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“But in my country you know there is nothing hereditary in public affairs”
John Quincy Adams

This posting is prompted by the recent death of Stewart Lee Udall, who at the age of ninety was the last of the Kennedy administration alive.  He had served as Secretary of State for the Interior.  His death has come across in the media as the passing of an age.

Well perhaps, in the sense of the last member of Kennedy’s cabinet, but it is certainly far from the end of the Udalls.

I am reluctant to use the word dynasty when dealing with the political families of America, but you can see where it might be used when it comes to the Udalls, those “Lords of the West” as the Economist has called them in the past[i].

The Udall’s are rooted in the politics of American West and have been for over a hundred years.  They have provided politicians for six states over four generations and their influence if anything increases.  The wider interconnected family of Udall, Hunt and Lee have represented Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Oregon  and Utah.

Stewart Udall’s grandfather David King Udall (1851-1938) is considered to have established the political fortunes of the family.  The son of a Mormon bishop he had twelve children by two wives.  It wasn’t bigamy – there was a court case that established it wasn’t.  In a curious example of covering both sides of the ticket at once, the children of his first wife Eliza are Democrats, and those of his second, Ida, are Republicans.

Almost immediatly the family beomes one of the more complicated to deal with.  I have put two trees below in simplified form to try to help.  David’s son, Levi Stewart Udall, became Arizona Chief Justice 1951-2 and again 1957-8.  Levi married one Louise Lee whose grandfather was possibly one of the more controversial figures in Mormon History.  John D Lee was a member of the United Territories Legislature so political position was there from the beginning even before it became part of the US.  John D Lee was involved in a massacre of an emigrant party from Arkansas.  He was tried for this and sentenced to death by firing squad back at the site of the said massacre.  To add to the macabre quality of this story a photo exists of John Lee sitting next to his own coffin moments before the execution

and a drawing of him falling back having been shot.  And of course I couldn’t resist including them

John D Lee is said to have married eighteen women including three sisters and their widowed mother.  He fathered sixty children and was Brigham Young’s brother in law.

Stewart Lee Udall -who was the Secretary of the Interior -was David’s son.

John by David’s second wife Ida was mayor of Phoenix and later a judge.  John’s son Nick was also mayor of Phoenix.  Well it keeps it tidy doesn’t it?  Now Nick was, through his mother Ruth Kimball, the great-grandson of Utah Lieutenant Governor Heber C Kimball who had FORTY THREE wives, 63 children, 176 grandchildren and 564 great grand children!  So it’s perhaps not such a surprise to learn a cousin J Reuben Clark is a US Ambassador.
Jesse Addison Udall was in the Arizona House of Representatives and he married Louisa Lee’s sister.  OK so far?  And he too was a judge in the Arizona Supreme Court from 1962-1972 and Chief Justice in 1964 and 69.    Jesse’s son David Udall was a city councillor in Mesa for some years.

Don Udall was a Representative in the Arizona State Legislature and was later a judge.

Stewart’s brother Morris King Udall (always known as “Mo”) was US Representative from Arizona.  His son Mark Udall is Stewart’s nephew and is US Senator from Colorado.

Stewart’s brother Tom Udall was in turn Attorney General of New Mexico, US representative from New Mexico and is now sitting as Senator from New Mexico.

With another cousin Gordon Smith US Senator for Oregon this puts three of the family all cousins in the upper house.  And this accepted with a casual shrug of the shoulders and a smile of “Shucks – gee who’d have thought it?”.

Come on there are only 100 senators and this family are 3% of them!  3% of the country!

It’s a family that clearly have a lock on politics on both sides of the house.  It can’t just be that no one else in the West is interested in standing for political office.  If ever there was a clear example of an oligarchic noble house operating in the here and now then the Udalls are it.

Maybe if you are out west you are just stuck with their family motto “Vote for the Udall nearest you”.


[i] The Lords of the West: Albuquerque and Denver , The Economist October 25th2008

Copyright David Macadam 2010

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