National Park Service mourns the passing of a great leader and visionary
Former NPS Director George Hartzog leaves a broad legacy of accomplishment
George B. Hartzog, Jr., March 17, 1920 – June 27, 2008, served as the seventh director of the National Park Service (NPS). During his nine-year tenure, 1964 to 1973, Hartzog led the largest expansion of the National Park System in its history. During those nine years, seventy-two sites were added to the National Park System, sites that included national parks, historical and archeological monuments, recreation areas, seashores, riverways, memorials, and cultural units celebrating minority experiences. Hartzog was a visionary and his efforts went a long way in enlarging the agency’s role in urban recreation, historic preservation, interpretation, and environmental education.
“George Hartzog was one of the great champions of the National Park Service,” said NPS Director Mary A. Bomar. “His vision of what the national parks should be and should mean to the American people left an indelible mark on the agency he so loved and believed in. His goal of making the National Park Service relevant to people who previously had been overlooked, especially minorities and women, has strengthened our agency.”
“I was fortunate to have known Mr. Hartzog, he truly inspired me early in my career as he did so many others who knew him through the impact of his legacy. Once I assumed my Directorship - we got to know each other personally then I found myself truly inspired by him -his big ideals of public service, as well as his passion for the National Park Service and its employees. My special memory of him was at the White House this past Christmas celebrating our National Parks --he was so happy at that event.
Our hearts go out to his wife Helen and their children who I know will miss him greatly. His National Park Service family will miss him too, but we all thank him for helping make us what we are today.”
Hartzog joined the NPS in 1946, when he entered the service as an Attorney. Field assignments as Assistant Superintendent at Great Smoky Mountains and Rocky Mountains national parks came along soon after. While serving in St. Louis, he brought to completion one of America’s most recognizable landmarks, the Gateway Arch.
Former Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall noted "Hartzog was able to leave behind a legacy that to this day is unsurpassed in the amount of land acquired, and the amount of legislation passed to protect public lands.” He described Hartzog as a reminder "of the glories of public service and the legacies our best bureaucrats leave to future generations."
There are many achievements as NPS Director that Hartzog was proud of, but it was his resolve that the NPS should reflect the Nation’s increased awareness for minorities that might stand the highest in many people’s eyes. Hartzog made it a high priority to advance programs that would include minorities. During his tenure he named the first African American park superintendent, the first female superintendent from the career ranks, the first Native American superintendent, and the first African American chief of a major U.S. police department. – the United States Park Police.
Former NPS Director James Ridenour noted, “George Hartzog was one of a kind. He probably had a closer relationship with Members of Congress than any director, before or after, during his years of leadership of the National Park Service. His was common sense
leadership. Most of us who have led the NPS have felt the weight of political pressure from both parties as we carried out our duties but George had a way doing the right thing despite those pressures. He will be missed.”
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