William M. "Mark" Gosdin (1918-2011) received the Pugsley Medal in 1968. He was born in Leesburg (Camp County), Texas on March 28, 1918. In 1927, his family, consisting of his maternal grandparents, his parents, and three sisters, loaded all their possessions on a railroad boxcar and moved to Shallowater, near Lubbock, Texas. In 1936, he graduated from Shallowater High School.
Shortly after the outbreak of WorldWar II, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps. After boot camp at Lubbock Army Airfield, he was assigned to various military posts including Fort Lewis, Washington, and Bryan Army Airfield (present-day Texas A&M University Riverside Campus). Taking advantage of the GI Bill, he entered Texas Technological College and graduated in 1949 with B.S. degree in Horticulture. While completing his degree he met Elo Urbanovsky (Pugsley Medal 1962), who hired him to assist with the transformation of the early Texas Tech campus from a sand-blown and virtually treeless landscape to one featuring oaks, honey locusts, blue spruce, and beds of chrysanthemums and other flowering plants. While serving as superintendent of grounds at Texas Tech, he joined Urbanovsky on the faculty in the newly-formed Department of Park Administration. In 1955, he completed an M.S. degree in horticulture (turfgrass management). In the late 1950s and early 1960s, he provided leadership for the graduate studies program which gained state and national prominence.
In 1963, John Connally was sworn in as governor of Texas. Under Connally's direction, the Texas Research League conducted multiple studies of state agencies and programs to keep state government abreast of a new and dynamic political landscape that was emerging both at the federal and state levels of government. One of the recommendations by the Research League was that Texas Tech College be commissioned to conduct a study of Tcxas State Parks and make recommendations for needed improvements. Gosdin was selected as program leader for the study. The departments of horticulture, park management, biology, and history cooperated in the study of the scenic, recreational, and historical aspects of the state. The study, along with plans, models, and cost estimates, was presented to the State Parks Board, who in turn presented it to Governor Connally.
Governor Connally, with the support of Lieutenant Governor Preston Smith, used this study to guide his legislative recommendations, which resulted in combining the Texas Parks Board and the Game and Fish Commission into the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD). The new department was organized into several divisions, of which Parks Services and Wildlife Services were predominant. Gosdin was appointed head of Park Services in 1963 because of the intimate knowledge of the system that he had acquired during the research project.
One of Gosdin's first tasks was to initiate a renovation program of state park facilities which had received little, if any, attention since the 1930s. Consistent with the Tech study, Governor Connally's budget recommendations called for facility renovations costing $1.25 million for three state parks, Falcon, Whitney, and Martin Dies, Jr. Their renovations were completed during the 1964-1965 Biennium. Also, during the 1964-65 Biennium, Gosdin formed a Comprehensive Planning Branch within the Parks Services Division that was responsible for preparing the State ofTexas Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan, which would initially qualify the state for federal matching funds out of the new Land and Water Conservation Fund.
With the successful completion of the three state park renovations, and the almost complete comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan, the legislature authorized funding for renovation and development projects at an additional six state parks for the 1966-1967 Biennium.
The 60th Legislature convened in January 1967, and at the behest of Governor Connally, passed HB 12, which amended the Texas Constitution by adding Section 49-e, to provide for bonds to create the Texas Park Development Fund. The bonds were subject to approval by Texas voters, which occurred at a statewide election in November 1967. The total bond package authorized issuance of $75 million of general state obligation bonds to be sold over an indefinite period of time for acquisition of state park lands. The final portion of these bonds ($500,000) was not sold until the late 1990s. In 1968, funds from the initial bond sales became available for use by TPWD, and a portion of these was used for the land purchase of Dinosaur Valley State Park.
In 1967, funds from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, administered byTPWD since 1965, became available for distribution to the political subdivisions of the state. The initial funds were split 60% state, 40% local government. The state's share of these funds, together with increasing legislative appropriations and the additional bond program money, brought about a dramatic facelift for state parks in Texas.
During the years 1964 through 1968, Gosdin was actively involved in the acquisition and development of LBJ State Park and in coordinating with NPS staff to establish the adjacent LBJ National Park. During this time, several state and national awards for facilities and programs were won by the TPWD.
In 1971, Gosdin became head of Special Studies. He served in this capacity until his retirement in January 1983. During his 19-year tenure with TPWD, Gosdin was involved in state park acquisitions that more than doubled the state park acreage and created over 40 state parks to add to the 61 that existed at the beginning of his tenure.
John Mark Gosdin contributed to the development of this profile.