Cover image for Mo : the life & times of Morris K. Udall
Mo : the life & times of Morris K. Udall
Carson, Donald W. (Donald Winslow), 1933-
Publication Information:
Tucson : University of Arizona Press, [2001]

Physical Description:
xvii, 331 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 25 cm
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E840.8.U3 C37 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Everybody liked Mo. Throughout his political life-- and especially during his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1976-- thousands of people were drawn to Arizona congressman Morris K. Udall by his humor, humanity, and courage. This biography traces the remarkable career of the candidate who was "too funny to be president" and introduces readers to Mo the politician, Mo the environmentalist, and Mo the man.

Journalists Donald Carson and James Johnson interviewed more than one hundred of Udall's associates and family members to create an unusually rich portrait. They recall Udall's Mormon boyhood in Arizona when he lost an eye at age six, his service during World War II, his brief career in professional basketball, and his work as a lawyer and county prosecutor, which earned him a reputation for fairness and openness.

Mo provides the most complete record of Udall's thirty-year congressional career ever published. It reveals how he challenged the House seniority system and turned the House Interior Committee into a powerful panel that did as much to protect the environment as any organization in the twentieth century. It shows Udall to have been a consensus builder for environmental issues who paved the way for the Alaska Lands Act of 1980, helped set aside 2.4 million acres of wilderness in Arizona, and fought for the Central Arizona Project, one of the most ambitious water projects in U.S. history.

Carson and Johnson record Udall's early opposition to the Vietnam War at a time when that conflict was largely perceived as a just cause, as well as his early advocacy of campaign finance reform. They also provide a behind-the-scenes account of his run for the presidency-- the first House member to seek the office in nearly a century-- which gained him an intensely loyal national following.

Mo explores the paradoxes that beset Udall: He was a man able to accomplish things politically because people genuinely liked and respected him, yet he was a loner and workaholic whose focus on politics overshadowed his personal life. Carson and Johnson devote a chapter to the famous Udall sense of humor. They also look sensitively at his role as a husband and father and at his proud and stubborn bout with Parkinson's disease.

Mo Udall will long be remembered for his contributions to environmental legislation, for his unflagging efforts in behalf of Arizona, and for the gentle humor with which he conducted his life. This book secures his legacy.

Author Notes

James W. Johnson is Professor of Journalism at the University of Arizona.

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

When contemporary politicians rue "loss of civility" on Capitol Hill, they remember the days of legislators like Mo Udall. A liberal, Udall cherished the respect and friendship of Arizona's leading conservative, the late Barry Goldwater. The state's current senior senator, John McCain, was among the relative few who kept visiting Udall during his long years at a Veterans Administration hospital nursing home, dying of Parkinson's disease and rendered mute by a stroke. But if Udall's final years were silent and tragic, the earlier years were active and productive. Thirty years in Congress, a key role in House reform, early opposition to Vietnam, advocacy of campaign finance reform, support for the environment, and a quixotic but enlightening run for the presidency in 1976 were Udall's most notable achievements. Carson is an emeritus professor and Johnson a professor of journalism at the University of Arizona; Carson covered Udall for the Associated Press and the Arizona Daily Star before he shifted to academia. --Mary Carroll

Publisher's Weekly Review

Carson and Johnson, both veteran Arizona journalists, present the late Arizona Congressman Morris Udall (1922-1998)--who served in the House from 1961 to 1991 and in 1976 nearly wrested the Democratic nomination for president from Jimmy Carter--as an extraordinarily honorable man with sound political instincts, but one whose singular commitment to public service left his personal life neglected and atrophied. Udall's first marriage ended in divorce, his second wife committed suicide and his children were emotionally estranged from their father yet still admired him. At the heart of the book is Udall's political persona, which was engaging, fair-minded, self-effacing and possessed of extraordinary wit. Even the Vietnam War, of which he was an early vocal opponent, and Watergate are highlighted only to the extent that they played a role in his career. Soberingly, the issues to which Udall devoted his considerable skills--campaign finance reform, congressional reform, tobacco-related questions, civil rights, land use and conservation, and population control--are problems still on legislative agendas today. Where Carson and Johnson shine is in the insight they provide into the inner workings of Congress and what it's like to run for president. For example, in Mo's brother Stewart Udall's opinion, McGovern's 1972 campaign was flawed because McGovern, incredibly, believed that winning the nomination made him a shoo-in for the presidency. About his own presidential bid, Mo Udall once said, "You find yourself almost wishing someone would tell you for sure--that it's no use--so you could quit." Crisp and absorbing, this book should appeal to readers from Udall's home state of Arizona and to conservationists who remember Udall's role in their fight. (Feb. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved All rights reserved.

