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Reshaping Our National Parks and Their Guardians

The Legacy of George B. Hartzog Jr.

Kathy Mengak; Foreword by Robert M. Utley

Publication Year: 2012

This biography of the seventh director of the National Park Service brings to life one of the most colorful, powerful, and politically astute people to hold this position. George B. Hartzog Jr. served during an exciting and volatile era in American history. Appointed in 1964 by Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall, he benefited from a rare combination of circumstances that favored his vision, which was congenial with both President Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” and Udall’s robust environmentalism.

Hartzog led the largest expansion of the National Park System in history and developed social programs that gave the Service new complexion. During his nine-year tenure, the system grew by seventy-two units totaling 2.7 million acres including not just national parks, but historical and archaeological monuments and sites, recreation areas, seashores, riverways, memorials, and cultural units celebrating minority experiences in America. In addition, Hartzog sought to make national parks relevant and responsive to the nation’s changing needs.

Published by: University of New Mexico Press

Front Cover

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Title Page

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pp. v

Illustrations and Maps

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xi

George B. Hartzog Jr. served as seventh director of the National Park Service for nine years, from 1964 to 1972. As an outsized personality who studded his career with outsized achievements, he has long deserved a biography. Kathy Mengak has filled that need admirably. She came to know both...

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pp. xiii-xiv

When someone first suggested I write a book about George Hartzog I thought they were crazy. Sure Hartzog was a fascinating person who left his indelible mark on the National Park System and warranted a book—but me an author! Over time I came to believe it possible. So I send my heartfelt...

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pp. 1-9

While much has been written about Stephen T. Mather and Horace M. Albright, the founding fathers of the National Park Service, subsequent directors who shaped the agency’s vision and direction remain less studied. Among these, George B. Hartzog Jr., the seventh director, was one of the...

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1: The Early Years

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pp. 10-22

For years an old stone fireplace stood near the crossroads village of Smoaks in rural South Carolina. Before crumbling into rubble, it bore the tiny ink-and-soot imprint of an infant’s foot. The footprint had been placed there on March 17, 1920, by a proud father celebrating the birth of his first male child...

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2: The National Park Service

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pp. 23-34

In October 1946, at age twenty-six, George Hartzog joined the National Park Service—an agency only slightly older than he was. Despite its youth, the Park Service already possessed a strong sense of mission and a body of rich traditions. Although officially established in the Department of the Interior...

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3: Journey to the Directorate [Contains Image Plates]

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pp. 35-46

Hartzog left the military in 1946 in search of a career path. With his South Carolina contacts largely dried up, he decided to look in the Washington area, which also brought him closer to Helen Carlson. Paul Gantt, a military buddy, helped get him interviews with two federal agencies...

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4: The Hartzog Directorate

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pp. 47-60

The assassination of President Kennedy on November 22, 1963, threw George Hartzog’s appointment as director into question. Wirth was not retiring by choice, Hartzog believed, and he reasoned that if Lyndon Johnson selected another secretary of the interior, Conrad Wirth might keep...

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5: Opening the Door to Workforce Diversity

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pp. 61-92

At forty-three, George Hartzog brought youth, vigor, and change to a largely white male organization that promoted from within its ranks and understood that a reasonably good performance would eventually be rewarded by promotion. When he became director of the National Park Service...

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6: Urban Recreation Programs and Areas

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pp. 93-125

When George Hartzog became director of the Park Service in 1964, many American cities lacked adequate outdoor spaces that provided opportunities for recreation. In a rush to grow, America’s quaint old towns had given way to an ever-widening circle of homes, businesses, roads...

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7: Expanding the National Park System

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pp. 126-166

The timing for George Hartzog’s rise to the directorate could not have been better. An environmental consciousness was sweeping the country along with a newfound respect for historical treasures. As people saw more resources being developed and polluted, citizen and conservation groups...

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8: Alaska, the Last Park Frontier

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pp. 167-194

“I hope that the Alaska bug bites you—and I don’t mean mosquitoes,” wrote Doris Leonard to George Hartzog in June 1965 prior to his first visit. “There is something about that place that haunts one,” the enthusiastic conservationist and wife of a former Sierra Club president...

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9: More New Directions [Contains Image Plates]

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pp. 195-226

In reflecting on his administration’s accomplishments during a 1996 interview, George Hartzog initially mentioned three things—diversifying the workforce, making parks more relevant to urban populations, and expanding the National Park System. In the ensuing years, he would expand...

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10: Going Fishing: Life After the National Park Service

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pp. 227-235

George Hartzog knew in 1969 that the political winds would shift with the incoming Republican administration. While Johnson’s Great Society initiatives had encouraged the federal government’s expansion, Nixon had campaigned on a new federalism that promised to cut taxes and reduce...

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11: The Hartzog Legacy [Contains Image Plates]

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pp. 236-243

Stewart Udall hired forty-three-year-old George Hartzog to bring a fresh, innovative perspective to the National Park Service and mold it into a more contemporary agency responsive to the shifting needs of the American people. That edict plus the Park Service’s mission...


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pp. 245-278

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 279-288


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pp. 289-296

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780826351104
E-ISBN-10: 0826351107
Print-ISBN-13: 9780826351081
Print-ISBN-10: 0826351085

Page Count: 360
Illustrations: 34 illustrations, 2 maps
Publication Year: 2012

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • United States. -- National Park Service -- History.
  • National parks and reserves -- United States -- History.
  • United States. National Park Service -- Officials and employees -- Biography.
  • Hartzog, George B.
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