Morris K. Udall: A Lifetime of Service to Arizona and the United States
Special Collections Online Exhibits

Career Chronology


Congressional campaign billboard, 1961


Born on June 15 in Saint Johns, Arizona, to Levi Stewart Udall (1891-1960) and Louise Lee (1893-1974). Childhood spent attending school at St. Johns, doing farm work, and organizing local plays, rodeos, and mock courts. Top student in History and English, played football and basketball, and was salutatorian of his high school class. Siblings: Inez, Elma, Stewart, Eloise, and Burr.


Loses right eye in a childhood accident.


Contracts a nearly fatal case of spinal meningitis.


Co-captain of the St. Johns High School basketball team, also quarterbacked the football team, played trumpet in the school band, and served as student body president and salutatorian. He also wrote a column for the local newspaper, The Apache County Independent News. He started a St. Johns High School weekly paper as editor and was discovered to have a deep bass voice. He sang Tomasso Profundo several times, including his high school graduation.


Entered University of Arizona in the fall on a basketball scholarship, opened barber shop in the student infirmary. 


Honor Student.


Drafted and assigned to a limited service, noncombat support unit in Army Air Corps, assigned to Ft. Douglas, Utah. He is assigned to Lake Charles, Louisiana here he remained for two years. With only two years of pre-law, he is appointed defense counsel for a black airman accused of killing a white guard while attempting to escape from a stockade. Six white officers sentence the man to death; Mo later writes: "the case still haunts me." After Japanese surrender is assigned to Iwo Jima, reputed to be excellent poker player and enthusiastic basketball team organizer.


Received honorary discharge in February. Obtained airplane pilot license. In the summer, helped his father to campaign for election to Arizona Supreme Court.


Captain of conference-winning University of Arizona basketball team. Elected president of student body, lobbied state legislature for right to establish a co-op student gas station. With brother, Stewart, attacked color bar in university athletics; and served on editorial board of a college publication, The Ruptured Duck. Transferred credits from University of Denver to complete his law degree at University of Arizona. Scored highest grade on Arizona bar exam and was administered the bar oath by his father, Justice Levi Udall of the Arizona Supreme Court. Chaired Mayor's Citizen Committee on Public Housing. Played professional basketball with Denver Nuggets of National Basketball League (1948-49). Married Patricia Emery (divorced 1965), mother to his six children: Mark, Randy, Judith, Anne, Brad, and Kathy. With brother, Stewart he established private Tucson law firm of Udall and Udall (1949-61).


Appointed Chief Deputy Attorney for Pima County.


Elected as Pima County Attorney; investigated corruption charges at Rillito Race Track and successfully prosecuted several public officials involved.


Brother Stewart elected as representative of Arizona's Second Congressional District. Udall lost Superior Court Judge election.


Returned to private practice, taught labor law course at University of Arizona Law School.


Chaired Arizona Volunteers for Stevenson organization. Served as delegate to Democratic National Convention; served as vice chair on state bar commission of criminal law and practice.


Founding member of Bank of Tucson, appointed as vice-president and treasurer.


Founder (later chairman) of Catalina Savings and Loan Association. Chairman of Modern Courts Committee of Arizona State Bar Association, directed effort to reform Arizona court system. With his brother, Stewart, organized Arizona delegates for John F. Kennedy. Wrote reference book for Arizona trial lawyers, Arizona Law of Evidence.


Brother Stewart appointed as Secretary of Interior in Kennedy Administration; On March 8, 1961, Morris K. Udall won Democratic primary with 21,075 votes (57.9%) defeating William Hendrix, 4,102 (11.2%), Harold Patten, 3,813 (10.5%), H. Earl Rogge, 2,676 (7.4%), C.J. Carreon, 2,571 (7.1%) and William Netherton, 2,132 (5.9%). In special election held on May 2, 1961, Morris K. Udall won Congressional District 2 seat succeeding his brother Stewart with 50,560 votes (50.9%) defeating Republican Mac Matheson, 48,599 (49.1%). Election night celebration, 1961. Appointed to Post Office and Civil Service Committee after being sworn in by Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn on May 17, 1961, during the Kennedy administration.


Appointed to Interior and Insular Affairs. Joined Arizona Congressional delegation by defeating Richard Burke in election, 39,590 (55.9%) to 31,295 (44.1%).


In conjunction with American Political Science Association, Morris K. Udall organized an orientation session for incoming freshmen congressional members.


Wilderness bill for Arizona. Udall served as floor whip for Democratic Study Group, an organization of House Democrats. Defeated William E. Kimball 86,499 (58.8%) to 60,782 (41.2%).


Voted against repeal of Taft-Hartley Act. In protest over procedural actions of Chairman of Post Office Committee, helped reform committee rules and structure. Antagonized labor by voting Arizona's way on right-to-work legislation.


Co-authored book The Job of a Congressman (2nd ed. 1970). Defeated Republican Alfred McGinnis 66,813 (60%) to 45,326 (40%).