Library Journal Review

Veteran political reporters and University of Arizona professors Carson and Johnson recount the life, times, and political legacy of Morris K. Udall (1922-98), who became a political hero to many liberal Democrats during his 30-year congressional career. Udall's loss of an eye at age six, combined with his height as an adult, he was a towering 6'5'' differentiated him from an early age and likely contributed to his drive to succeed, a force that shaped his life in both negative and positive ways. His enormous energy and workaholic behavior undermined his first marriage, which ended in divorce, and his second marriage, which ended with his wife's suicide. But it also propelled Udall to leadership in reforming the House of Representatives in the early 1970s. Even though this Young Turk's challenge to his party's House leadership failed, he made an even bolder attempt to claim his party's 1976 presidential nomination. Ultimately, it took Parkinson's disease to thwart "Second Place Mo's" ambition. Throughout his entire life, Udall won over his opponents and built a national following with his decency, work, and sense of humor. Political junkies will enjoy this readable biography, which merits a paperback edition for classroom use. Highly recommended. William D. Pederson, Louisiana State Univ., Shreveport (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Congressional biographies divide between those that focus on the home constituency and those that are strong on the Washington scene. In this one, by two home-state professors of journalism about Morris Udall of Arizona, the authors' grasp of Udall's personal life is the featured attraction. The fact that the authors are unaware that Howard W. (Judge) Smith was chairman not of the House Judiciary Committee but of the Rules Committee and in general do not place Udall especially skillfully within his Washington milieu does not at all detract from this story, which bears the marks of the willing cooperation of Udall's large, mostly affectionate, and in the American political tradition, rather neglected family and maintains a close-up focus better than a wider context. Recommended for general readers and undergraduate students. N. W. Polsby University of California, Berkeley



