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Stephen Mather

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The grandson of Joseph Mather, Stephen was the first director of the National Park Service, and more than doubled the park system's land area.

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Stephen Tying Mather was the great grandson of Deacon Joseph Mather. He was born in 1867 in California where he loved spending time outdoors. Following his graduation from the University of California Berkeley in 1887, he became a reporter for the New York Sun. Following his marriage to Jane Thacker Floy, he left journalism to work for the Borax Company, where his father worked. He moved with his wife to Chicago and became very successful, founding his own Borax company and becoming a millionaire. He was able to retire at the age of forty seven. That same year, on a visit to Yosemite and Sequoia, two of the nation’s few western national parks, Mather found the parks to be undermanaged and ill-protected. He wrote a critical letter to the Secretary of the Interior, Franklin K. Lane, who was also a Berkeley graduate. His friend wrote back "Dear Steve, if you don’t like the way the national parks are being run, come on down to Washington and run them yourself.” And that is exactly what Mather did. He became Assistant to the Secretary of the Interior and lobbied the case for the National Park Service. He led efforts to gain Congressional and public interest and to create the park bureau. This led President Woodrow Wilson to authorize the National Park Service in 1916. Mather was appointed as the first director of the National Park Service in 1917. He is responsible for more than doubling the land in the park system to include Grand Canyon, Bryce, Zion, Acadia, Shenandoah and more. He believed that beautiful lands in the United States should be protected and made available to people for enjoyment.

In fact if you travel to these parks today, you will see prominent plaques and even statues of Stephen Mather. An inscription on the plaques reads: "He laid the foundation of the National Park Service, defining and establishing the policies under which its areas shall be developed and conserved, unimpaired for future generations. There will never come and end to the good that he has done."

Stephen Mather's own words stated his intentions best: "Who will gainsay that the parks contain the highest potentialities of national pride, national contentment, and national health? A visit inspires love of country; begets contentment; engenders pride of possession; contains the antidote for national restlessness.... He is a better citizen with a keener appreciation of the privilege of living here who has toured the national parks."

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