Stewart Lee Udall was born in St. Johns, Arizona, on January 31, 1920. He is the son of former Arizona Supreme Court Justice Levi S. Udall and Louise Lee Udall. His brother is former Congressman Morris "Mo" K. Udall. The University of Arizona Library, Special Collections, houses the papers of Stewart Udall (AZ 372) and other members of the Udall family including noted Mormon pioneer and church leader David King Udall (MS 294), Levi S. Udall (MS 293) and Morris King Udall (MS 325).
Stewart's childhood and public school years were spent in St. Johns, Arizona, a rural town which developed into a Mormon community founded by Stewart's grandfather. As a young man, Stewart left St. Johns to attend the University of Arizona. He interrupted his studies to perform other duties which included two years as a Mormon missionary in New York and Pennsylvania, and military service in the United States Air Force as a World War II gunner in Europe. In 1946, Stewart was a member of the first University of Arizona basketball team to play at the National Invitational Tournament at Madison Square Garden. Shortly after graduating from the University in 1948 with a law degree, Stewart started his own practice. About two years later, he and his brother Morris opened up a firm together in Tucson, Arizona.
In 1954, Stewart was elected to Congress from Arizona. He served on the United States House of Representatives Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs (1955-1960); the House, Education and Labor Committee (1955-1956); and the House Committee on Education and Labor (1957-1960). During the 85th Congress (1957-1958), Stewart served on a Joint Committee on Navajo-Hopi Indian Administration.
Stewart was instrumental in persuading Arizona Democrats to support Senator John F. Kennedy during the 1960 Democratic Nomination Convention. He was appointed by President Kennedy to serve as Secretary of the Interior, a position he held for nine years.
Highlights from his Cabinet career are The Wilderness Bill; The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act; the expansion of the National Park System to include four new national parks, six new national monuments, eight seashores and lakeshores, nine recreation areas, twenty historic sites, and fifty-six wildlife refuges; and the creation of The Land and Water Conservation Fund. After leaving government service in 1969, Stewart went on to teach for a year at Yale Universities School of Forestry as a Visiting Professor of Environmental Humanism.
Stewart Udall continues to contribute to the nations' affairs as an author, historian, scholar, lecturer, environmental activist, lawyer, naturalist, and citizen of the outdoors. During the energy crisis in the 1970s, Stewart advocated the use of solar energy as one remedy to the crisis. He pressed the courts and Congress to compensate uranium workers and their families for damages suffered by them while living near and working in uranium mines during the Cold War years. As a member of an environmental organization, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Stewart defended the Environmental Protection Agency against closure due to budgetary cuts. Stewart was elected to the Central Arizona Water Conservation Board and commissioned as a member of the Arizona Parks Task Force.
Stewart and Lee Udall moved from Phoenix to New Mexico in 1989 where Stewart Udall maintained an active life of writing, travelling, hiking and advocating for protection of the environment. His wife Lee, to whom Stewart was married for 55 years, died in 2001. Stewart and Lee had six children (4 boys and 2 girls). Their son Tom Udall was elected to the U.S. Senate from New Mexico in 2008. In an effort to recognize and honor the important contributions of both of the Udall brothers, Congress enacted legislation in 2009 changing the name of the Morris K. Udall Foundation, located in Tucson, Arizona, to the Morris K. Udall and Stewart L. Udall Foundation. Stewart Udall died on March 20, 2010, at the age of 90.