Stewart Udall dies at age 90

Former Interior Secretary Stewart Udall, uncle to Colorado’s U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, father to New Mexico’s U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, brother to the late Congressman Morris Udall and hailed as one of the chief architects of the country’s environmental conservation movement, passed away Saturday at the age of 90. He was surrounded by family members at his home in Santa Fe.

Former Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall places a crown on the head of Betsy Howard at the 1961 Cherry Blossom Festival.

“For the better part of three decades, Stewart Udall served this nation honorably,” said President Barack Obama in a statement. “Whether in the skies above Italy in World War II, in Congress or as Secretary of the Interior, Stewart Udall left an indelible mark on this nation and inspired countless Americans who will continue his fight for clean air, clean water and to maintain our many natural resources,” Obama said.

“My Uncle Stewart was a great public servant, and a wonderful writer and storyteller,” recalled Sen. Mark Udall. “He was passionate about conservation, and he was a champion of Native peoples. All those who care about our national parks and the environment will miss his voice.

“Beyond his life in public service, he was the patriarch of our family, a great mentor and role model,” Udall said in a statement Saturday. “The Udall family will not be the same without him.”

Following a fall last week, the elder Udall was confined to his bed and died of natural causes, according to his family in?New Mexico.

Stewart L. Udall was born in 1920 to former Arizona Supreme Court Justice Levi S. Udall and Louise Lee Udall. He attended the University of Arizona where he earned undergraduate and law degrees.

During World War II, he served four years in the United States Air Force as a gunner. He flew fifty missions over Western Europe for which he received the Air Medal with Three Oak Leaf Clusters.

In 1954, Udall was elected to Congress from Arizona and ultimately served four terms. In 1960, he proved instrumental in helping persuade Democrats to support then-Senator John F. Kennedy during the Democratic National Convention. Upon election, President Kennedy appointed him Secretary of Interior, where his accomplishments made him an icon in the environmental and conservation communities.

Legislative achievements from Secretary Udall’s cabinet career include The Wilderness Act of 1964, the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, the expansion of the National Park System and the creation of the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar released a statement calling Stewart Udall “one of the greatest Secretaries of the Interior in my lifetime.”

Salazar said, “Secretary Udall, who also served in the U.S. House of Representatives, was a pioneer and visionary in protecting America’s natural resources and cultural heritage who exemplified his family’s commitment to public service.

“In January of last year he shared with me his continued vision of how to move forward with a renewed commitment for preserving and conserving America’s great natural and cultural landscapes in the 21st century. Stewart Udall will be greatly missed,” said Salazar.