National Park Service: The First 75 Years
Biographical Vignettes
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Arno B. Cammerer

                                          by Edwin C. Bearss

Arno B. Cammerer

Arno Cammerer was born in Arapahoe, Nebraska, in 1893, son of a Lutheran pastor. At Georgetown University Law School, he received a Bachelor of Law degree in 1911.

When Horace Albright was named superintendent of Yellowstone National Park and field assistant to Director Stephen Mather in 1919, Cammerer, whom they both knew and respected, was their choice as assistant director to succeed Albright. In the spring of 1922, Secretary of the Interior Albert B. Fall wanted an "All-Year National Park" in New Mexico. Mather knew this proposal would not be approved, but he studied it and wrote an adverse report. The feeling that his report might mean disaster for the new National Park Service caused him to suffer a nervous breakdown. Cammerer became acting director through a busy tourist season and conducted the Yosemite Superintendents' Conference, which was a particularly important meeting of NPS officials, concessioners, and environmentalists.

In the early 1920s, there were demands that eastern national parks be established. Following considerable study, Congress authorized the establishment of Shenandoah National Park, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and Mammoth Cave National Park. The Great Smoky Mountains project proved expensive. Cammerer secured a promise from John D. Rockefeller, Jr., to match $5 million in the acquisition of Shenandoah National Park lands.

On January 12, 1929, when Horace Albright became the Service's second director, Cammerer, a loyal and devoted colleague and retained as associate director. On August 10, 1933, the date of transfer of the national capitol parks, historic sites, memorials, and monuments from the War and Agriculture departments. Albright resigned and Cammerer was named the Service's third director. With responsibility for a greatly expanded Service, Cammerer was confronted with a far heavier workload than his predecessors. He maintained good relations with Congress and was rewarded with the enactment of several important laws, especially the Historic Sites Act and a law authorizing a National Park Foundation. Cammerer's leadership, although scarred by a failure to establish rapport with the acerbic Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes, was a success.

Many years of conscientious work proved detrimental to Cammerer's health and in 1939 he suffered a heart attack. He resigned in 1940, and Newton B. Drury, executive secretary of the Save-the-Redwoods League, replaced him as the fourth director. Another heart attack took his life on April 30, 1941. During his directorship, the areas under the Service tripled in number and facilities for public use increased notably. Visitation jumped from approximately 2 million to 16 million persons a year. Cammerer's contributions to the National Park Service were legion.

From National Park Service: The First 75 Years


Last Modified: March 27 2017 01:00:00 pm EDT

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