Cecil Andrus’ career took him from Orofino logging work to the governor’s office, and to Washington, D.C., where he fundamentally changed the future management of Alaska’s wilderness.
Idahoans and many across the West were shaken and saddened to learn Friday of his death the previous day.
“This is one of those times when you can really say it marks the passing of an era,” Marc Johnson, Andrus’ former press secretary and chief of staff, said on Facebook. “And I fear they aren’t making them like this anymore ... a great, great man.”
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Comments on Johnson’s post included, “It feels like my dad died.”
Former Republican Gov. Phil Batt’s friendship with Andrus spans more than half a century. The two first met while serving in the Legislature in the late 1960s.
Back then, lawmakers from both sides would set aside their party affiliations and get together for cocktails or coffee, which is how Batt and Andrus first struck up their friendship.
“Sometimes I worked with him on things, sometimes I opposed him, but I always enjoyed working with him,” Batt told the Statesman.
One thing they definitely agreed upon: “We both were terrible golfers,” Batt said. “It was quite a contest about who would win. We used to play every week. We were both bad.”
Batt said he last talked to Andrus about a month ago on the phone.
“Andrus was dearly loved by a lot of people. There is a lot of sadness in the state,” he said.
Wyoming’s Alan Simpson, who served three six-year terms in the U.S. Senate, described Andrus as “a Westerner, an earthy, wise, bright-eyed guy.”
“He had those sparkling eyes and that great wit, great sense of humor,” Simpson said Friday morning.
Simpson arrived in Washington in early 1979. It was a different time in the Capitol. A person’s party mattered less than his or her character and abilities, Simpson said.
Andrus was serving as President Jimmy Carter’s secretary of the Interior. That put him and Simpson, a Republican, on opposite sides of a lot of issues, including a dispute over coyotes killing sheep on rangeland. Respect for each other helped them bridge the gaps, Simpson said.
So did humor.
Every so often, Simpson said, his staff would write an official letter to Andrus on the sheep-coyote issue. After signing it, he said, he’d often include a barbed, joking postscript.
“I would say ‘You sheep-killing son of a bitch. I’ll get you yet. You can count on me,’ ” Simpson said. “Well then, he’d write an official thing back and a P.S. in his handwriting, ‘You coyote-killing bastard. You’ll pay for this.’ ”
Andrus and President Carter first met while they were governors. When Carter became president in 1977, he immediately tapped Andrus for his Cabinet.
“Rosalynn and I join thousands across our nation in mourning the passing of Cecil Andrus, a friend from the time we served together as governors,” Carter said in a statement. “Cece was the only person I considered for the Cabinet post of secretary of the Interior, and together we made conservation history with the successful passage of the Alaska lands legislation, which doubled the size of the national parks, established large additions to the National Wildlife Refuge System, designated new wild and scenic rivers and protected for future generations entire ecosystems such as the Gates of the Arctic.
“A special memory Rosalynn and I cherish is the float trip with Carol and Cece down the Middle Fork of the Salmon, competing in catching the most trout. Cece loved the outdoors and was a genuine conservationist. Americans are better off because of his service, and I am better because of his friendship.”
Andrus was widely respected and adept at balancing the politics of Washington and the wide range of interests — environment, mining, grazing, etc. — that he responded to as head of the Interior Department, Simpson said.
“He had the ability to tell a person to go to hell in a way they’d look forward to the trip,” he said. “He was firm. He was fair. He was open. He was authentic. There wasn’t anything clandestine about him. No tricks in his bag.”
Current Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke tweeted the Idahoan’s official Washington, D.C., portrait on Friday morning.
Jim Jones was the Republican attorney general when Andrus was the Democratic governor. When they disagreed, he said, it was over issues, and not personality or party.
“It was a different era, when you could work across party lines. It didn’t stand in the way of getting things done. ... I wish it was more like that today,” Jones said.
“He did a lot for the state. He had a vision for natural resources and protecting areas that deserved to be protected. I think he certainly left a legacy.”
Corey Taule is a former journalist for the Post Register in Idaho Falls. He arrived in Idaho in 2002 and first met Andrus at Democrat Jerry Brady’s announcement that year that he would run for governor.
“I see this big dude coming down the street, and it just reminded me of a big panther,” Taule said. “He was probably 71 years old at the time, and he had these big, long strides. And there’s a big crowd there, and as soon as he came across that street, man, everybody just gravitated to him. He had this incredible presence.
“For some reason, I can still see him walking down that street.”
