Bruce Babbitt

Bruce Babbitt
47th United States Secretary of the Interior
In office
January 22, 1993  January 2, 2001
President Bill Clinton
Preceded by Manuel Lujan, Jr.
Succeeded by Gale Norton
16th Governor of Arizona
In office
March 4, 1978  January 6, 1987
Preceded by Wesley Bolin
Succeeded by Evan Mecham
19th Attorney General of Arizona
In office
January 6, 1975  March 4, 1978
Governor Raul H. Castro
Wesley Bolin
Preceded by N. Warner Lee
Succeeded by Jack LaSota
Personal details
Born Bruce Edward Babbitt
(1938-06-27) June 27, 1938
Flagstaff, Arizona
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Harriet C. Babbitt
Children Christopher Babbitt
T.J. Babbitt
Alma mater University of Notre Dame (B.A.)
Harvard Law School (J.D.)

Bruce Edward Babbitt (born June 27, 1938) is an American politician from the state of Arizona. A member of the Democratic Party, Babbitt served as the 16th governor of Arizona from 1978 to 1987, and as the United States Secretary of the Interior from 1993 through 2001.

Personal life

Babbitt was born in Flagstaff, Arizona, the son of Frances B. (Perry) and Paul James Babbitt, Sr.[1][2] He graduated from the University of Notre Dame, attended Newcastle University in the United Kingdom on a Marshall Scholarship, and then received his law degree at Harvard Law School.[3]

He married Harriet Coons (known as Hattie) in 1968. She has worked as an attorney in Arizona and Washington, D.C., and served as United States Ambassador to the Organization of American States from 1993 to 1997, and as Deputy Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development from 1997 to 2001 during the Clinton Administration.[4]

Political career


In the state election of November 1974, Babbitt overcame Republican incumbent Warner Lee to become Attorney General of Arizona.[5] He succeeded Wesley Bolin as governor when Bolin died in office on March 4, 1978. Arizona does not have a lieutenant governor; the Arizona Secretary of State, if holding office by election, stands first in line in case the governor vacates his or her post. However, Rose Mofford, then secretary of state, had been appointed to her post and thus was not eligible to become governor according to the Arizona state constitution. Babbitt, as attorney general, was next in the line of succession, and thus served the balance of the term to which Raúl Héctor Castro had originally been elected in 1974. Babbitt was elected for a full four-year term later in 1978, and again in 1982. He did not run for a third term in 1986.

In 1982, Babbitt intervened in negotiations between the Cochise County sheriff and leaders of the Christ Miracle Healing Church and Center over the release of church members whom the church was hiding from facing charges for assault. The church, which had been implicated in bomb-making, would play a central role in the Miracle Valley shootout later that year. In 1983, Babbitt sent the Arizona National Guard to the strike against the Phelps Dodge mining company in Morenci, Arizona.

With the retirement of Republican Barry Goldwater from the U.S. Senate in 1986, many in Arizona expected Babbitt to oppose Representative John McCain for the seat. In a surprise press conference in 1985, Babbitt instead announced he would forgo the Senate race to concentrate on a White House bid in 1988.

Babbitt is the only Arizona governor to have completed two four-year terms with nine years of service. George W.P. Hunt is Arizona's longest-serving governor, however, with 17 years of total service and seven terms.

National work

In 1979, Babbitt was appointed by President Jimmy Carter to serve as a commissioner on the President's Commission on the Accident at Three Mile Island, a six-month investigation of the March 1979 accident at a commercial nuclear power plant at Middletown, Pennsylvania.[6] Babbitt spoke at the 1980 Democratic National Convention, which nominated incumbent Jimmy Carter as the Democratic candidate for president.

A founding member of the Democratic Leadership Council and the chairman of the Democratic Governors Association in 1985, Babbitt sought the Democratic Party's 1988 nomination for President of the United States. Among his proposals was a national sales tax to remedy the then-record budget deficits piled up during the several past administrations. He enjoyed positive press attention (called a "boomlet" in USA Today), but after finishing out of the top tier of candidates in the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary, he dropped out of the race. In an intentional reference to Richard Nixon (who said after losing the California governorship in the 1962 election that the press "won't have [me] to kick around anymore"), Babbitt joked in his last campaign press conference that the media "won't have Bruce Babbitt to puff up anymore." The Washington Post reported that Babbitt dropped this line from the prepared text of his withdrawal speech.[7]

Clinton Administration

After leading the League of Conservation Voters, Babbitt served for eight years, 1993–2001, as the United States Secretary of the Interior during Bill Clinton's administration.

