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Harrison Loesch

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Harrison Loesch March 10th, 1916–November 11th, 1997 was a Colorado attorney who became Assistant Secretary of Interior under Richard Nixon He served in that position from 1969 to 1973 He was responsible for major changes in the Bureau of Indian Affairs, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, and the Division of Territories and Island Possessions, all of which reported directly to him


Loesch was born in Chicago on March 10, 1916 He was the son of Joseph B Loesch and Constance Harrison Loesch and grandson of prominent Chicago attorney Frank J Loesch He was raised in Montrose, Colorado where his parents owned a ranch He received a BA from Colorado College in 1936 and his LLB from Yale Law School in 1939 Loesch returned from Yale to practice law in Montrose in 1939, at the firm of Moynihan, Hughes & Knous He married his wife Louise Mills in 1940 He volunteered and served in World War II with the United States Army Air Forces He served in North Africa, then participated in the invasions of Sicily and Italy, and finally in the Normandy Landings, rising from private to the wartime temporary rank of colonel and permanent rank of major After he returned to Montrose, he became a partner at the firm of Strang, Loesch & Kreidler He then founded his own firm, Loesch, Kreidler & Durham In 1961 Loesch was elected president of the Colorado Bar Association1 His practice was broadly general, but with considerable specialization in resource matters His clients included numerous mining, electric, and other resource-oriented companies, as well as farmers, ranchers and other individuals and companies

In March 1969, Loesch was nominated by Richard Nixon for the position of Assistant Secretary of Interior for Public Land Management and confirmed by the Senate In spite of the title, Loesch's departments included the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Division of Territories and Island Possessions, as well as the Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service He served under Secretary of the Interior Wally Hickel until November 1970, then under Rogers Morton

During his tenure as Assistant Secretary, Loesch was involved in several controversies concerning Native Americans One of the most notable was the occupation of Interior Department offices in Washington DC in 1972 by members of the American Indian Movement AIM, led by Dennis Banks2 and Russell Means3 Loesch was also intimately involved in negotiating the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, which was signed in December 1971, and in the settlement of disputes among the Navaho, Zuni and Hopi tribes and the states of Arizona and New Mexico throughout his tenure4

Loesch's responsibility for the Division of Territories and Island Possessions occasioned several visits to the US Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, generally referred to as "Micronesia" During his tenure, Loesch negotiated status agreements for the various territories, which today include Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the Federated States of Micronesia At the request of island leaders, Loesch drew on his legal background to draft some of the founding documents for these new entities4

In early December 1972, Loesch received a telephone call from John Ehrlichman, Assistant to the President, requesting that he immediately release $50,000 from his discretionary fund for use by the White House Similar requests went out to Assistant Secretaries in other departments Correctly suspecting that this request was related to the unfolding Watergate scandal, Loesch insisted on a written memo requesting the money On December 8, Loesch's "resignation" was accepted5 However, because he was deeply involved in critical negotiations concerning Indian water rights in Arizona, the Nixon White House found it necessary to “unfire” Loesch for several weeks,6 before “refiring” him on January 20, 19734

Upon leaving the Interior Department, Loesch became Minority Counsel for the Senate Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs In that capacity, he advised Senators and drafted legislation on issues related to water resources, public land management, settlement of Indian claims and territories and possessions In 1976, he accepted the position of Executive Vice President for Public Affairs with Peabody Coal Company1 He retired from that position in 1981 and returned to Montrose, where he was active in local banking and community affairs4 He died aged 81, on November 11, 1997 in Minneapolis, Minnesota


  1. ^ a b "Loesch, Harrison", Who's Who in America, 43rd Edition 1984-85, Vol 2, p 2008
  2. ^ Banks, Dennis and Erdoes, Richard: Ojibwa Warrior: Dennis Banks And The Rise Of The American Indian Movement, p 134
  3. ^ Means, Russell and Wolf, Marvin J: Where White Men Fear to Tread: The Autobiography of Russell Means, p 231
  4. ^ a b c d Loesch, Harrison: Unpublished memoir, 1995
  5. ^ Nixon, Richard: Letter to Harrison Loesch, December 8, 1972
  6. ^ Nixon, Richard: Letter to Harrison Loesch, December 15, 1972

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