Once or twice, on his walks around the neighborhood, he dropped off an envelope addressed “Hon. George Johnson” with information about a story he thought deserved attention. He also gave me an inscribed copy of The Myths of August, his book about the fallout — figuratively and literally — from America’s conduct in the Cold War.
In another epic standoff, he was instrumental in dissuading the actress Shirley Maclaine from building a mansion near the top of Atalaya Mountain. A few years later when an investment banker, Paul Tierney, sued the City of Santa Fe for denying him permission to build on another hilltop (the site of the old Talaya Reservoir above Camino San Acacio), I took my Times colleague James Brooke to meet Mr. Udall. Jim, a national correspondent based in Denver, was writing about the controversy and I figured Stewart would have something interesting to say. As the three of us stood on a ridge behind the Udall compound, off Camino de Cruz Blanca, the former Secretary lamented how ostentatious trophy houses were springing up in defiance of Santa Fe’s modest ways.
“Vail, Aspen, Telluride, Jackson — those are communities with different histories,” he said. As he looked northwest toward the Tierney hill, he noted that it was as prominent as “a prow of a ship — the last hillside site within the inner city. For him to do this right in the middle of the city violates everything that Santa Fe is about.”
It was a losing battle. Mr. Tierney prevailed in his lawsuit and sold the lot to Tom Ford, whose mansion, an even bigger one, is almost complete.