Stewart Udall, Secretary of Interior during the Kennedy & Johnson administrations, died at his Santa Fe home this past Saturday. During his tenure at the Interior Department, Udall helped write both the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act and the Wilderness Act. He also successfully pushed for the establishment of four national parks — including Utah’s Canyonlands National Park.
Stewart Udall was also a lifelong student of the Environmental Movement, and the history of the American West. He was the author of several books, including the influential conservation book, The Quiet Crisis, and The Myths of August: A Personal Exploration of Our Tragic Cold War Affair with the Atom.
The story of one of Stewart Udall’s later books was best told this past weekend by Jason Blevins in the Denver Post:
“Udall was most proud of his decades of work on behalf of American Indians — especially the Navajos from his native Arizona — who developed cancer and fell ill from working in uranium mines….
He began battling for sickened Navajo miners in the 1970s, after leaving Washington. He sued the federal government on behalf of Navajo miners who developed lung cancer from uranium exposure. That case failed at the U.S. Supreme Court, which left Udall ‘deeply disappointed, even angered,’ Mark Udall said.
Stewart Udall redirected his dismay toward Washington, where he lobbied for congressional investigations that ultimately led to the 1990 Radiation Exposure Safety Act, which compensated thousands of Americans.
‘He fought hard to bring justice to not just uranium miners, but for any victims exposed to uranium tailings and mining and radiation,’ said Esther Yazzie-Lewis, a Navajo who co-authored the book The Navajo People and Uranium Mining.”
Stewart Udall provided the foreword for that book. This is one Udall title the Land Library does not have. But we will soon, in honor of a remarkable life.
The Forgotten Founders: Rethinking the History of the Old West, The Navajo People and Uranium Mining, edited by Esther Yazzie-Lewis, et al, To the Inland Empire: Coronado and our Spanish Legacy