Current Gov. Butch Otter said Andrus “was a mentor to me and many others, raising our standards and inspiring us to think big. He combined stubborn idealism with common sense — a lunch-bucket liberal proudly reflecting his timber country upbringing and values.
“Whatever you thought of his politics, Cece was always true to what he believed, and he believed in Idaho. His voice will be missed in our public life, and I will miss his counsel and friendship. Carol and the Andrus family are in our thoughts and prayers.”
Rick Johnson of the Idaho Conservation League focused on Andrus’ environmental legacy of protecting wildlands.
“The entire American West bears the imprint of Cecil Andrus, yet nowhere more than Alaska. In Alaska, Andrus helped steer a bold and successful strategy to protect 100 million acres using the Antiquities Act ... It was a strategy we’d later revisit with the Boulder-White Clouds,” Johnson said in an email.
“Andrus arguably saved the White Clouds in winning his governor’s race in 1970. He was the first call I made after leaving the Oval Office in 2015 after President Obama signed the Boulder-White Clouds wilderness bill. ‘We finally got it done,’ I told him.”
“Among those who have led the way saving America’s greatest wilderness lands, Cecil Andrus was a giant,” said Craig Gehrke, Idaho state director with The Wilderness Society. “Not only did he save Castle Peak and the White Clouds, but he personally went to bat for spectacular Chamberlain Basin in the proposed River of No Return Wilderness when Boise Cascade was pushing hard to exclude it and log it. I can’t imagine what Idaho would be like had we not benefited from his vision and determination to hand spectacular wild places down to future generations.”
Other local, regional and national remembrances flooded in Friday over email and social media.
Former Interior secretary and Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne: “I clearly remember in 1977, as a recent graduate of the University of Idaho and a new employee of the Idaho Department of Lands, going upstairs in the state Capitol, standing in line with many other Idahoans outside the governor’s office, to shake the hand of Governor Cecil Andrus. It was his last day in office before heading to Washington, D.C., to become secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior. I remember I was proud to shake his hand and to say, ‘God bless you, Governor Andrus.’ Once again, I stand with many fellow Idahoans saying, ‘God bless you, Governor Andrus.’ My prayers are also with Carol and all of the Andrus family members.”
Former Interior Secretary Sally Jewell: “Thank you Idaho Governor and Interior Secretary Cecil Andrus. Your legacy in public service will live on for generations to come.”
U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo: “Governor Andrus was a dynamic and effective leader who knew how to wield authority and get things done for Idaho, and for the nation. His leadership and sense of purpose as a public servant were demonstrated repeatedly during his long career in public service. He earned my respect, and I count him as a friend. He will be forever remembered as a leader of great accomplishment. I send my heartfelt sympathies to his family as they, along with Idaho, mourn his passing.”
U.S. Sen. James Risch: “Governor Andrus was one of the most accomplished, successful and masterful political figures I have worked with. He had the judgment and strength to take matters where he wanted them to go. Vicki and I extend our condolences to Carol and his family and they are in our prayers.”
U.S. Rep. Raúl Labrador: “Cecil Andrus was an Idaho original, a man whose independence and integrity earned the respect of Idahoans across the political spectrum. His blue-collar roots, connection to ordinary Idahoans and commitment to making the state a better place made him Idaho’s only four-term governor. Becca and I have Carol and the rest of the Andrus family in our prayers.”
U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson: “Idaho and our nation have lost a truly great statesman and conservationist today. Kathy and I send our prayers and thoughts to his family for their loss. Governor Andrus will rightly be remembered as a legend in the conservation field. It was fitting that he cut his political teeth protecting Castle Peak as I think they both have a lot in common. They are giants in Idaho and icons to those who believe conservation is a necessity and not a luxury. We will truly miss Cece, but we will always be reminded of how great he was as we are surrounded by his legacy of conservation.”
Idaho Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum: “He was as strong as he was compassionate and he wanted nothing more than to see Idahoans from all walks of life succeed,” said . “Governor Andrus’ brand of leadership comes around once in a generation. Today is a sad day for all Idahoans.”
Idaho House Minority Leader Mat Erpelding, Boise: “Idaho lost a giant this week. The impact he had on Idaho in terms of protecting the state’s natural beauty, investing in education and fighting for the future of rural Idahoans has not been matched since. Personally, I have lost a mentor and friend whose influence on my life and career cannot be overstated.”
