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Stewart Udall and Liz Carpenter

Wow, two icons of the early 1960s lost on the same day: Stewart Udall and Liz Carpenter both died Saturday.

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In this May 12, 1965 file photo, Secretary of the interior Stewart Udall gives Liz Carpenter, press secretary for Ladybird Johnson, with "Chief Otter" award at Peaks of Otter, Va., on Blue Ridge parkway. (AP Photo/File)

Stewart Udall, of the venerable Arizona family that has produced "oodles of Udalls," including a chief justice of the state Supreme Court and four members of Congress, was the Secretary of the Interior who presided over the acquisition of four national parks -- Canyonlands in Utah, Redwood in California, North Cascades in Washington State and Guadalupe Mountains in Texas.

He was in office when the 1964 Wilderness Act was passed. That's the legislation with one of the loveliest definitions in federal law: "A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain."

"He was a square shooter and he was a very outspoken man," Willard Wirtz, the secretary of Labor under Kennedy and the last surviving Kennedy cabinet member, said in a telephone interview with Bloomberg News. "We always agreed on almost everything."

When Udall was 84, at the end of his last Colorado River rafting trip, he hiked 7,000 feet up Bright Angel trail with his grandson, refusing a National Park Service offer of a mule.

His family "wouldn't have liked it if I hadn't made it," he noted, "but what a way to go." Upon completing his ascent, he headed straight into the bar at the Tovar Lodge and ordered a martini.

If Liz Carpenter had been there, she would have joined him in a cold one. She never hesitated, she once told a reporter, "to charge hell with a bucket of water."

A feminist who helped found the National Women's Political Caucus, a liberal Democrat intensely interested in the health care bill before Congress and a "force of nature," she had a sense of humor that disarmed the most self-serious.

Feminist Gloria Steinem told the Houston Chronicle "She has always been a touchstone, the kind of original, irreplaceable friend about whom one thinks in good times and bad, 'What would Liz do?' or 'I wish Liz were here,' or 'I'm going to call Liz,'‚ÄČ" Steinem said. "I don't want to think about a world in which she's not at the other end of the phone."


By Patricia Sullivan  |  March 21, 2010; 10:54 AM ET
Categories:  Patricia Sullivan , Politics  
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