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Thomas Kleppe was the son of North Dakota homesteaders. With a background in banking and business, he would become Bismarck, North Dakota's youngest mayor and was twice elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. President Nixon made him the head of the Small Business Administration, and President Ford brought him to the Department of the Interior after Secretary Hathaway's unexpected resignation. As Secretary, Kleppe tried to strike a balance between environmental concerns and resource development. He approved the sale of oil and gas rights off southern California but blocked a hydroelectric project in North Carolina and controversially banned lead shotgun pellets for hunting waterfowl. When President Ford lost the 1976 election, Kleppe left Interior to teach at the University of Wyoming. He is interred at Arlington National Cemetery.

Artist Everett Raymond Kinstler turned to portraiture in the 1950s after drawing such characters as The Shadow and Doc Savage for comic books and pulp magazines. Among his first important portrait commissions were astronauts Alan Shepard Jr. and Scott Carpenter. Over the course of seven decades he painted some 2,500 portraits, including more Cabinet officials than any artist in American history. In addition to Secretary Kleppe's portrait, Kinstler painted three others for Interior.

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