Cordie O. Hudkins, Jr. (1938-2012) received the Pugsley Medal in 1994. He was born in South Charleston, West Virginia, and raised in St. Albans, West Virginia, where he attended high school.As a young boy, he went hunting with his father as soon as he was old enough. His first trips were without firearms, but when he was older, his favorite pursuit was hunting Bobwhite Quail with English Setters and German Short-Haired Pointers, which his father raised and trained.
Hudkins' family took at least a one-week vacation each year to a state park in West Virginia. One year, when he was in the fifth or sixth grade, a park superintendent and his wife taught him to fly fish, and all through high school he thought what a wonderful thing it would be to someday be a park superintendent.
His favorite subjects in high school were chemistry and biology. He had a desire to know why things in nature worked the way they did. He knew the study of physical and natural science would enable him to better understand the world we all live in. Because the study of chemistry would likely lead to a career indoors, he chose to major in biology with the idea at the back of his mind that he would some day be employed by a state or national park.
When he graduated from high school, Hudkins knew he wanted to attend college but felt he lacked the maturity and focus necessary to apply himself to that purpose. Consequently, he spent four years working his way around many of the western states, enjoying the beautiful scenery and developing the motivation to study for a college degree, which he hoped would lead to a career in the out-of-doors.
He attended Morris Harvey College (subseqently the University of Charleston) in West Virginia, and graduated in 1965 with a degree in biology. Immediately after graduation, he took the civil service examination for park superintendents and was hired shortly thereafter by the West Virginia Department of Resources State Park System as a park superintendent. Hudkins began his 35-year career with this department as assistant superintendent of the 6,000-acre Babcock State Park, which contained vacation cabins, swimming pool, an operating grist mill, a restaurant, and a fishing and boating lake.
In 1967, he was promoted to superintendent of Cedar Creek State Park, a day use area with ball fields, playgrounds, camping, swimming pool, and a large picnic area. In 1969, he was appointed superintendent of North Bend State Park which featured a 30-room lodge with a range of recreational activities .He inherited a poorly-maintained area, but within a year, he had restored it to state park standards.
In1972, he was transferred to Pipestem State Park, often referred to as the "Crown Jewel" of the West Virginia Park System. Pipestem has a 113-room main lodge, now known as McKeever Lodge (Kermit McKeever received the Pugsley Medal in 1966) with several meeting rooms, and seven food facilities including Bluestone Dining room which was located in the main lodge. It also has a 30-room lodge located in the Bluestone Canyon which is accessible only by aerial tramway.
In 1977, Hudkins was transferred from Pipestem to the central office in Charleston, as a district administrator for the southern part of the state. In the same year, he was promoted to assistant chief in charge of the planning section. At that time, there were $24 million worth of projects that had approved funding, but work was progressing slowly, and Hudkins was asked to rapidly develop plans for these projects so they could be forwarded to the engineering section for development. When the projects were completed Hudkins was appointed assistant chief in charge of the operations section.
In 1989, he returned to the planning section, which at that time had expanded to embrace planning, engineering, and maintenance, to again deal with a backlog of projects. Finally, in 1990, he was appointed chief of the West Virginia State Park system and remained in this position until his retirement in 2000. During his tenure as chief, he brought West Vrrginia's CCC-era system into Americans with Disabilities Act compliance; increased system revenues from $12 million to $18 million annually; absorbed a 10% downsizing of full-time employees with no reduction in operations; instituted innovative financial incentive programs for park managers and lodging sales staff; oversaw an $86 million park improvement program between 1997 and 2000, which was one of the four largest park investment programs in West Vrrginia's history; removed a $24-million debt to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; eliminated a large backlog of sewer, water, fuel tank, hazardous dam, and asbestos abatement compliance issues, which were threatening to close or significantly affect several park operations; oversaw a difficult transition of the park system back to the Division of Natural Resources after a 10-year presence in the state's Division of Tourism; took a perilous (politically and career wise) stand on one of the major environmental controversies in West Vrrginia related to Blackwater Canyon logging and development; and oversaw development of the West Vrrginia State Park Foundation. During his career, Hudkins rallied citizens and employees of the park system in order to defeat two attempts at privatizing state park facilities.
At the time Hudkins became chief, the park system's budget was less that $20 million a year. By his retirement in 2000, despite serious staff cutbacks, the budget was $30 million, without an appreciable appropriation increase in the $5 million received from the legislature each year.
Upon his retirement, the Charleston Daily Mail wrote:
West Virginia's park system will be in someone else's hands today. No, that's not quite right. For the past 10 years, outgoing parks chief Cordie Hudkins has managed the system with his heart, not his hands. By all accounts, Hudkins' passion has transformed a neglected, antiquated system into one of the nation's finest. "Cordie's contributions are among the primary reasons our parks rank among the best in the nation," says John Rader, director of the state Division of Natural Resources. "He will be greatly missed."
Hudkins received the Oshel Craigo Lifetime Achievement Award, which honors individuals whose support of the tourism industry has helped the industry to grow and establish itself as an important economic development tool for West Virginia; and the Distingushed Service Award from the Association of State Park Directors.
After a two-year retirement, the president of the Putnam County Parks and Recreation Commission contacted him and asked if he would become their part- time director. He agreed to do this on a contract basis and served in that position for a three-year period. During that time, he secured over $1.1 million in grant money for park development. In 2007, he became part-time director of the fledgling West Virginia State Parks Foundation.
McCoy, John. (2000, November 1). The Daily Mail, Charleston.