Honors Program


Document Type


Date of this Version



Partsch, Luke. "J. Sterling Morton: The Founder of Arbor Day's Political Career and Legacy." Undergraduate Honors Thesis. University of Nebraska-Lincoln. 2024.


Copyright Luke Partsch 2024


J. Sterling Morton was one of the founding statesmen of Nebraska. He played a large role in the Democratic Party throughout his life, being appointed Secretary of the Nebraska Territory, running as the Democratic nominee for Governor four times, and serving as Secretary of Agriculture in Grover Cleveland’s cabinet. A newspaper editor, Morton had a public role in shaping political discourse. He advocated for conservation and founded Arbor Day, a tree planting holiday that continues to this day. His legacy has come under criticism in recent years due to racist comments and political platforms, especially in his younger years. Through analyzing his newspaper writings and his political career, this project serves to examine his overall political legacy, defined by his core principles and priorities, to determine how he should be remembered today.