Sandy Hook

Sandy Hook

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Deaths of notable Democrats during weekend of change

Just as we should have been, we were so focused on the impending and historical Health Care vote on Saturday, March 20, the deaths of two dynamic Democrats got lost in the shuffle.

They were contemporaries who played a pivotal role in our nation's history. Had they lived, they would have jumped for joy the next day when the Health Care bill was passed.

LIZ CARPENTER died that morning in Austin, Texas. She was 89. A prolific author, humorist and activist she worked for Presidents Johnson, Carter and Clinton.

Carpenter was Johnson's executive assistant/press secretary and accompanied him on Air Force One on the return trip to Washington after the assassination of President Kennedy. She penned the 58 words the new president somberly spoke:

"This is a sad time for all people. We have suffered a loss that cannot be weighed. For me, it is a deep personal tragedy. I know that the world shares the sorrow that Mrs. Kennedy and her family bear. I will do my best. That is all I can do. I ask for your help and God's."

Carpenter transferred to Lady Bird Johnson's office as her staff director and press secretary. During that time she and the First Lady forged a friendship that lasted for 60 years and feisty Liz became the darling of the media.

She was a dedicated Democrat often joking that she never met a Republican until she was 17, "and it terrified me."

Between her stints working for Presidents Carter and Clinton, she wrote several books and fought diligently for women's rights.

Carpenter and Udall

STEWART UDALL also died on Saturday at his home in Sante Fe, N.M. He was 90.
The former Mormon missionary had been a World War II Army Air Forces gunner, and an Arizona lawyer and congressman when Kennedy came calling. By the time the Johnson administration ended in 1969, Udall had been instrumental in adding nearly 4 million acres of land to the public portfolio, including four national parks (Canyonlands in 1964), six national monuments, nine national recreation areas (Glen Canyon in 1964), 20 historic sites (Utah's Golden Spike in 1965), 50 wildlife refuges and eight national seashores.

Udall's admirable tenure at Interior was at the front end of a 20-year period in which Congress passed laws protecting the country's air, water, natural beauty, and animal species. "That was a wonderful time, and it carried through into the Nixon administration, into the Ford administration, into the Carter administration," he said.

At that time, Udall said, Republicans and Democrats alike saw the value of conservation and environmental protection and acted in concert to put them in statute. He said the bipartisanship fell apart as political candidates sought contributions from corporate interests with a financial stake in developing public lands and eroding resource protections.

The nation owes Udall a debt of gratitude for his tireless efforts to protect America's natural treasures and resources.


  1. They were great Liberals, and they will be missed. Thanks for honoring them.

  2. The interesting thing is, Udall's proposals were passed with bipartisan support, including Orin Hatchet.

  3. very thoughtful of you to honor these fine people Leslie.

  4. Leslie: I did not know about these two deaths, so I’m glad you posted about these two good people. Those of us of a certain age knew them well and knew of their accomplishments.

    Back in the late 60s and early 70s Americans really did care about the environment. At that time I was working in public relations at St. Regis Paper Company’s “world’s largest paper mill.” I remember getting a memo from the home office explaining what “ecology” was. Imagine that! Can’t say it for every corporation, but I know what St. Regis did to keep the environment pure – from reforestation to preventing dissolved oxygen in the river. Wonder where all that commitment went? BJ

  5. I think a lot of it has to do with geography. Most people in the West are still very committed to conservation and the environment for the most part. In this neck of the woods, not so much. Greed.