The Udall bloodline is consistent

  • A young Brad Udall joins his dad, Mo, on the steps of the U.S. Capitol


Note: This article is a sidebar to this issue's feature story, "The Coyote Caucus Takes the West to Washington."

Throw a stick around the West’s public offices and institutions, and the odds are decent you’ll hit a member of the extended Udall clan. Joining Mark Udall and Tom Udall in Congress is their second cousin, Oregon Sen. Gordon Smith, a Republican descended from David K. Udall’s second plural wife. Two other Udall cousins, Chris and Stephen, ran on opposite tickets when Arizona was granted a new congressional seat in 2000. Stephen, the Democrat, was a longtime county prosecutor; Chris, the Republican, was an aide to U.S. Rep. J.D. Hayworth. Both lost in primaries.

The six children of Mo Udall, along with Stewart Udall’s six, mostly work in various forms of public service.

One of Mo’s sons, Randy, inherited the Udall bishop gene: The gospel he spreads is renewable energy. He’s run the nonprofit Community Office for Resource Efficiency (CORE), based in Aspen, Colo., for 15 years. CORE has persuaded the locals to shoulder a renewable energy mitigation tax, which essentially says that if Aspenites want to heat their driveways, fine, but to compensate for the energy use, they have to pay extra to retrofit public buildings with green power. So far, the tax has generated $2.5 million. Another CORE program brings wind power to 2,500 homes.

Randy sees the region and the adjacent Great Plains as the country’s windshed: "We can produce 200 gigawatts in North Dakota, more than 200 times the full output of Glen Canyon Dam." That dam, built during his Uncle Stew’s reign as Interior secretary, drowned a pristine Utah canyon and choked the ecosystem in the Grand Canyon.

Another of Mo’s sons, Brad Udall, worked as a Grand Canyon river guide, and now directs the University of Colorado’s Western Water Assessment program, where he helps communities assess their water needs. Brad, along with sisters Anne and Dodie, joined his father on the 1976 presidential campaign trail. He also remembers the time he spent as a child with his father, the congressman.

"I used to love going to D.C. and hanging out in his office," Brad says. "There was a lot going on," including President Nixon’s resignation in 1974, the Three Mile Island nuclear plant accident in 1979, and his father’s push for preservation of Alaska wilderness.

Brad Udall’s sister, Anne, lives in North Carolina and administers a program that takes local community leaders into the wilderness. She recalls family trips with her father and her Uncle Stewart down the Middle Fork of Idaho’s Salmon River, hiking with her father up Arizona peaks, and childhood visits with her mother to national parks and Indian reservations. "I didn’t spend as much time with (Mo) as I’d have liked, but I adored him," she says. "Somehow I did get it — that love of the land."

Today, she’s on the board of directors of the federally funded Morris K. Udall Foundation, which operates out of the University of Arizona. Through the foundation, 55 college students receive grants each year to pursue environmental studies. The foundation also funds congressional internships for Native Americans and helps resolve disputes through its International Center for Environmental Conflict Resolution.

Most of the rest of Mark and Tom’s siblings are educators, or work in the nonprofit sector. One is a poet, one an environmental lawyer, and nearly all of them like to spend time in the outdoors. The bloodline extends down to Brady Udall, a great-nephew of Stewart and Mo, who is the author of The Miracle Life of Edward Mint, a 2001 novel about a half-Apache orphan raised by Mormons.

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