Babbitt worked to protect scenic and historic areas of America's federal public lands. In 2000 Babbitt created the National Landscape Conservation System, a collection of 15 U.S. National Monuments and 14 National Conservation Areas to be managed by the Bureau of Land Management in such a way as to keep them "healthy, open, and wild."

In 1993, Babbitt was seriously considered by President Clinton to replace retiring United States Supreme Court Justice Byron White. Due to his lead on environmental issues, however, Clinton nominated Ruth Bader Ginsburg instead. Clinton again considered Babbitt for the high court in 1994 when Harry Blackmun announced his retirement. Babbitt was passed over again, this time in favor of Stephen Breyer, due to Breyer's immense support in the U.S. Senate, primarily because he was close to Sen. Ted Kennedy.

In 1998 Babbitt was the subject of a federal grand jury investigation into whether he had lied to Congress about having denied an Indian casino license in Wisconsin in return for political donations. The controversy has been called Wampumgate. Babbitt was cleared of wrongdoing in the special prosecutor's final report on the investigation the following year.[8]

Post-political life

Babbitt took a job as chief counsel of the environmental litigation department of Latham & Watkins, an international law firm, after leaving the Department of the Interior.

Babbitt wrote a book in 2005 titled Cities in the Wilderness: A New Vision of Land Use in America, where he proposes to amend the Endangered Species Act so that it is used to identify, conserve, and protect landscapes, watersheds, and ecosystems whether or not an endangered species exists there. Drawing a parallel with preventive medicine, he thinks it should promote the protection of open space and ecosystems before the downward spiral to extinction begins.

Babbitt has attracted the ire of some environmentalists and Native American groups for his representation of the Arizona Snowbowl ski resort and its effort to expand the resort and use waste water to make artificial snow.[9]

He serves as trustee of the World Wildlife Fund Secretariat Trustees in the U.S., and was a member of the Council on Foreign Relations until 2012.[10] He has also served on the Board of Directors since 2009 for the Amazon Conservation Association, whose mission is to conserve the biological diversity of the Amazon.[11] Babbitt is also a member of the ReFormers Caucus of Issue One.[12]

See also


  3. Arizona Governor Bruce Edward Babbitt, National Governors Association.
  4. Harriet C. Babbitt-Jennings Strouss Attorneys at Law Archived January 13, 2013, at the Wayback Machine.
  5. "Arizona Voting". The Gallup Independent. Gallup, NM. AP. November 6, 1974. Retrieved October 16, 2016 via
  6. Walker, J. Samuel (2006). Three Mile Island: A Nuclear Crisis in Historical Perspective. University of California Press. p. 281. ISBN 9780520246836.
  7. Schwartz, Maralee; Ifill, Gwen (1998-02-21). "Babbitt's Opening Line--Almost". The Washington Post. pp. A12.
  8. Miller, Bill; Vise, David A. (1999-10-14). "Babbitt Cleared in Casino Probe". The Washington Post. pp. A1. Retrieved 2009-01-23.
  9. "". Archived from the original on 2006-09-29. Retrieved 2007-07-02., "Can anyone really trust Bruce Babbitt?
  10. "Membership Roster - Council on Foreign Relations". 6 January 2012. Archived from the original on 6 January 2012. Retrieved 15 September 2016.
  11. "Amazon Conservation Association".

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
N. Warner Lee
Arizona Attorney General
January 6, 1975 March 4, 1978
Succeeded by
Jack LaSota
Preceded by
Wesley Bolin
Governor of Arizona
March 4, 1978 – January 6, 1987
Succeeded by
Evan Mecham
Preceded by
Manuel Lujan, Jr.
U.S. Secretary of the Interior
Served under: Bill Clinton

Succeeded by
Gale Norton
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