the nation’s environmental and cultural heritage.

Born in 1920, and educated in Saint Johns, Arizona, Udall attended the University of Arizona for two years until World War II. He served four years in the Air Force as an enlisted B24 gunner flying fifty missions over Western Europe for which he received the Air Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters. He returned to the University of Arizona in 1946 where he played guard on a championship basketball team and attended law school. He received his law degree and was admitted to the Arizona bar in 1948. He married Erma Lee Webb during this time. They raised six children.

Udall rapidly became prominent in Democratic Party politics in Tucson and Arizona. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives as a Democrat in District 2 from Arizona in 1954. He served with distinction in the House for three terms on the Interior and Education and Labor committees.

In 1960 President Kennedy appointed Stewart Udall Secretary of Interior, where his accomplishments during eight years under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson earned him a special place among those ever to serve in that post and have made him an icon in the environmental and conservation communities. Upon Udall’s recommendation President Kennedy asked former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Frost to read an original poem at his inauguration, establishing a precedent for that occasion. It was the first among an enormous list of achievements by Udall. Some highlights:

His number one best-selling book on environmental attitudes in the U.S., The Quiet Crisis (1963), along with Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, is credited with creating a consciousness in the country leading to the environmental movement.

Udall oversaw the addition of four parks, six national monuments, eight seashores and lakeshores, nine recreation areas, 20 historic sites and 56 wildlife refuges to the National Park system.

During Udall’s tenure President Johnson signed into law the Wilderness Act, the Water Quality Act, the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act and National Trails Bill.

Stewart Udall helped spark a cultural renaissance in America by setting in motion initiatives that led to the Kennedy Center, Wolf Trap Farm Park, the National Endowments for Arts and the Humanities, and the revived Ford’s Theatre.

He is a recipient of the Ansel Adams Award, the Wilderness Society’s highest conservation award, and the United Nations Gold Medal for Lifetime Achievement.

Stewart Udall: Advocate for the Earth
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