Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

Stewart Udall (1961–1963): Secretary of the Interior

Stewart Udall was born on January 31, 1920, in St. Johns, Arizona, into one the most successful political families in Arizona; his father was a justice on the Arizona Supreme Court. After completing high school and Mormon missionary work, Udall served in the Air Force during World War II.

After the war, he attended the University of Arizona and received an LL.B. in 1948, moving on to practice law with his brother in Tucson from 1948 to 1954. Udall won a seat in the United States House of Representatives in 1954 and was reelected three more times, serving from 1954 to 1961.

As a member of the House Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, Udall was an active defender of conservation interests. He also obtained for his district more federal aid than any other district in the country. While in Washington, Udall became a close associate of Senator John F. Kennedy.

In December 1960, President-elect Kennedy appointed Udall as secretary of the interior. In that capacity, Udall adopted a liberal energy policy, endorsing the notion that the federal government should assume responsibility for meeting the nation's energy needs. This policy encountered a great deal of criticism, however, and Udall faced difficulties enacting his initiates, often times having to work out compromise solutions with private companies.

Elsewhere, in an effort to discourage promoters and land speculators from snatching public lands, Udall was able to achieve an eighteen-month moratorium on the sale of such properties. Udall also oversaw a study of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and helped to establish manufacturing plants to provide employment for Native Americans. An outdoorsman and conservationist, Udall defended his policies in The Quiet Crisis, which was published in 1963; the book was an important contribution to the environmental movement of the 1960s.

Udall remained secretary of the interior during the Johnson administration, serving until January of 1969. In 1970, he became board chairman of the Overview Corporation and began to write a syndicated column on the environment.