• Approximately 1,500 black bears live in the national park.

    Great Smoky Mountains

    National Park NC,TN

David Rockefeller Sr. Visits the Park

David Rockefeller Sr. views a drawer of beetle specimens in the park’s natural history collection.
Superintendent Dale Ditmanson and Park Entomologist Becky Nichols, show Mr. David Rockefeller Sr. a drawer of long horned beetle specimens in the park’s natural history collection.
NPS photo

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News Release Date: June 6, 2013
Contact: Public Affairs Office, (865) 436-1207

On Friday, May 31, David Rockefeller, Sr., son of philanthropist John D. Rockefeller, Jr., paid a visit to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Mr. Rockefeller was on vacation to see the Great Smoky Mountains, which he had last visited in 1950 when he and his father took a road trip to the area.

In 1928, John D. Rockefeller Jr. made a $5 million donation in memory of his mother, Laura Spelman Rockefeller, to help acquire land to form Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Rockefeller Monument at Newfound Gap was created in her honor, and was the site of a famous Park dedication speech by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1940.

While in the Park, Mr. Rockefeller toured the natural history collection, home to 60,000 items including mammals, reptiles, amphibians, insects, plants, rocks and soil samples. Mr. Rockefeller, an avid collector of beetles, orColeoptera, has a personal collection of some 90,000 beetles from all over the world within the “Rockefeller collection ofColeoptera.”

“What a wonderful experience for all of us to meet Mr. Rockefeller, and through his presence, reach through history to those connected with the Park’s formation.” said Park Superintendent Dale Ditmanson. “Because of his family’s generous donation so many years ago, Great Smoky Mountains National Park was created and the variety of plant and animal life within has been protected for almost 80 years. It was an honor to meet Mr. Rockefeller and show him a small sampling of the specimens which reside in our natural history collection.”

While the natural history collections tour focused mainly on the Park’s examples of beetles, other items, such as an American black bear cub and a hellbender, a species of giant salamander, were examined. One item of particular interest was a specimen of a Passenger Pigeon, which has been extinct since the early 1900s.

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