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Historical Figures

Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1937 Add To Scrapbook

Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1937

Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882–1945)

Episode(s): 4, 5
Associated Park(s): Great Smoky Mountains

Like his famous older cousin Theodore, Franklin Delano Roosevelt became an energetic park supporter as president. In the midst of the Depression, national parks were dramatically improved by Roosevelt's Civilian Conservation Corps. Despite the hard times, the number of park visitors skyrocketed, prompted in part by Roosevelt's highly publicized parks trips and constant encouragement to his fellow citizens to follow his example.

With Harold Ickes, his Secretary of the Interior, Roosevelt also embarked on ambitious expansions of the park system. In 1933, he signed the order transferring sites such as Civil War battlefields and the Lincoln Memorial to the care of the Park Service, in one stroke of the pen enlarging the national park idea to include the nation's history.

He took on entrenched interests to create Olympic and Kings Canyon National Parks; made Great Smoky Mountains National Park possible by directing federal funds to purchase park land for the first time in history; fought for the expansion of Grand Teton National Park and the establishment of other national parks such as Isle Royale in Lake Superior; and created a string of national monuments – Joshua Tree, Capitol Reef, the Dry Tortugas, the Channel Islands – which would ultimately become national parks.

General Phillip Sheridan with party at Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park, 1881 Add To Scrapbook

General Phillip Sheridan with party at Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park, 1881

General Philip Sheridan (1831–1888)

Episode(s): 1, 2, 4
Associated Park(s): Yellowstone

Sheridan was a hero of the Civil War who later became a key general during the Indian wars on the Great Plains. In 1882, he led an expedition that blazed the trail from Wyoming's Jackson Hole into Yellowstone National Park. In the park, he witnessed the indiscriminate slaughter of elk and buffalo, and vowed it should be brought to an end.

Sheridan joined Missouri Senator George Vest in taking President Chester Arthur on a camping trip through the park in 1883, and urged greater protection. His proposal to double the size of Yellowstone to more closely conform to the migratory habits of its large game was soundly defeated by Western political interests, but when Congress stripped away Yellowstone's funding in 1886, Sheridan dispatched the 1st U.S. Cavalry to run the park. The military remained as protectors of Yellowstone National Park until 1916, when the National Park Service took over.

Stewart Udall, 1965 Add To Scrapbook

Stewart Udall, 1965

Stewart Udall (1920– )

Episode(s): 2, 6

Born in St. Johns, Arizona, Stewart Udall served as a U.S. congressman from Arizona from 1955 to 1961, and as Secretary of the Interior under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson from 1961 to 1969.

His tenure as Interior Secretary was distinguished by an ambitious expansion of the national park system, passage of the Wilderness Bill, creation of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and the establishment of more than 50 new wildlife refuges.

In 2009, he was living in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Robert Sterling Yard, Yosemite National Park, 1920 Add To Scrapbook

Robert Sterling Yard, Yosemite National Park, 1920

Robert Sterling Yard (1861–1945)

Episode(s): 3, 4
Associated Park(s): Great Smoky Mountains

Yard had made a name for himself as a reporter and editor with The Century Magazine and New York Herald when his friend Stephen Mather hired him as a publicist in the Department of the Interior in 1915. (To lure him to the job, Mather paid Yard's $5,000 salary from his own pocket.) Working with Mather, Yard helped bring national attention to the parks as never before – from well-placed news articles to creation of the National Parks Portfolio – and was instrumental in the promotional campaign that led to creation of the National Park Service in 1916.

With Mather's help, in 1919 he became the first executive secretary of the new National Parks Association (now the National Parks Conservation Association), and in that role eventually parted ways with his old boss on the direction of some park policies. In particular, he worried that some new parks were not up to what he called "national park standards" and he became increasingly critical of Mather's and Horace Albright's willingness to embrace the automobile as a way of getting more people into the parks. In 1936, reacting to proposals by the Park Service to build a skyline drive through Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Yard became a founder and president of the new Wilderness Society.

Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park

Send Email Postcards

Create personalized postcards using images from The National Parks series and email them to friends or family.

View with fog in valley and peaks lighted by sunset, winter; Yosemite National Park

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Untold Stories

Untold Stories

Discover the "hidden" stories of the national parks that explore the role of minorities in the creation and protection of the parks.

National Park Service rangers

Visit America's Best Idea

You own 391 national parks. Come for a visit and take away the experience of a lifetime. Help the National Park Service make America's Best Idea even better!

Bank of America Evelyn & Walter Haas, Jr Fund Corporation for Public Broadcasting The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations Park Foundation

National Park Foundation The Peter Jay Sharp Foundation The Pew Charitable TrustsGM

THE NATIONAL PARKS: AMERICA'S BEST IDEA is a co-production of

Florentine Films and WETA

 

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