Democrat Mo Udall was Tucson’s Progressive Light in Congress for 30 Years

Mo Udall represented Congressional District 2 for 30 years

Congressman Mo Udall (CD2-D) led an All-American life. He is a beloved legislator, lawyer, banker, soldier who fought for his country, people’s champion, environmental advocate and steward, presidential candidate, writer, and athlete.

Among his legislative accomplishments were sponsoring and endorsing bills that:

  • Created new national monuments, wildlife refuges, and parks in Arizona and across the county.
  • Set standards for the mining industry.
  • Established the Central Arizona Water Project.
  • Reformed the seniority system in the House of Representatives.
  • Made the Post Office a semiprivate organization.
  • Elevated the socio-economic conditions and political rights of Native Americans.
  • Provided for the Indian Gaming Act.

Udall’s political and public service resume and legacy is equally impressive. His achievements included:

  • Pima County Attorney.
  • President of the Tucson YMCA.
  • Vice President of the Arizona Bar Association in 1961.
  • House Congressional District 2 Representative from 1961 to 1991.
  • A committed environmentalist and conservationist.
  • Champion of Native American rights.
  • One of the first opponents of the Vietnam War.
  • Advocate for political and campaign finance reform.
  • 1976 Democratic Presidential Candidate.
  • 1980 Keynote Speaker at the Democratic National Convention.

Born in St. Johns Arizona in 1922, Mo Udall and his brother Stewart (also a Congressman from CD2 before becoming President Kennedy’s Secretary of the Interior in 1961) formed a political dynamic duo in the 1950s and 60s Arizona.

Udall ran for the Democratic Party’s Presidential nomination in 1976 but lost out to Jimmy Carter.

He was a student at the University of Arizona and graduated with a law degree from there. He served in the Airforce during World War Two, enlisting as a private and leaving as a Captain.

In the days before there was a Phoenix Suns, he also played basketball for one season with the Denver Nuggets and is in the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Before entering political life, he and his brother Stewart started a local Tucson law firm. Mo Udall was also the co-founder of the Bank of Tucson and the Catalina Savings and Loan Association.

Having lost his right eye as a child in part because his family at the time could not afford treatment, Udall supported quality and affordable health care for all Americans.

He ran for the Democratic Party’s Presidential Nomination in 1976. Despite performing well by finishing second in several primaries, Udall lost the nomination to the eventual nominee and Presidential winner, Jimmy Carter.

After withdrawing from the race, Representative Udall is reported to have said:

“The people have spoken-the bastards”

This article first appeared on the LD9 Democrats website

His political legacy has extended to a son and nephew. His son Mark Udall represented Colorado in Congress (the House and Senate.) His nephew Tom did the same in New Mexico.

Udall also wrote several books in his career. They were called:

  • Arizona’s Law of Evidence.
  • The Job of a Congressman.
  • Education of a Congressman.
  • Too Funny to Be President.

Among some of his more notable political quotes from his career are highlighted below:

“I have learned the difference between a cactus and a caucus. On a cactus, the pricks are on the outside.”

“The more we exploit nature, the more our options are reduced, until we have only one: to fight for survival.”

“The ability to change one’s views without losing one’s seat is the mark of a great politician.”

“I’ve been through legislation creating a dozen national parks, and there’s always the same pattern. When you first propose a park, and you visit the area and present the case to the local people, they threaten to hang you. You go back in five years and they think it’s the greatest thing that ever happened.”

“For those of you who don’t understand Reaganomics, it’s based on the principle that the rich and the poor will get the same amount of ice. In Reaganomics, however, the poor get all of theirs in winter.”

Representative Udall was married twice and fathered six children. Diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 1980, he passed away on December 12, 1998.

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