Udall opposed Vietnam War in speech in Tucson before the Sunday Evening Forum on October 22. Introduced resolution to strip Adam Clayton Powell of his Chairmanship of the Education and Labor Committee, but also made unsuccessful motion to seat Powell in the new Congress. Called for consensus between California and Arizona in their fight for passage of Central Arizona Project in speech before Town Hall in Los Angeles on 19 December. Appointed to Public Land Law Review Commission and served until report complete (1970).


September 30, 1968, President Johnson signs Central Arizona Project bill into law. Defeated Alfred McGinnis 102,301 (70%) to 43,235 (30%). Married Ella Royston Ward. Challenges House Speaker John McCormack and loses in the Democratic Caucus, 178-58. Publishes Job of the Congressman.


In March, received letter from Ronald Ridenhour describing "My Lai Incident" in Vietnam which instigates subsequent investigation.


Runs against Hale Boggs for the post of majority leader losing in the Democratic Caucus, 140-88. Wrote Postal Reform Bill which created a new Postal Service Corp. to replace Post Office Dept. Defeated Morris Herring 86,760 (70%) to 37,561 (30%).


Sponsored Federal Election Campaign Act. Announced support for Ed Muskie for Democratic Presidential nominee.


Chairman of Arizona delegation to Democratic National Convention. Defeated Republican Eugene Savoie 97,616 (63%) to 56,188 (37%). Publishes Education of a Congressman.


Chaired Interior Subcommittee on Energy and the Environment. Receives honorary Doctor of Laws Degree from the University of Arizona College of Law.


Named legislator of the year by National Wildlife Federation. Udall bill to reform congressional franking privileges became law. On May 17, colleagues in House circulated petition in support of Udall's nomination as Democratic Presidential nominee. August 21, the Udall 76 Committee registered with U.S. General Accounting Office. On November 23, Udall announced his candidacy in New Hampshire. Defeated Republican Keith Dolgaard 84,491 (62%) to 51,886 (38%).


Campaigned for Democratic Party presidential nomination in 22 primaries, finishing second in seven. He took time to bowl  during the campaign trail, but then found himself back on the steps of Congress. Co-sponsored Food Stamp Reform Act. Udall bills to establish national land-use policy defeated by vetoes of Nixon and Ford. Attended Democratic Convention in New York City, Carter nominated. Defeated Laird Guttersen (R) and Mich Emerling (L) 88,210 (57.8%) to 60,709 (39.8) and 3,601 (2%). Took a solitary moment on the Dunes.


Congress passed Udall's Strip Mining Reclamation Act. Named Chairman of Interior and Insular Affairs Committee.


Sponsored Strip-Mine control legislation which is finally passed after two similar bills were vetoed by President Ford. Defeated Thomas Richey (R), Joe Bach (L) and Betsy McDonald (SW) 56,707 (53.6%) to 46,959 (44.4%), 1,144 (1%) and 907 (.8%).


Diagnosed as having Parkinson's disease.


Congress passed Udall's Alaska Lands Act which doubled the size of the National Park System. Campaigned on behalf of President Jimmy Carter and gave keynote address at Democratic National Convention. Defeated Richard Huff (R) and Bill Stefanov (L) 72,570 (60.9%) to 44,708 (37.5%) and 1,799 (1.5%).


Secured passage of Southern Arizona Water Rights Settlement Act that outlined Indian water rights claims. Served on Hunt Commission that revised rules for 1984 Democratic primary and national conventions. He and Tucson Democratic associates threaten to take the Arizona legislature to court over its redistricting plan, which he contends unfairly splinters the Hispanic vote. Legislature compromises and places more of Tucson in the 2nd Congressional District.

Nuclear Waste Management Policy Act passed by Congress and signed by President Reagan . Defeated Roy Laos (R) and Jessica Sampson (I) 50, 603 (71%) to 18, 694 (26%) and 1.175 (1%).


Named honorary chair of American Parkinson Disease Association.


Wildness Law passed setting up eight million acres of new national forests, two million acres in Arizona. Central Arizona Project costs indexed to inflation. Announces that he will not seek the Democratic presidential nomination. Re-elected, defeating Lorenzo Torrez (People Before Profits) with 105,194 (87%) to 14,727 (12%).


Udall left Post Office and Civil Service for Foreign Affairs Committee.


Re-elected for 14th straight term, defeating Sheldon Clark (R) and Lorenzo Torrez (People Before Profits) with 76,425 (74%) to 24,202 (23%) and 3,600 (3%).


Ella Udall dies. Re-elected to 15th term defeating Republican Joseph Sweeney 35,241 (79.1%) - 9,302 (20.9%). Publishes: Too Funny To Be President.


Proposes Arizona Wilderness Bill to add one million acres of land in Arizona for wilderness. Marries Norma Gilbert.


April 23 - Honored at Earth Day ceremony at Capitol in Washington, D.C. Re-elected to 16th term defeating Joseph Sweeney (R) 76,106 (65.9) to 39,416 (34.1%)


January 6 - Udall falls in home and is seriously injured. Hospitalized at National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. He is transferred to a nursing home at the Veterans Administration Medical Center.

May 4, 1991 - Udall resigns from Congress for health reasons.


December 12, 1998 - Morris K. Udall died.