PERSON OF THE MONTH
This article first appeared in the National Park Service: The First 75 Years.
Robert Sterling Yard (1861-1945)
Robert Sterling Yard was born in 1861 in Haverstraw, New York. An 1883 Princeton graduate, he worked as a reporter for the New York Sun and later as editor at the New York Herald. From 1900 to 1915, he served in the publishing business, variously as editor-in-chief of The Century Magazine and Sunday editor of the New York Herald. From 1915 to 1919, Yard served in the Department of the Interior as national parks publicity chief and later as chief, Educational Division, of the new National Park Service. Elected executive secretary, National Parks Association (now NPCA) at the organizational meeting in 1919, he also served as editor, National Parks Bulletin, from 1919 to 1936, and at age 76 became a founding member and president of the Wilderness Society, directing that group's activities until his last illness. He died in 1945.
To the great and lasting benefit of the national parks and their owners, the American people, 47-year-old Robert Sterling Yard. newspaperman and publisher, was ready when the call came to publicize those national parks. A friend of Stephen Mather since the 1890s and Mather's best man at his wedding, he, like Mather, had long enjoyed the outdoors prior to the start of his public service career. Upon arriving in Washington in early 1915. Bob Yard quickly absorbed the intense dedication which was creating a bureau to protect America's national parks. At the National Park Conference in March of 1915, Yard affirmed his bond to the cause of the parks, saying, "I, the treader of dusty city streets, boldly claim common kinship with you of the plains, the mountains, and the glaciers."
His work proved the depth of his conviction. In 1915 he assembled The National Parks Portfolio for distribution to 270,000 opinionmakers throughout the country, helped generate numerous articles on national parks in publications around the nation, and wrote pamphlets and articles to focus public attention on the parks. His intense efforts with the publishing world he knew so well resulted in more than one thousand articles on national park subjects between 1917 and 1919. Forced to leave the government in 1919, owing to a law prohibiting supplementing pay of federal employees, Yard, whose meager salary had been augmented by Stephen Mather since 1915, received Director Mather's final financial support in creating the National Parks Association.
On a cold January day in 1930, Robert Sterling Yard had stood with National Park Service Director Horace Albright at the grave of the recently deceased Stephen Mather. Albright remembered: "We rededicated ourselves to the ideals of our friend as long as we might be spared."
Bob Yard applied that dedication to the end of his highly productive life.