By Paul Carter
The One-eyed Mormon Democrat
PHOENIX, ARIZONA -- Morris Udall was the Congressman from eastern Arizona for 30 years, until
1991 when he retired from politics. He died in 1998 and a new biography,
written by Donald W. Carson and James W. Johnson, has recently been
completed: "Mo: The Life and Times of Morris K. Udall." The book is published
by University of Arizona Press, which also published and has reissued the
book "Too Funny to be President," written by Congressman Udall after his loss
in the 1976 Primaries to Jimmy Carter.
The latest book was reviewed by Martin Naparsteck in The Salt Lake Tribune.
Mo was raised in St. John's Arizona in an active Latter-Day Saint home,
though in the latest book, Mo is quoted as not having "found a need for
organized religion in my adult life."
In the 1960's Morris Udall and his brother Stewart were prominent in western
politics. Stewart Udall had been elected Congressman from Arizona first, but
was named Secretary of the Interior by President Kennedy in 1960. Morris was
elected to fill his brother's position in 1961, beginning his 30 years as a
The rugged good looks of the Udall brothers and their impact on Democratic
Party politics in the Southwest naturally brought comparisons to another set
of brothers from the East. The Udall brothers were often referred to as "The
The Morris K. Udall Foundation website provides a brief summary of the
highlights of Congressman Udall's life. After losing his right eye in an
accident at age 6 Morris Udall went on to become:
"...co-captain of his high school basketball team, quarterback for the
football team, trumpet player in the school band, student body president and
valedictorian...he served in the U.S. Army Air Corps in the Pacific, entering
as a private and honorably discharged as captain." After World War II, the
achievements of "Mo" Udall continued. "In 1946, Udall returned to The
University of Arizona and earned a law degree. He obtained an airplane pilot
license, played professional basketball for the Denver Nuggets and, after
scoring highest on the state bar exam, was admitted to the Arizona Bar and
began practicing law with his brother Stewart."
Representative Udall was well-known for his sense of humor, hence the title
of his book, "Too Funny to be President." Once, on the golf course, he was
asked if he had a handicap. "I'm a one-eyed Mormon Democrat from
conservative Arizona. You can't find a higher handicap than that," was his
One comical occurrence cited in the new book can't be attributed to Mo's
sense of humor, but must have been pretty funny at the time. According to
teammate Fred Enke, during one basketball game of Mo's college career playing
for the University of Arizona, a bump to the head sent Mo's glass eye
scurrying across the court. Play was halted at players scrambled to catch up
to the errant eyeball.
Representative Morris Udall, of course, had a very serious and successful
career in the House of Representatives. His three decades of service are
chronicled in the book as well.
In 1968, Congressman Udall encouraged a young basketball player named Bill
Bradley to pursue his opportunities in basketball first and then seek a
career in politics. Representative Udall played one season for the Denver
Nuggets of the pre-NBA National Basketball League. Player Bradley, of course
had a celebrated career in the NBA, served at Senator from New Jersey, and
then himself came in second in Democratic Presidential Primaries last year.
The Udall name continues to figure in national politics. Representative Mark
Udall, Democratic Congressman from Boulder Colorado is the son of Morris and
Representative Tom Udall, Democratic Congressman from New Mexico is son of
Unanswered Questions on Udall Make Less of 'Mo'
Salt Lake Tribune 1Apr01 A4
By Martin Naparsteck: Special to the Tribune
The Morris K. Udall Foundation website http://www.udall.gov/