William "Bill" J. Briggle (1925-2017) received the Pugsley Medal in 1993. He was born in Fort Worth, Texas, but at the age of ten, he moved to California and lived there until his induction into the Army in 1944. He had attended El Camino Junior College in California, and after his discharge from the Army in1946, Briggle returned to school at the University of Idaho majoring in forestry.
Briggle began his National Park Service career as a seasonal park ranger at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks in 1947 and 1948. After leaving college, he took a full-time position as a park ranger at Theodore Roosevelt National Memorial Park in 1949 and transferred to Yellowstone in 195l. After these short stays, he was promoted to supervisory ranger at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks in 1953 and remained there until 1961. One of his notable achievements in this position was co-authoring a back country management plan for these two parks.
In 1961, he spent a year as a recreation planner in the southeast regional office, before transferring to Washington D.C. as special assistant to the assistant director of the new Bureau of Outdoor Recreation (BOR) from 1962 to 1965. For much of 1965 he then became special assistant to the NPS director. These early 1960s years in Washington D.C., immediately after the publication of the Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission, were heady times for conservationists. Briggle helped draft legislation establishing both the Land and Water Conservation Fund and the Wilderness Act. His BOR responsibilities involved work on special study areas of the Allagash River in Maine, the proposed North Cascades National Park in Washington, and Sawtooth National Recreation Area in Idaho. He was staff director for Vice President Hubert Humphrey's program "See the U.S.A.” As assistant to the NPS director, Briggle drafted legislation for proposed new NPS areas at Sleeping Bear Dunes and the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, both in Michigan.
In 1965, Briggle returned to the field as assistant superintendent at Lake Mead National Recreation Area (NRA) and in 1967 became superintendent of Glen Canyon NRA. In 1967, he was the resource study team leader for a three-man team charged with assessing the potential of parks in Ethiopia. This project was undertaken at the request of Emperor Haile Selassie. He did similar work in Venezuela, Bulgaria and Romania. In 1969, he was appointed superintendent at Glacier while at the same time, serving as director of the National Parks Centennial, marking the 100th anniversary of the founding of Yellowstone. After four years, he returned to Lake Mead as superintendent in 1973.
When Gary Everhardt was appointed NPS director in 1976, he recruited Briggle to be deputy director noting, "Bill has worked in many different park situations and has solid Washington experience, too. He has taken on some very different assignments over the years and has never ducked the challenge. It's good to have him in Washington."
His stay in Washington was short because in 1977, Everhardt was replaced as director by the new Democratic administration, and he moved back west to become superintendent of Mount Rainier National Park remaining there until 1984, and subsequently returning for a second tour as superintendent in 1991. In 1991, Briggle was the Steering Committee Chair of the Vail Symposium which commemorated the National Park Service's 75th Anniversary. The symposium brought together stalwarts from inside and outside the service and produced a comprehensive report of the scope of NPS's problems and recommendations for solutions.
Briggle was a protege of NPS director George Hartzog and known in the NPS for being a tough taskmaster. He was characterized as "an intrepid trouble shooter. " One author described him in the following terms:
[William] Briggle was a man tough enough to eat new rangers for breakfast ... he would lecture a seasonal ranger on how to tie a tie and was always “Mr. Briggle,” never just plain Bill ... whenever he headed from park headquarters to the visitor complex the word preceded him. "The ghost is walking. Make sure everything’s clean” was the warning phone message. Or "Straighten your hats. Polish your shoes. The ghost walks."
Briggle was the recipient of both the Department of Interior's Meritorious and Distinguished Service Awards. His Distinguished Service Award summarized his contributions in these terms:
Throughout his career, Mr. Briggle dedicated himself to the ideals of the National Park System that have made it a model throughout the world. He is an individual with vision, insight and a sincere concern for the parks and their visitors.
Frome, Michael (1992). Regreening the national parks. Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona Press.