Chapter One END OF A DREAM Mo Udall was exhausted. He was returning from a grueling weekend in California, traveling from Los Angeles, where he met with political backers, to Sacramento for the state Democratic Party Convention. The January 20, 1983, convention was seen as a major stop at the beginning of the campaign trail. He had received a warm welcome, perhaps better than any of the other hopefuls preparing for the 1984 presidential race. That reception gave him hope that he could make another run at the presidency, as his attempt in 1976 had come close to wresting the nomination from Jimmy Carter.     He had made a masterful speech and in his jovial manner complained about having to limit himself to ten minutes. "A great orator, Cicero--or perhaps it was [former U.S. senator from California] Sam Hayakawa--once said, 'I can't even clear my throat in ten minutes,'" he joked with the 2,100 convention delegates. He had made the obligatory round of receptions to gauge his support, and at the end of the day he was physically fatigued. One political reporter described Udall's skin as waxy and his gait slowed by Parkinson's disease.     Now he was flying to Washington, D.C., after meeting with friends and supporters in Phoenix and Tucson about whether he should seek the Democratic nomination. He was flying first class, but his lanky six-foot, five-inch frame made it difficult to stretch his achy arthritic back, and his Parkinson's disease was exacerbated by having to cram himself into his seat.     Traveling with Udall was Marvin S. Cohen, a friend dating back to their law years in the 1950s in Tucson. Udall had called in a favor with President Carter, who appointed Cohen to the Civil Aeronautics Board in 1978. Now Udall had asked Cohen to think about becoming his campaign manager if he decided to run.     But, at age sixty, Udall knew he lacked the stamina for an eighteen-month presidential campaign. That weekend in California proved it to him. He looked over at Cohen and said, "I can't do it, can I?" Cohen replied, "No, you can't, Mo."     Cohen later said, "This, to me, was the moment that he finally acknowledged that he could never be president."     Although he would withhold announcement of his plans for two weeks, it was clear he would abandon his long-held dream of residing in the White House. Nonetheless, he had come a long way, this whip-smart, witty liberal from hearty pioneer Mormon stock in Arizona's outback. Chapter Two MORMON PIONEERS The agricultural lifestyle in the arid highlands of northeastern Arizona played as much a role in shaping Morris King Udall as did the values of his parents and the Mormon church. He would say about his ancestral home: "Of the places the Mormons picked, this was probably as harsh and as unproductive a land as they tried. They were willing to try most anything, but the growing season was short, water was scarce, the soil wasn't all that good and your fruit trees would freeze; always had these late May freezes that would ruin your fruit trees. They stuck it out and made a pretty community out of it. Life was pretty good."     It was in that climate that Mo Udall learned to love and cherish the land. If he appreciated the starkness of such land at 5,730 feet on an isolated plateau, he could all the more appreciate the wonders of Alaska's wilderness, the beauty of the Everglades, the peaks of the Rocky Mountains. The land taught him to preserve and conserve. Every drop of water was precious, every tree was cherished, and everything had a use and reuse.     The town is a day's wagon drive from the New Mexico border, lying 40 miles southeast of what is now the Petrified Forest National Park, and is tucked between the Navajo and the Apache reservations.     The land is barren, dry, and huge. Apache County, of which St. Johns is the county seat, is bigger than Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Vermont, or Maryland and nearly twice as large as the combined states of Connecticut, Delaware, and Rhode Island.     Udall remembered his mother's reaction when he took her up in a plane in 1946. Eight to twelve inches of rain had fallen during the previous two months, an unusual amount. "We cruised around. There were natural lakes all over, places where the water had settled. The grass was green. It looked something like a garden of Eden. And she said to me as we landed, 'Something comes clear to me now.' And I said, 'What do you mean?' She said, 'I always wondered why they started these settlements here in St. Johns with this rugged dry climate and cold winter, hot summer, with the wind blowing. Now I understand.'"     Mo's sister Eloise noted that "the wind blows all year long and crops freeze but the Lord sent us there, so that's where we stayed. But it does grow good people."     St. Johns rests a mile high and lies hard by the Little Colorado River. It was founded in 1873 as a way station by wagoners hauling supplies for the U.S. Cavalry from Santa Fe, New Mexico, to Fort Apache, Arizona. Seven years later a group of settlers from Kanab, Utah, near the Arizona border, established the Mormon presence in St. Johns. They were led by Mo Udall's grandfather David King Udall, born on September 7, 1851, in St. Louis, Missouri, and when they first saw the hostile, barren landscape they called it "the land God forgot."     David Udall had married Eliza Luella "Ella" Stewart, a "fair, slender girl with clear blue eyes [who] took my heart away," on February 1, 1875, six weeks before he was to go on his two-year mission to England. Ella had moved from Salt Lake City to Kanab, where her father was the bishop. Before she left Utah, Brigham Young asked that she learn Morse code so she could be a telegraph operator. Her first assignment, in December 1871, was at Pipe Springs, the first telegraph office in Arizona Territory, and now a national monument. It was there that Ella cabled reports of Major John Wesley Powell's Grand Canyon expedition to Washington, D.C.     