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Thomas P.Des Jean, Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area's first archeologist, will be retiring at the end of June. Tom Des Jean has worked at the Big South Fork for more than 28 years. During the almost three decades of service, he has been responsible for overseeing the cultural resource program at the Big South Fork and the Obed Wild and Scenic River. This includes a wide range of cultural resource responsibilities including monitoring and protection of one of the largest museum collections in the southeast region of the National Park Service, hundreds of oral histories, 59 family cemeteries, and over 1700 archeological sites.
"I have really enjoyed working for the NPS for all of these years. And truly I have never met a group of individuals, in every job and in every way that was more selfless, focused and protective of all of the resources in the national parks," said Tom Des Jean.
Tom Des Jean recently received the National Park Service Appleman-Judd-Lewis award for Cultural Resource Management for his career achievements because his investigations and research made significant contributions to the knowledge and protection of archeological resources at Mammoth Cave National Park, Shiloh National Military Park, Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, Obed Wild and Scenic River and Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area. He has authored dozens of research papers over the years with the majority of these papers and presentations addressing the results of archeological studies at various sites in the National Park Service. Tom's writings cover other cultural resource topics, including niter mining, history of the Stearns Coal and Lumber Company, Civil War effects on local communities, moonshining, and African Americans' history on the Cumberland Plateau. Prior to coming to the park, Des Jean worked for ten years in private consulting and has a bachelor's and master's degree in anthropology/archeology from the University of Florida.