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Portrait of Controversial Secretary Unveiled at Interior

January 22, 1985

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The buffalo on his lapel pin facing the wrong way - right - James G. Watt told Interior Department employees Tuesday the ″Reagan revolution continues″ in the agency’s policies even though secretaries come and go.

The occasion was the official unveiling of the department’s portrait of Watt, the controversial former secretary who resigned in late 1983.

The current secretary, William P. Clark, broke his usual silence on his predecessor to say, ″Jim served nobly and history will so show.″

Watt thanked Clark for supporting him in his controversies with telephone calls from the White House, where Clark used to work, to say, ″The president knows what you’re doing. Stay the course.″

In introducing Watt, Clark, who is leaving the Interior post, noted ″six high points of the Reagan policy″ at the department. ″Jim Watt left his mark on all six, and the policy continues,″ Clark said.

The six points were the enhancement of domestic energy sources; improvement of national parks and wildlife refugees; ″support and improved management of quality water resources to avert a crisis″ in the 1990s; a good-neighbor policy with state and local governments; promotion of economic and social resources on Indian reservations and Pacific island trust territories; and ″good management and decisive leadership.″

Neither man mentioned the specific measures that made Watt the target of conservationist and environmentalist ire: the attempt to open wildlife refugees to exploratory oil drilling, attempts to greatly enlarge coal and oil leasing and the refusal to seek funds to buy more park land while funds were committed to making repairs.

Nor did they mention the flap-provoking Watt tongue, which eventually drove him to resign following ethnic characterizations of members of a study commission.

One of Watt’s first actions was to change the design of the secretary’s stationery to make the buffalo on the department seal face right instead of left, the way it had been positioned since the department was formed in 1849.

At first the department said the change was made for typographical reasons, but later Watt boasted that the switch symbolized a turn to conservative policies. He passed out lapel pins with rightward-facing buffaloes.

Watt said he was pleased the artist, John A. Fox of New York City, faithfully rendered the pin in his portrayal of Watt standing, hands clasped at the waist, in a dark business suit.

″For reasons of economy we never did change the department seal, but at least there’ll be one seal in the building facing the right way,″ Watt joked.

He noted the artist had painted him so that his eyes seem to look directly at the viewer no matter what the viewing angle.

″The face is looking at you. Be careful 3/8″ he said.

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