Recipient Biography

George B. Hartzog Jr.

George B. Hartzog Jr. (1920-2008) received the Pugsley Medal in 1967. He was the seventh director of the National Park Service. He was born in Smoaks, South Carolina. His father farmed the same 150 acres of land that his father had farmed in the Edisto River section of Colleton County. In the Great Depression, the farm had to be sold to pay the mortgage, his father became a severe asthmatic, and a fire at their home soon afterwards meant that the Hartzog family had lost everything. Hartzog later reported, "We survived the poverty of the next years by the grace of God, the charity of neighbors and the welfare of the New Deal. Poverty clung to us like a sweat-soaked shirt."
He graduated from Carlisle Military School (high school) in Bamberg, South Carolina. He began preaching at 16. At the age of 17, he became the youngest Methodist preacher licensed by the church at that time and for a time he was assistant minister at the Bethel Methodist Church in Spartanburg. Later in life, even as NPS director, he occasionally preached in Washington, D.C. churches.
In 1937, he enrolled at Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina, sponsored by an anonymous local businessman to study Methodist theology. However, he was not able to stay in school because he needed to support his family. At the age of 19, he went to work as a stenographer in the local law office of Padgett and Moorer. One of the partners, Joe Moorer, tutored him in the evenings, and 33 months later, in December 1942, Hartzog was admitted to the Bar of South Carolina. It was a remarkable achievement. Hartzog had few formal education opportunities, never attended a law school, but managed to pass the South Carolina bar exam.The other partner, Colonel Padgett, was a long-time member of the South Carolina legislature, so Hartzog was exposed to politics and government early in life.
While working in the law office, he joined the National Guard in order to augment his income. He was drafted into the Army in March 1943, assigned to the Judge Advocate General's Office, and later was commissioned and served in the military police. When he left the Army in 1946, a contract with the Army led him to a job as an attorney with the General Land Office in the Department of Interior. Soon after, he was offered a job in the office of the chief counsel of the NPS in Chicago. This began his career in the NPS, which for the first eight years, largely involved legal tasks. He moved to Washington D.C. in 1948 and was admitted to practice law before the Supreme Court of the U.S. in 1949.
While in Washington D.C., Hartzog completed a bachelor's degree in business administration in 1953 at American University, and completed an M.B.A. course at the same institution in 1955. In August 1955, he became assistant superintendent of Rocky Mountain National Park; in November 1957 he transferred to the Great Smoky National Park to become its assistant superintendent; and in 1959, became superintendent of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Historic Site in St. Louis, Missouri. During his period as superintendent of the Jefferson Memorial, he was able to gain the support of federal, state, and local governments, as well as the private sector, to initiate construction of Gateway Arch on the St. Louis Waterfront.
Stewart Udall later noted, "Had it not been for Hartzog, there would be no arch. He took a set of plans that had been lying dormant for 15 years and built the great arch of St. Louis."
Hartzog left the NPS in July 1962 to become the executive director and secretary of Downtown St. Louis, Inc. However, this job turned out to be short-term because in 1963, Secretary of Interior Stewart Udall convinced him to quit with a promise to appoint him director of the NPS. This was confirmed in January 1964, during the early period of President Lyndon B. Johnson's administration. Udall was looking for someone who would push an expansionist and activist park policy as part of President Johnson's "Great Society" and in Hartzog he found the right person. Backed by an NPS that had been rejuvenated by the Mission 66 program and the secretary's support, Hartzog made a large imprint on the NPS.
Under Hartzog, 10 new parks were created in 1964 alone. Other notable years included 1965, with 14 new parks; 1966 and 1968 with 10 each; and 1972 with 13. In his nine years as director, 2.694 million acres in 78 new park areas were added to the system. Among them were five national parks including Voyageurs, Guadalupe Mountains, North Cascades, and Redwoods. The other units consisted of seashores, lakeshore, recreational areas, and numerous small historical parks. Hartzog presided over the most accelerated growth in NPS history. The annual visitation to the NPS system more than doubled during those nine years to 213 million people, while the total number of permanent and temporary personnel remained at the same level.
Many of these parks were brought in under a new NPS agenda: "Parkscape U.S.A." In the mid-1960s seeking to maintain the momentum created by Mission 66, he devised this successor program, which had as its principal focus the continued expansion of the system, rather than construction of roads and facilities, as with Mission 66. In Hartzog's words, Parkscape U.S.A.would "complete for our generation a National Park System by 1972 "'the centennial year of Yellowstone. The tremendous surge in outdoor recreation during this era placed added pressure on national park areas and increased the urgency to create new parks.
Among the new parks, the national recreation areas in particular added to the NPS's involvement in recreational tourism, which had been boosted by the roads and facilities emphasis of Mission 66. During Hartzog's tenure and the Parkscape era, eight reservoirs were added to the system as national recreation areas, among them Bighorn Canyon, Lake Chelan, and Curecanti. Each of these new units marked a continuation of the national recreation area concept initiated in the 1930s with Lake Mead, and each reflected the strength of the recreational tourism surge within the Park Service during the Wirth/Hartzog era.
When the Nixon Administration cut the NPS budget in 1969, Hartzog responded by closing all the national parks for two days a week, including prominent landmarks like the Washington Monument. He later commented, "It was unheard of. Even my own staff thought I was crazy." There was political criticism by both Republicans and Democrats, but the magnitude of citizen  complaints persuaded Congress to reverse its decision and restore the funds. Hartzog's strategy was dubbed the "Washington Monument Syndrome" by The Washington Post. There was continual tension between him and the Nixon Administration. This climaxed in 1972 when Hartzog was informed there was a private citizen using a boat dock at Biscayne National Monument in Florida, and he revoked the permit. The permit holder was the brother-in-law of Charles "Bebe" Rebozo, longtime friend of President Nixon, and this led to Hartzog being replaced as director by one of Nixon's White House aides in December 1972.
