David J. Hayes, Former Deputy Secretary of the Interior and Udall Foundation Trustee Emeritus
On November 13, 2009, the Udall Foundation celebrated Congress’ addition of Stewart Udall to the Foundation’s name as it officially became known as the Morris K. Udall and Stewart L. Udall Foundation.
It was a beautiful, sunny fall day in Tucson. A gaggle of speakers rose and spoke to honor Stewart Udall’s life’s work. Happily, at age 89—and only a few months before his passing—an alert and fully engaged Stewart Udall was there to take it all in. He listened as speaker after speaker recounted his remarkable accomplishments and told anecdotes attesting to his passion, warmth, and humor.
Senators Tom and Mark Udall and Congresswoman Gabby Giffords highlighted the gathering, recounting stories and statistics that cemented Stewart Udall’s legacy as one of the greatest Secretaries of the Interior in our history. During his service for Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, Stewart Udall was the driving force behind the creation of four national parks, six national monuments, eight national seashores and lakeshores, nine national recreation areas, 20 historic sites, and 56 wildlife refuges. In all, Stewart Udall worked collaboratively with the Congress to add 3.85 million acres to the public domain.
But there was more. Speakers recounted that Stewart Udall was the government’s primary advocate for the 1964 Wilderness Act, and he teamed up with his younger brother, Mo Udall, to help push the 1968 Wild and Scenic Rivers Act through Congress. After leaving the Administration, he worked tirelessly alongside Mo on all of the significant environmental and land protection statutes that became law in the 1970s and 1980s, including the Endangered Species Act.
At that celebration, we also heard stories about Stewart Udall’s life-long fights for the equality and dignity of all Americans, including those who had been left behind. Stewart bucked the system and pushed to integrate the University of Arizona’s cafeteria in 1947, years before other institutions took similar steps; he worked for years to obtain compensation for workers and citizens exposed to radiation from atomic weapons manufacturing and testing; and he tirelessly promoted the interests of Native Americans—a proud legacy that continues to define some of the Foundation’s most important work.
But for me, the best part of November 13, 2009, was the evening dinner with the extended Udall clan that I was truly fortunate to witness. Stewart held forth while Tom, Mark, Anne Udall, and others told light-hearted stories that spoke volumes about the warmth, integrity, and purpose residing in that remarkable family tree.
There were stories about Stewart’s strong–willed wife, Lee, who famously pushed the historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. into Robert Kennedy’s pool in a rambunctious party at Hickory Hill. Stories recounting Mo Udall and his famous sense of humor spilled out, as did recollections of what life was like in the small, dusty “one horse” town of St. Johns, Arizona, which Stewart’s grandfather, David Udall, had helped to settle in the 1880s.
Stewart’s and Mo’s remarkable professional accomplishments, leavened with their transparent humanity, continue to inspire us today. They worked hard for—and celebrated—both people and place, challenging us to do the same. Their call to service lives on through the Foundation that appropriately bears both of their names.