George B. Hartzog, Jr., served as seventh director of the National Park Service for nine years, 1964 to 1972. This oral history, the third in a series of interviews with former directors by Park Service bureau historian Janet McDonnell, records Hartzog’s commentary and judgments on the events of his tenure. It is a valuable contribution to the history of the national parks and the National Park Service.
I approach this foreword as both participant and historian. As participant, I served as chief historian of the National Park Service through the entire directorate of George Hartzog. As historian, I have had more than three decades to study and reflect on those frantic, momentous years, with the added perspective afforded by the passage of time.
As participant, I remember George Hartzog as an administrator of rare ability. He was a workaholic who drove his staff at his pace. He not only managed, he ruled. He could be deeply caring, friendly, and sentimental with everyone in the Service. He could also be nearly tyrannical in his demands for superior performance. He entertained a broad vision of what the national parks should be and should mean to the American people, and he pursued his vision relentlessly. Above all, both with the Executive Branch and the Congress, he possessed political cunning, insight, and mastery almost nonexistent among federal agency heads, and he employed these talents to the great benefit of the National Park Service and the environmental movement launched by his chief, Interior Secretary Stewart Udall.
I have been privileged to call George Hartzog friend in all the years since my experience as participant.
Casting myself now as historian rather than participant and friend, I stand back as far as possible to appraise the Hartzog directorate. In the interview, he deals with the events of his administration with all the charm, wit, candor, verbal facility, and articulation for which he has always been known. Here I place these events in more orderly form as background to his commentary.
Most important, he led the largest expansion of the National Park System in history. During his nine-year tenure, the system grew by seventy-two units totaling 2.7 million acres–not just national parks, but historical and archeological monuments and sites, recreation areas, seashores, riverways, memorials, and cultural units celebrating minority experiences in America.
Working closely with subcommittee chairman Senator Alan Bible in 1971, he laid the legislative basis for the expansion of the National Park System in Alaska. When the Congress in 1980 finally acted on this provision of law, it doubled the acreage of the National Park System.