Recipient Biography

William A. "Bill" Parr

William A. "Bill" Parr (1914-1985) received the Pugsley Medal in 1973. He was a native of Ithaca, New York, and graduated in 1936 from Cornell University with a bachelor 's degree in forestry. That degree program was later eliminated, but Parr was proud of his Cornell background. It was significant because when he was subsequently hired by Maryland, he broke the tradition of Maryland hiring foresters from the academic program at Yale.
After graduation, he was employed as a forester with responsibility for several Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camps. Between 1936 and 1941, he worked for the Appalachian Forest Experiment Station in Ashville, North Carolina; the Northeastern Forest Emergency Program which used CCC camps to restore woodlands destroyed in a 1938 hurricane; and the land acquisition division of the Soil Conservation Service in Hinesville, Georgia. In 1941, he returned to Ithaca to work with the New York State Electric and Gas Corporation until 1945.
In 1945, he moved to Allegheny County, Maryland, where he was a farm forester for about nine months before joining the Maryland Department of State Forests and Parks as a district forester. For administrative purposes, Maryland was divided into four districts, and during the next nine years, Parr was the district forester at three of them headquartered at Laurel, Cumberland, and Belair. These were horizontal career moves for Parr, but they afforded him a wide range of experiences and facilitated familiarity with the whole system. In each district, he supervised all state forests and state park lands and assisted private woodland owners.
When Parr moved to Belair as district forester, he never left that community; commuting from there to his subsequent positions in Baltimore and Annapolis. Like other states, Maryland struggled to meet the challenge created by the postwar demand for outdoor recreation. In response to it, the new position of superintendent of state parks was created in 1954, and in 1956, Parr was appointed to this position. Maryland had pioneered and excelled in providing state forests since 1906, and traditionally, state parks had been a relatively minor function of the department. With the new demand pressure for outdoor recreation, Parr was charged with developing a state park system which would be on a par with the excellent state forest system.
For the remainder of Parr's career, some 22 years, he was the guiding force and influence in the acquisition and improvement of Maryland's state parks. During his tenure, the number of state parks grew from 10 to 41. One of his staff from those days recalled:
Bill was instrumental in the recognition of state parks as an entity within the old Forests and Parks. He was the hell of a fighter, and every time Forestry (we were now in two divisions under Forests and Parks) tried to steamroll us, Bill reared his head and roared! As I type this, I have goose bumps recalling those times in meetings with forestry when he would pucker his lips around his cigar, bang his fist on a desk and yell "Hell, no!"
Parr was personally involved inthe acquisition of all new state park lands. Indeed, in his first five years as superintendent, he was the entire land acquisition section. As the parks division grew, others were hired, but Parr continued to lead their effort. He was a progressive administrator and was a visionary. In addition to the extensive land acquisition program, he placed substantial emphasis on interpretation programming. A former colleague recalled:
Bill was a skilled politician, and he had contacts everywhere, among them Governor Ted McKeldin who as governor championed Bill's park acquisition programs and as a former governor worked closely with us in our still existing Baltimore office (the operation had moved to Annapolis but maintained an office in Baltimore pretty much for Bill to use as his headquarters). These were the times of the Rockefeller ORRRC study, Green Acres in New Jersey, Connie Wirth's Mission 66 effort at NPS, etc. They were exciting times to be in state parks.
Parr never fully recovered from a serious automobile accident while attending a National Conference of State Parks meeting in Alabama towards the end of his career. After that accident, he struggled to remain fully engaged.
Parr was characterized by a colleague as "a man of vision and great personal ethic. He was kind, gentle, caring, and when he had to be, forceful. He was also a man of high principle, and he set high standards for all of us who worked for him. I loved the man, and I was fortunate to have worked for him."
Offutt Johnson and Don Maclauchlan contributed to the development of this profile.