Idaho Rep. Cherie Buckner Webb, D-Boise: “A Renaissance man indeed, he served as Idaho governor for 14 years, U.S. Secretary of the Interior, and was a nationally known conservationist, dedicated to the preservation of the environment. He was the real deal! The consummate gentlemen, he epitomized leadership, citizenship and great love for family, friends and the people of Idaho. We will miss you governor.”
Idaho Sen. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d’Alene: “A true Idaho icon passed away yesterday. My wife’s and my prayers go out to the family of Cecil Andrus. He was the longest serving governor in Idaho history and a great secretary of the Interior under President Jimmy Carter. Governor Andrus cared about all of Idaho in a way not seen anymore by most elected officials.”
Idaho Rep. Hy Kloc, D-Boise: “We lost a great leader and a great friend to Idaho and this country. Rest in peace, Gov. Andrus.”
Former Idaho Sen. Russ Fulcher: “My deepest condolences to the family of Governor Cecil Andrus. I am thankful for his service to Idaho and our nation.”
Boise Mayor Dave Bieter: “Few can claim a place in Idaho’s history as esteemed as Cecil Andrus. His mark upon this state is indelible and respect for his capabilities near universal. He served his country and Idaho with integrity, charm and gifted foresight. Personally, he was a hero who always had wise advice and insight at the ready. No one helped me more, especially in the early years of my career.”
Idaho Lt. Gov. Brad Little: “Yesterday Idaho lost a great statesman. He was a respected westerner who defended our quality of life and was an advocate for children and education.”
Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden: “Few people have contributed so much to our state and our nation. Cecil was a statesman and a good man. His passion for Idaho helped make a great place even greater and his impact will continue to be felt for generations.”
Former Idaho Lt. Gov. and Attorney General David Leroy: “With Cece’s passing we have lost a great American, a great Idahoan and a wonderful man. Our politics were very different and our 1986 race for governor was among the closest and most hotly contested in Idaho history. Nevertheless, we remained friends and friendly before, during and after the race. No one ever shook Cece Andrus’ hand and failed to like him, and he shook a lot of hands.”
Boise State President Bob Kustra: “My colleagues at Boise State and I mourn the loss of a great Idaho leader and friend of Boise State. Cecil Andrus represented the very best about our democratic and representative way of life. He reminded us of an earlier era where public officials of different persuasions found ways to come together for the good of the country. Cecil Andrus built a brilliant career doing just that. At Boise State, with the Andrus Center for Public Policy, he built on his legacy in government as a passionate voice for conservation and public lands and as an advocate for moderation in our politics. He offered leadership, friendship and grace to me personally and to all on our campus who had the great good fortune to work with him.”
Montana Gov. Steve Bullock: “I will always admire Cecil Andrus for his commitment to public lands and for the mark he left not only in Idaho, but all over the West.”
Boise musician Curtis Stigers: “Cecil Andrus was one of the great ones and we won’t see the likes of him again soon.”
Idaho Democratic Party: “A remarkable and influential leader, Governor Cecil D. Andrus was a true public servant. He was an authentic and dignified statesman and even when serving in the highest offices of our nation, he remained an Idaho outdoorsman, a neighbor, and a friend. A giant of a man, Governor Andrus was Idaho’s longest serving governor and leaves behind a legacy that Idahoans will forever cherish. His practical, sincere, and kind-hearted leadership will be truly missed.”
Idaho Democratic Party Chairman Bert Marley: “Governor Andrus was an inspiration to me. As a candidate and a legislator, he was always available for advice and support. He was the honorary chairman of my campaign when I ran for superintendent of public instruction and was someone who I could always turn to. Governor Andrus was continuously supportive of the work we did to try to improve the lives of all Idahoans.”
Bob Hoover, College of Idaho interim president, regarding the Cecil D. Andrus Scholarship at the private college, which Andrus once served on the board of: “That scholarship in his name is so worthy of what his role has been in terms of the College of Idaho. It is worthy of supporting kids who may go on to have potentially the same kind of impact on the state. One of them has probably already graduated; another may be on the way, who was supported through college by that scholarship.”
Idaho Rep. John McCrostie, D-Garden City, also reacted to the news.
Andrus Center for Public Policy: “Among the most prominent and successful Democrats ever to emerge from Idaho, Andrus often referred to himself as ‘a political accident,’ but engendered widespread support across the political spectrum thanks to a warm personality, a candid, outspoken style and an infectious sense of humor.” Read the center’s obit and memorial announcement here.
Bill Manny contributed.