National Park Service: The First 75 Years
Biographical Vignettes
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George B. Hartzog, Jr.
1920-present


                                          by Robert Cahn

George B. Hartzog, Jr.


George B. Hartzog, seventh director of the National Park Service, was born in Colleton County, South Carolina, March 17, 1920. The eldest of three children, he was brought up in poverty. At the age of 17, he became the youngest Methodist preacher appointed by the church at that time. After one semester of college, he left school to help support his family, but read law and was admitted to the bar in South Carolina in 1942. He rose to the rank of captain during World War I. He became an attorney for the General Land Office (now the Bureau of Land Management) in the Department of the Interior in 1945, and six months later transferred to the National Park Service as an attorney. While in Washington, Hartzog took night courses at American University, receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in 1953. Named superintendent of Jefferson National Expansion Memorial in 1959, he left the NPS in 1962 to become executive director of Downtown St. Louis, Inc. In 1963 Hartzog returned to the Park Service as associate director and became director in 1964, serving for nine years. (He was forced out of office after the Service revoked a special use permit allowing President Richard M. Nixon's friend, Bebe Rebozo, to dock his houseboat at Biscayne National Monument, Florida). Hartzog is now in the private practice of law. He and his wife, Helen, have three children, George, Nancy, and Edward. Hartzog was awarded the Department of Interior's Distinguished Service Award in 1962. He was profiled by John McPhee in The New Yorker magazine in 1971 and wrote an autobiography, Battling for The National Parks, in 1988.

George Hartzog accomplished much toward three major goals as director: to expand the system to save important areas before they were lost, to make the system relevant to an urban society, and to open positions to people who had not previously had much access to them, especially minorities and women. During his directorship, the Park Service added 69 areas. In 1968 he appointed Grant Wright to head the U.S. Park Police, the first black man to head a major police force in the United States, and selected several women to be park superintendents, including Lorraine Mintzmyer at Herbert Hoover NHS. The first major urban recreation areas, Gateway (New York) and Golden Gate (San Francisco) national recreation areas, were acquired in 1972. The "Summer in the Parks" urban program was started at Richmond National Battlefield Park and in Washington, D.C., and living history interpretation was advanced. Hartzog operated in the style of first NPS Director Stephen Mather in gaining the cooperation of members of Congress. He was instrumental in getting congressional approval for the 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, allowing 80 million acres of Alaska wildlands to be withdrawn for new national parks, wildlife refuges, and wilderness. Former Interior Secretary Stewart L. Udall said, "[Hartzog] ... was a consummate negotiator, he enjoyed entering political thickets; he had the self-confidence and savvy to be his own lobbyist and to win most of his arguments with members of Congress, Governors and Presidents."


From National Park Service: The First 75 Years




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Last Modified: Dec 1 2000 10:00:00 pm PDT
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