Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS

About the Series | Get Involved | TV Schedules | For Educators | Contact Us |

George Melendez Wright

George Melendez Wright (1904–1936)

His first-of-a-kind survey resulted in two landmark reports that urged the Park Service to change ingrained practices such as feeding bears at dumps and killing predators, in order to allow nature to take its course in the parks. .

George Melendez Wright with wife, Bee, and daughter, Pam Add to Scrapbook

George Melendez Wright with wife, Bee, and daughter, Pam

George Melendez Wright was born into a wealthy San Francisco family. His father was a ship's captain and his mother was from one of El Salvador's most prominent dynasties. He exhibited an early interest in the natural world, hiking from San Francisco to California's northern border in his mid-teens, and earning a degree in forestry and zoology from the University of California, Berkeley. During a field trip to Alaska, he was credited with being the first scientist to locate and describe the nest and eggs of the rare surfbird.

George Melendez Wright with Maria Lebrado (Totuya), Yosemite National Park, 1929 Add to Scrapbook

George Melendez Wright with Maria Lebrado (Totuya), Yosemite National Park, 1929

George Melendez Wright's field auto Add to Scrapbook

George Melendez Wright's field auto

In the late 1920s, Wright went to work as an assistant park naturalist at >Yosemite National Park, where his fluency in Spanish helped with interpretation during the emotional return of Totuya, the granddaughter of Chief Tenaya and the last survivor of the expulsion of the Ahwahneechees in 1851. In 1930, he persuaded his superiors to let him and two colleagues conduct a four-year survey of wildlife and plant life conditions in the national parks, funding the ambitious program with his own funds. His first-of-a-kind survey resulted in two landmark reports that urged the Park Service to change ingrained practices such as feeding bears at dumps and killing predators, in order to allow nature to take its course in the parks.

In 1933, Horace Albright named him the first chief of the newly created Wildlife Division. Only 29 years old, Wright supervised the hiring of more biologists and investigated new sites for national parks, such as the Florida Everglades. He continued to push for park policies to preserve the animals and plants as well as the dramatic scenery.

In 1936, he was part of a commission studying a potential international park along the Big Bend of the Rio Grande in Texas and Mexico. On his way home from Texas, he was killed in a car accident at the age of 31.

Mountains in Big Bend National Park and Denali National Park now bear his name. In his honor, admirers formed the George Wright Society, a nonprofit association of researchers and managers working on behalf of scientific and heritage values in protected areas.

Next bio: the Cook Family

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

Download Wallpapers

Download some of the glorious images from the documentary to enjoy on your desktop.

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

 

What is this?

 

Hide this

Show Scrapbook Bar