Friday, April 2, 2010

DU Law Prof. Emeritus John A. Carver Jr. Remembers Former U.S. Secretary of the Interior Stewart L. Udall, 1920-2010

Stewart Udall, its youngest member, joined a cabinet of experienced and well-known public servants in January, 1961. In January, 1969, when the former Arizona Congressman who had become Kennedy’s Interior Secretary yielded his post to a Nixon appointee he was one of only two members of the original cabinet to have served all of those eight tumultuous years. [Stewart Udall on right in picture, John A. Carver Jr. on left.]

Now, nigh fifty years later, he is honored and revered and remembered as none of the others in the Johnson and Kennedy cabinets has been, indeed as no prior Secretary of the Interior in history.

I served under him in that Department for six years. How he managed to retain his post for eight years, and how only eight years as Interior Secretary could account for him becoming the acknowledged leader of the modern environmental movement, will be studied by Udall’s biographers for years to come.

I can only offer clues. For example, succeeding in pleasing two such different Presidents may have been aided by his close collaboration with First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy in her remaking of the White House followed by an equally close collaboration with First Lady Lady Bird Johnson in her drive to beautify America, starting with planting wild flowers along the interstate highways.

Udall’s now being recognized as patriarch and patron saint of the modern environmental movement is explained not by his management of the fractious bureaucracy of Interior but by how, in that office he could and did change the way people think. As his son, U.S. Senator Tom Udall, wrote this week in Time magazine, his father’s book, The Quiet Crisis warned Americans against the overuse of natural resources and the loss of open spaces. He argued that preservation of wilderness be given the same values as the exploitation of resources. The latter was fundamentally the mission of Interior before Udall took over.

I watched him as he drew about him the intellectual and inspirational leaders of the emerging environmental movement. He drew upon the Leopolds, Aldo and Luna, and upon Wallace Stegner. He tramped the C&O canal path with former U.S. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas. The leaders of the Sierra Club and the Wilderness Society saw him as a fair arbiter in their conflicts with grazing and other private use of the public lands.

The Quiet Crisis, inspired by Rachel Carson, was followed with many more over the years.

Stewart’s genuine understanding and sympathy with the Native Americans he knew from his own experience led him to look to leaders like W. W. Keeler and Philleo Nash for improvements in Indian policy during his administration. Since leaving office, much of his work has been on behalf of the native peoples, including those in Hawai’i.

I cannot say that he and I agreed on everything, but from the first day I recognized that he had “it” in the very real sense of being a national leader. I am proud of my association with him.

John A. Carver, Jr.
Professor of Law Emeritus
University of Denver Sturm College of Law
Assistant Interior Secretary and Under-
Secretary 1961-1966

Denver, Colorado
2 April 2010

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