National Park Service: The First 75 Years
Biographical Vignettes
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James V. Murfin
1929-1987


                                          by Paula Degan

James V. Murfin
(Courtesy of Nancy Murfin)


Born in Hagerstown, Maryland, September 25. 1929. James Vernon Murfin grew rip near great historical parks. He was trained as a commercial artist and worked in publications at Fairchild Aircraft and in the air force. He worked for Historical Times, Inc., in Gettysburg. Pennsylvania. Kiplinger Washington Editors, and the U.S. Capitol Historical Society, while spending his personal time researching and writing. His first book, The Gleam of Bayonets, was about Antietam battlefield near his hometown. It won the Fletcher Pratt Award of the New York Civil War Roundtable for the best nonfiction Civil War book of 1965. In 1967 he joined the National Park Service in the Publications Division at Harpers Ferry. He wrote and published until his death in March 1987, leaving a legacy of more than a dozen books, numerous articles, and other publications.

But it is for the period 1974 to 1985 as service-wide cooperating association coordinator that we most remember Jim Murfin. He recognized the untapped potential of association publishing and, in 1974, initiated a double-barreled approach to improving park literature: Jim initiated training programs which encompassed all phases of publishing; and he established an awards competition as part of a Biennial Conference of Cooperating Associations. For both efforts. he enlisted some of the nation's leading writers, editors, designers. photographers, and publishers.

Jim also secured expert booksellers to help improve bookstore design and merchandising. Major publishers began to notice associations; cooperation meant better discounts joint publishing opportunities, and, wider distribution channels. Concerned that parks were ignoring young readers, Jim initiated a program to encourage associations to develop and offer children's books. Jim's success can be measured in tangible ways: in 1974 there were 60 entries in the first publications competition; cooperating association gross sales totaled $6 million of which about $550,000 went to support park interpretation. By the time Jim retired for health reasons in 1985, there were 170 entries in the competition: gross sales exceeded $20 million and donations to park interpretation topped $5 million. Today, cooperating associations are committed to providing professional quality publications. The public is enriched by the quality, and quantity of park literature. In addition to the legacy left in his own historical writings, Jim Murfin left us the inspiration and methodology to make association publications worthy of the parks they represent.


From National Park Service: The First 75 Years




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