Morris King "Mo" Udall (June
15, 1922 – December 12, 1998) was an American politician
who served as a U.S.
Arizona from May 2, 1961 to May 4, 1991.
player with the
Basketball League Denver
, noted for his liberal
views, Mo Udall was a tall
figure with a
and easy manner. Because of
his wit, columnist James J.
deemed him "too funny
to be president
which also ended up being the title of his autobiography
in the 1980s. Udall earned a law
degree from the University of Arizona in 1949.
He was a member of The Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
was born in St. Johns,
Arizona, a son of Levi
He lost one of his eyes to a friend's
pocket knife at the age of 6, while the two were attempting to cut
some string, and wore a glass eye
rest of his life. He attempted to enlist in the Army early in World
War II, and almost succeeded, by covering his glass eye each time
he was told to alternate during the eye exam. After he was
medically cleared, another potential enlistee complained that he
had been medically rejected for flat feet, while Udall had been
cleared with a blind eye. This caused the examiners to retest Udall
under closer scrutiny, and he was rejected. Later, medical
standards changed and Udall served in the Army until the end of the
Udall attended the University of Arizona, where he was a star basketball player and a member
of Sigma Chi Fraternity.
for the Denver Nuggets for
one year following graduation as well as attending the University of
Denver school of law, and then returned to the University
of Arizona for law school, where he graduated in 1949.
In 1961, his brother Stewart Udall
the congressman for Arizona's second congressional district, was
appointed Secretary of the
in the Kennedy
administration. Mo Udall was elected to fill his brother's vacant
seat and would go on to be elected for 14 terms.
During his tenure in Congress, Udall was best-noted for his
championing of environmental
causes. He was also known for his devotion to campaign finance reform
welfare of Native Americans
authored the Alaska Lands Act
, which doubled the size of the national parks
system, as well as legislation
concerned with protecting archeological
, enacting civil service
reform, legalizing Indian casino
providing for the safe disposal of radioactive waste
In 1979, Udall was diagnosed with incurable Parkinson's disease
. By 1991, his health
had deteriorated to the point where he was forced to resign
from Congress. He died on December 12,
1998 of complications from his illness.
he ran for the
Democratic nomination for President as a liberal alternative to
the Southern centrist Jimmy Carter, the former Governor of Georgia. Carter had gone from obscure maverick to
front runner after a string of early caucus
and primary victories, beginning in
Iowa and New
time of the Wisconsin primary in April, most of the original 10
candidates had dropped out, leaving Udall, Senator Henry "Scoop" Jackson of Washington, Governor George
Wallace of Alabama, and
Udall looked set to win the primary and as the
returns ticked in, it looked like he would win it. This might have
slowed down the Carter momentum. Udall was projected the winner,
exclaiming "Oh, how sweet it is". But as the election night
progressed, Carter began chipping away at Udall's lead, eventually
going into the lead.
Some newspapers actually proclaimed Udall the winner because of his
lead the night before, not unlike the famous incident in the
, in which the headlines
Carter's win was by 1%, which was no more than 7,500 votes. He won
37% to Udall's 36%, gaining one more convention delegate than
Udall. Despite the small margins, Carter got the headlines and a
further boost to his momentum, pulling away from Udall and the
other candidates. In the end, Udall finished second in the New
Hampshire, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, New York, Michigan, South
Dakota, and Ohio primaries, and won the caucuses in his home state
of Arizona, while running even with Carter in the New Mexico
caucuses. Udall finished a distant second place to Carter at the
Democratic National Convention, where his name was placed in
nomination by Archibald Cox
Udall's speech received great applause from his supporters.
During the Michigan primary, the Carter campaign had Coleman Young
, the mayor of Detroit, accuse
Udall of racism for belonging to the Mormon church, which at the
time, did not allow blacks to serve in the church's priesthood
(since changed in 1978 by revelation to the Mormon prophet,
Spencer W. Kimball
). Young's attack was at least
somewhat unfair, since Udall had been a longtime critic of that
church policy, and had ceased being an active member because of it.
Carter's subsequent sweeping of the black vote in the Michigan
primary was key to his crucial and narrow victory in
Udall supported Senator Edward Kennedy
challenge to President Carter in 1980, and Kennedy won the Arizona
caucuses, one of only three wins for Kennedy in the west. Udall
delivered the keynote speech at the 1980 Democratic convention,
which was a typically witty Udall speech. Udall considered running
for president again in 1984, but his illness kept him on the
sidelines. At the convention that summer, Udall introduced his old
foe, President Carter.
In 1992, the US Congress founded the Morris K. Udall Scholarship and Excellence in
National Environmental Policy Foundation
. It is an agency of
the executive branch of the federal government, and among other
functions, gives scholarships
students of environmental policy.
Federal funds for Parkinson's research are designated through the
Parkinson's Disease Research Act of 1997
.. The legislation
funded a national network of "Centers of Excellence" to diagnose
and treat Parkinson disease patients, and to refer patients into
In 1996, Morris received the Presidential Medal of Freedom
from President Clinton.
Mo's son, Mark Udall
, was elected to the
U.S. Congress from Colorado's 2nd district in 1998 and to the U.S.
Senate in 2008. Mo's nephew Tom Udall
New Mexico was also elected to the U.S. Senate in 2008. His second
cousin Senator Gordon
of Oregon was defeated for re-election the same
Arizona, the main post office and a city park are named in
his honor. Point Udall on
Guam is also named for him.
Despite his years of service, the only political acquaintance who
regularly visited him during his final years in a Veteran's
hospital was his friend Senator John
- Carson, Donald W., and Johnson, James W., 2004, Mo: The
Life and Times of Morris K. Udall . Tucson, AZ:
University of Arizona Press. (ISBN 0816524491)
- , 106 Stat. 78, S. 2184, enacted March 19, 1992.
- , title VI, §603, Nov. 13, 1997, 111 Stat. 1519, (42 U.S.C.
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