National Park Service
Person of the Month


This article first appeared in the Vol. 5 No. 2 (February 1982) edition of the Courier.

Preston P. Macy — imperturbably good natured

Thirty-seven and a half years was the span of Preston Macy's employment with the National Park Service. It started in May 1924 at Mount Rainier National Park, Wash., when Stephen T. Mather was Director. It ended—also at Mount Rainier—near the end of 1961. It had lasted through all or part of the Directorships of Mather, Albright, Cammerer, Demaray, and Wirth.

The most difficult years of that long service were spent on the Olympic Peninsula, where he was first sent in 1934, to participate in a study of the possible feasibility of converting the Olympic National Monument into a national park. His service included more than 2 years as custodian and almost a year as superintendent of the monument. During the following 13 years he was superintendent of the park, from the day that it was created in June 1938.

Preston P. Macy
(NPS Photo)

As is frequently the case, there were a lot of neighbors of the new national park who were not a bit happy about its establishment. Many of them had not been pleased when the Service took over the monument from the Forest Service, and creation and extension of the park aroused a lot of bitterness. With this bitterness Macy had to live. However, he was an excellent public relations man, in the habit of giving the soft answer "that turneth away wrath" imperturbably good natured but firm in his insistence on the fullest protection of the park.

At the start, its headquarters were in the attic of his home in Port Angeles. Out of his own pocket came the money with which to buy the present headquarters site. Later, of course, he was reimbursed for it by the Park Service. By the time that he was transferred back to Mount Rainier to become its superintendent, Olympic National Park was well established. He had seen efforts by lumber interests operating on the Peninsula to have thousands of acres excised from the park, defeated by the very greed of those who sought the action.

Mount Rainier National Park Rangers, early 1930's. Left to Right: (back row) Oscar Sedergren, ?, Preston P. Macy, Frank Greer, Davis (front row) Carl Tice, Charles Brown, Harold Hall, Herm Bamett.
(NPSHPC - HFC/91-12)

When I entered Mount Rainier National Park for the first time in June 1914 as the first visitor of the season, I was tremendously impressed by the virgin forest which hugged the edges of the road—magnificent and closely-packed Douglas firs, red cedars, and hemlock. The road just "snaked its way" through the forest. In Macy's time, there was much pressure to "modernize" the Nisqually road by widening it and clearing the trees back from its shoulders. Macy wanted none of that. The road had character that would be almost completely destroyed by any such "improvement." And, in spite of strong Bureau of Public Roads advocacy, he stood firm in opposition. The result: the Nisqually road is still as beautiful and impressive in this year 1982 as it was 67 years ago.

When Preston Macv retired, in 1961, he and his wife Esther built themselves a comfortable home in Puyallup. Later, when looking after the house and grounds became too great a chore, he and Esther moved to Seattle. There he died in 1979 in his 88th year.

When he retired, he received the Department's Meritorious Service Award. Among other things, the citation that accompanied the award mentioned the "patience, diplomacy, and unusual ability to express himself" as having contributed much to the "success of the formative years" of Olympic National Park. He was made an honorary member of The Mountaineers in 1962. Two years later, he became one of the first honorary members of the Seattle Mountain Rescue Council.

Preston's widow, Esther still lives at the home in Seattle where they shared his last years.

—Herb Evison.

Additional Information
Guide to the Preston V. Macy Papers, 1916-1979 (University of Washington)

Last Updated: 01-Dec-2014