After Udall returned from England, he received a letter from Mormon president John Taylor in June 1880 telling him that he was to move to St. Johns, where he would become bishop of the Latter-day Saints ward. The Udalls left Kanab for St. Johns on Udall's twenty-ninth birthday in two wagons and with $100 in his pocket. The trip from Kanab to Glen Canyon was relatively easy, but crossing the Colorado River presented a foreboding obstacle. The travelers had to painstakingly lower their wagons down the sheer cliffs at Lee's Ferry, ford the treacherous Colorado, and then raise the wagons up the other side of the canyon, crossing the rocky ridge called "Lee's Backbone."     When the settlers arrived in St. Johns to establish a Mormon stake, an ecclesiastical subdivision of the church--only the third in Arizona--on October 6, 1880, all they found were Indians and Mexican Americans. "The Mexicans resented us and we did not blame them very much," David Udall wrote in his memoirs. "Their 'squatters' rights had not been properly respected by those who [would sell] the land to our people." The Mexicans had founded the community as San Juan but when a post office was sought in 1880, an assistant postmaster general named it St. Johns, adding the letter s to make it more "euphonious."     The Udalls noted waving fields of grama grass, called the best range grass, nurtured by several years of unusual rainfall. The fields would not remain bountiful without help. Mo's grandfather wrote: "As the years passed, it proved to be a land of extremes, with alternating periods of drouths [sic] and floods, undependable seasons, and devastating spring winds. Washes and gullies grew deeper and deeper from the forces of erosion." The Mormons were less than welcome in St. Johns. They faced harassment at every turn. On May 30, 1884, for example, the anti-Mormon newspaper, the Apache Chief , editorialized, "How did Missouri and Illinois get rid of the Mormons? By use of the shotgun and rope. Apache County can rid herself of them also.... He has no rights and should be allowed none. Down with them. Grind out their very existence."     A year and a half after their arrival, despite increasing hostility toward polygamous marriages, David King Udall married his second wife, Ida Hunt, the daughter of Lois and John Hunt, bishop of Snowflake Ward.     David had hired Ida in the fall of 1881 as a clerk in the co-op and married her after John Taylor urged church leaders to take plural wives. He loved his first wife and apparently took Ida as his second wife only at Taylor's urging.     David King Udall fathered fifteen children with two wives, nine by Ella (four died before the age of two) and six by Ida. Not widely known is that in March 1903 he married a third woman, the wife of a friend who had died, at the urging of the church's governing body. Council members told him it was his duty to raise and educate the widow's three sons. For fifty-eight years David Udall served as the religious leader of the region, and he labored hard to provide for his family in this dry, hard land.     While David King Udall tended to three families and battled the harsh environment, hostilities arose between the Mormons and the Catholics over entitlement to land. In 1885 Udall and nine other Mormons were arrested for unlawful assembly but were acquitted. Later that year, Udall was charged with perjury by a federal grand jury for testimony he had given on a fellow Mormon's land claim. He was freed on bail while he awaited trial, the bond put up by Prescott merchant Michel Goldwater, the grandfather of 1964 Republican presidential candidate Barry M. Goldwater.     What the non-Mormon townspeople really wanted Udall prosecuted for was polygamy. But Ida, for most of her married life, lived in exile in remote areas of Apache County to avoid prosecution. She could not be subpoenaed for her testimony and instead Udall was tried for perjury on the land claim of Miles P. Romney, the grandfather of George W. Romney, who served from 1963 to 1969 as governor of Michigan and was a Republican presidential candidate in 1968.     Udall was convicted on August 6, 1885. For four days he was held in a Prescott jail, 250 miles from St. Johns, and then was sentenced to three years in prison. On August 29 he was moved to the federal penitentiary in Detroit, Michigan. He was imprisoned until December 12 when he was pardoned by President Grover Cleveland, who, after being petitioned by Udall's attorney, decided that there had been a miscarriage of justice. Later Udall would name one of his sons Grover Cleveland Udall.     Udall returned to St. Johns, declaring, "I was fired with carrying out the work of redeeming the desert," and he would admonish his kin, "Be good to the ground. It is holy. It is origin, possession, sustenance, destiny." No doubt Mo Udall recalled those words years later while he pressed his legislation in Congress to protect the environment.     Over the years the Mormons purchased land, surveyed, and established a town site on which several small homes were built. They also surveyed and fenced an area of 820 acres, divided it into plots, and... (Continues...) Excerpted from Mo by Donald W. Carson & James W. Johnson. Copyright (c) 2001 by Donald W. Carson and James W. Johnson. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrationsp. viii
Forewordp. ix
Acknowledgmentsp. xi
Introductionp. xiii
1 End of a Dreamp. 1
2 Mormon Pioneersp. 3
3 They Stood on His Shouldersp. 8
4 Growing Upp. 14
5 Off to the Militaryp. 26
6 Seeing the Worldp. 38
7 The Tucson Yearsp. 44
8 The Out-of-Townersp. 60
9 A Rising Starp. 68
10 Caught on a Treadmillp. 82
11 The Reformerp. 94
12 Challenging the Leadershipp. 104
13 The Central Arizona Projectp. 117
14 Finishing the Jobp. 129
15 The Humorous Mop. 135
16 Mo's Audacityp. 143
17 Second-Place Mop. 160
18 Keeping the Hopes Alivep. 176
19 Saving the Environmentp. 182
20 Alaska's Crown Jewelsp. 193
21 A Friend to the Indianp. 203
22 The Consensus Builderp. 209
23 The Price They Paidp. 223
24 Living with Parkinson'sp. 240
25 The Legacyp. 256
Notesp. 263
Bibliographyp. 309
Indexp. 323