BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Former U.S. Interior Secretary and Idaho Gov. Cecil D. Andrus was remembered Thursday as a conservation champion, education advocate and true Idaho leader by friends and family during a public memorial service.
Hundreds packed a Boise State University ballroom to mourn the death of the state's longest-serving four-term governor last week of complications from lung cancer. They also celebrated his contributions to Idaho.
"Anyone who is in elected office will tell you that the toughest times and the toughest part are often born by family and not by the individual in the arena," said U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho. "I want to thank you, Carol (Andrus' wife) and the rest of the family for sharing Cecil with us."
Andrus died at age 85. His final term as governor ended in 1995 and he was the last Democrat to hold the top state political job in conservative Idaho.
"Growing up as an Andrus kid, you learned your father had to be shared," said his daughter, Tracy Andrus. "But I learned that Dad loved all of you just as much as he loved all of us, he truly loved getting to know people."
Simpson said he learned the value of compromise from the Democratic lawmaker — the two worked together to protect Idaho's Boulder-White Clouds as wilderness. That multi-decade effort paid off in 2015 when former President Barack signed the Boulder White Clouds wilderness bill into law on Aug. 7, 2015.
Andrus resigned midway through his second term as Idaho governor in 1977 to become President Jimmy Carter's secretary of the Interior Department and served until Carter's term ended in 1981.
During that time, Carter declared permanent national monuments on 56 million acres (227,000 square kilometers) in Alaska in 1978. Despite criticism from many Alaskans, Andrus ordered protection of an additional 52 million acres (210,000 square kilometers) of public lands in the state the same year.
The threat of additional federal protections by executive order forced Alaskan lawmakers to compromise on the 1980 Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, signed by Carter just a month before he left office.
Historian T.H. Watkins once wrote that only three Interior secretaries — Harold Ickes, Andrus and Stuart Udall — understood the importance of wilderness preservation "to the spiritual and ecological well-being of the nation."
After his short stint as secretary of the Interior, Andrus then was elected governor two more times, becoming the first four-term governor in Idaho history.
Andrus was born in 1931, in Hood River, Oregon, and attended Oregon State University but did not graduate until after he served in the Navy during the Korean War. He came back to Oregon to work as a logger and then moved with his family in 1955 to Orofino in northern Idaho to work at his father's sawmill.
His political career began in 1960 when he defeated a Republican incumbent for a state Senate seat.
During his first term as governor, he introduced proposals for a statewide, publicly funded kindergarten program every year despite facing opposition from Republicans in the Legislature.
Lawmakers relented in 1975, agreeing to make kindergarten optional. Andrus would continue to make education the centerpiece of his gubernatorial campaigns.
"Historians will eventually make this determination, but I think it's fair to argue that no politician in the history of Idaho has had a bigger impact or has done more good than Cecil Andrus," said Marc Johnson, Andrus' former press secretary.