[Skip to Content]

Lemuel A. Garrison

1903 - 1984

Inducted October 1991

 "Our jobs are healthful, natural, and in the public service, and we served a great and select social purpose in our custodianship and managment of these 'national jewels.'"
~Lemuel A. Garrison

Lemuel Alonzo “Lon” Garrison truly had a love for the national parks and high ideals for public service. Garrison was a personifi cation of the blazing idealism of Stephen Mather and Horace Albright, authors of the 1916 National Park Service Organic Act and fi rst directors of the National Park Service (NPS). Through his years of service as a park ranger, administrator, educator, and professional in park organizations, Garrison made the Mather-Albright idealism a reality. Today, billions of people throughout the world are able to enjoy well managed parks based on the knowledge, skills, and education Garrison imparted with all who shared in his life.

In 1926 Garrison graduated from Stanford University, CA, with a Bachelor of Science degree in applied psychology and economics. Three years later, he began his 40 year career with the NPS. His fi rst job was a forest service fi re ranger at the Chugach National Forest in Alaska. Located in the mountains surrounding Prince William Sound, Garrison’s duties included protecting and managing 5.4 million acres of timber in the second largest forest of the NPS. His colleagues, employees, and park visitors credited him with developing an awareness of economic and social responsibilities for wise land use.

In 1932 Garrison became a seasonal ranger for Lodgepole Campground in Sequoia National Park. Established in 1890, Sequoia National Park is California’s first national park and America’s second oldest. Sequoia presented an alternate use of the forest as a means for public recreation. The appropriateness of park preservation became a value Garrison shared throughout his career and he became an advocate for establishing recreation space in the National Parks.

Garrison pioneered the development of resource protective skills through people management. During 1935 he became a permanent ranger in Yosemite National Park. He managed a campground in 1938 and began to deal with crowding and resource deterioration. With the help of his Stanford psychology professors, he developed a questionnaire to gather hard data on counting the numbers of visitors and establishing a list of their activities while visiting Yosemite. This technique and practice became commonplace in most levels of recreation planning. The Yosemite research information was used as part of the Mission 66 Program the National Park Service initiated in 1954.

Mission 66 set a goal of refurbishing and adding new park facilities, establishing manpower standards, sanitation, roads, concession roles, employee housing, and recruiting and training personnel. Director Conrad Wirth successfully convinced the Congress and President Eisenhower that the National Park Service needed this program. Garrison was appointed to chair the Mission’s steering committee. The management techniques resulting from Garrison’s research were used in the Mission 66 Program to limit the use to other less critical alternative sites, and providing a diversity of recreation opportunities.

Three horseman start out a seven-day trip to the Two Ocean Plateau and Heart Lake Basin of Yellowstone National Park: Associate Director Eivind Scoyen, Director Conrad L. Wirth, and Superintendent Lemuel A. “Lon” Garrison
National Geographic Society

Between 1939 and 1964 Garrison was assistant superintendent at Glacier and Grand Canyon National Parks, superintendent at Hopewell Village National Historic Site, Big Bend, and Yellowstone National Parks. During that time he served as Chief Ranger in Washington DC and received a Meritorious Service Award from the Department of the Interior. Garrison became a Regional Director in the Midwestern Region, Omaha, NE, in 1963 and transferred to the Northeastern Region in 1965 to serve in the same capacity. He received the National Pugsley Medal in 1968 for his efforts in conservation and in 1970, became Director of the Albright Training Academy at Grand Canyon National Park. In 1973 Garrison retired and became president of the National Conference on State Parks where he conceived the idea of “partnerships” between state parks and the NPS.

Garrison’s leadership included membership in the National Recreation and Park Association, its council, and the Board of Trustees. He was a recipient of the Award of Excellence from the National Conference on State Parks in 1972, Distinguished Service Award from the National Society for Park Resources in 1976, and was active in the Society for Park and Recreation Educators. He completed his career as a visiting professor at the Department of Recreation and Park Administration, Texas A&M University.

Garrison’s legacy to the park and recreation profession is summarized in his book, The Making of a Ranger. “We have an obligation to be faithful to our park preservation trusts and to the Congress and the citizens who worked to establish it. At the same time, we must be honest with users and politicians about our judgments and decisions. We cannot always win, but we can keep our own integrity and honor.” He believed that the American people cannot wander too far from the great outdoors without losing character, strength, and orientation. His conviction was more than an impulse to preserve trees, or natural phenomena, or wilderness, or to contemplate man’s relationship with the earth. Garrison was dedicated to the understanding combined with the preservation of an environment, which he was convinced was essential to American’s spiritual well-being, and to the nation.

Adapted from: Hartsoe, C, Sanders, D & Bridges, M (eds) (2009), Profiles in Leadership: Robert W. Crawford Recreation and Park Hall of Fame. National Recreation and Park Association and American Academy of Park and Recreation Administration.

  • Crompton, J.L. (2008). Twentieth century champions of parks and conservation: The Pugsley award recipients 1928-1964. Volume I. Champaign, IL: Sagamore Publishing.
  • Garrison, L.A. (1983). The making of a ranger: Forty years with the National Parks. Salt Lake City, UT: Howe Brothers.
  • Heath, E.H. (1991). In memory of Lon Garrison. Unpublished eulogy.
  • National Recreation and Park Association. Recreation and Park Hall of fame nomination form. Unpublished document.

Return to list of inductees