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Gaylord Nelson

Gaylord Nelson, U.S. Senator, Founder of Earth Day in 1970

Here is a link to an article in which he describes himself as a Unitarian who considers it a "useless excercise" to worry about an afterlife:


Clear Lake is where he will return. Years ago, Nelson bought a tombstone there for himself and his wife, Carrie Lee, though the burial will be of their ashes in the same plot with his mother, father, paternal grandparents, brother and two sisters. He said he got the marker to relieve his children of the burden.

"It's beautifully designed," he said. "It's got Carrie Lee's birth and so forth, and then it also has, governor, this period, U.S. senator, founder of Earth Day. Well, when people go through the cemetery 50 years from now, they ask, 'Who the hell are these people?' So you put something on it. Cemeteries tell a story. They're the history of the area."

Despite the planning that went into the headstone, Nelson was never particularly religious. He laughed and said, "I'm the sort of a Unitarian who has been humorously defined as believing in one God at most."

He said he believed religion played an important role as a moderator of people's conduct. But for himself, he said, "If you could name a more useless exercise than worrying yourself about an afterlife. . . . "

His mother was part Irish and reared as a Catholic, but Nelson attended a Methodist church in Clear Lake as a boy, usually spending four cents of his nickel for the collection plate on licorice on the way to church.

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