Hartzog opened positions to people who had not previously had much access to them, especially minorities and women. 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. The first major urban recreation areas, Gateway (New York) and Golden Gate (San Francisco) were acquired in 1972. Indeed, one of his major goals as director was to give the NPS a new emphasis toward cities. 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 promoted the National Visitor Center idea at Union Station in Washington D.C., and supported the cultural national park concept at Wolf Trap Farm inVirginia. He had a hand in The Historical Preservation Act of 1966. He was effective in gaining the cooperation of members of Congress and was instrumental in obtaining 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.
Hartzog, among all NPS directors, was probably the closest to Stephen Mather in style. Not at all slavish about following established procedures , he refreshed the outlook of a tradition-loving organization with a constant stream of fresh ideas. Perhaps more important, he knew how to make the ideas work He was a politically astute lawyer and NPS veteran who adroitly capitalized on the momentum of President Lyndon Johnson's Great Society to expand the national park system. Support for his expansion efforts continued through the first administration of President Nixon.
He had a sure knowledge of the ways of politics and politicians that helped him achieve legislation and appropriations from Congress on an unprecedented scale. His immense physical stamina supported his strong work ethic. He possessed the "animal energy" characteristic of effective senior executives. His intelligence and commitment, along with his zest for work, left little room for indulging inadequacies. He was a strong, dictatorial director, and alongside his desk in the NPS there was a framed admonition from George Washington: "Do not suffer your good nature when application is made to say 'Yes' when you should say 'No.' Remember, it is a public, not a private, cause that is to be injured or benefited by your choice."
His political and leadership skills are demonstrated by him serving under two presidents (Johnson, a Democrat, and Nixon, a Republican) and three secretaries of interior (Udall, Hickel and Morton). Wallace Stegner, chair of the NPS Advisory Board, described Hartzog as the "toughest, savviest, and most effective bureau chief who ever operated in that political alligator hole" and he went on, "Among the distinguished public administrators he was one of the most distinguished, one of the friendliest, and one of the most honest." Finally, he declared, "The National Park Service has never since been the model high-morale federal bureau that it was during George Hartzog's tenure."
Former Secretary of Interior, Stewart L. Udall writing in 1988, described Hartzog as:
One of the most inspiring leaders I worked with during my years in the federal government. In a decade when a president of the United States seeks out opportunities to denigrate the institution we call the federal government and belittle the work of its dedicated civil servants, George Hartzog reminds us of the glories of public service and the legacies our best bureaucrats leave to future generations. Everyone who saw him in action remembers the sense of mission, and the zest and drive, he transmitted to his co-workers. He was a consummate negotiator; he enjoyed entering political thickets, and 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. He exuded reasonableness and goodwill. His signature was the greeting he invariably extended to ordinary citizens and senators alike: "Hello my friend, what can I do for you?" As an administrator, he set an exemplary standard for commitment, for candor, and for fair play.
The NPS had some of its finest hours under Hartzog. Institutionally, it was a high point for the organization, and the director must logically be assumed to have contributed substantially to that performance. The label "Hartzog Years" seems to epitomize the scale and consequence of his leadership contributions. Hartzog did not cower in the wings when a battle clearly was to ensue. He had courage, which he regarded as a natural corollary of religious conviction. What is particularly arresting about Hartzog is that his strong convictions did not negate another key leadership requirement: flexibility. Hartzog was a pluralist, believing that the public interest can be discovered in a battle of interests and wills. In consequence, he did not grieve when a battle was lost. If the fight was fair, he assumed the public interest was served. Hartzog had a philosophy about his job that kept him personally fresh and invigorated. The tenor of his management style and insights into the source of his effectiveness are evident in the following comments made by some of those who worked alongside him in his years as NPS director:
  • "He's very hard on his people. He cracks the whip. And he has a short fuse."
  • "He never asks the next guy to do what he wouldn't do himself. He's demanding, but his example is high."
  • "He has the service idea. His attitude is that people should be willing to move from one post to another. They should do what they're told. He inspires both respect and fear. This is true of any strong man."
  • "He is so politically inclined that he shuffles and changes things constantly. The poor old bureaucrats around there don't know quite where they're at."
  • "This building is loaded -- it's stuffed -- with people who are overridden by personal ambitions. But that is not true of George. I never have a fear that I'm being used and that when I'm used up I'll be discarded."
  • "Instead of being preoccupied with the process, he is preoccupied with the idea. I've never heard him discuss reasons why things can't be done."
He returned to private law practice specializing in environmental law in 1973, and in 1975, he became vice-president of Hartzog, Lader & Richards, a company of natural and historical resource planners and consultants, with offices in Hilton Head, South Carolina, and Arlington, Virginia. In 1978, he was a candidate for the position of president at Clemson University, and in 1988, he wrote a book, Battling for the National Parks.
Everhart, Wtlliam C. (1972). The National Park Service. New York: Praeger.
Hartzog, George. 1920-present. Downloaded from sontag/hartzog.htm
Hartzog, George B. Jr. (1988). Battling for the National Parks. Mt Kisco, NY: Moyer Bell.
McPhee, John. (1971, September 21). Profiles: Ranger George Hartzog. New Yorker.
Sellers, Richard West. (1997). Preserving nature in the national parks. New Haven:Yale University Press.
Sherwood, Frank P. (1992). George B. Hartzog Jr.: Protector of the parks. In Terry L. Cooper, N. Dale Wright. (Eds.). Exemplary public administrators: Character and Leadership in Government. San Francisco: Jossey-Bas.