Former National Park Service Director Roger Kennedy Dies

The National Park Service (NPS) has announced that former director Roger G. Kennedy passed away on September 30, 2011 at the age of 85.

Kennedy served as director from June 1, 1993, to March 29, 1997. While in office, he presided over the creation of eight new parks and led the establishment of a NPS presence in the emerging domain of the World Wide Web.

“Roger Kennedy was a Renaissance man,” said NPS Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “He led our agency effectively and passionately during a difficult time. Roger made it possible for everyone to have a stake in the national parks, and he made the NPS part of school curriculums throughout the nation. He also had the good sense to anticipate the importance of the Internet and utilized it to make the parks more accessible to everyone. He will be missed by his friends and colleagues.”

President Bill Clinton selected Kennedy to direct the National Park Service. Kennedy’s background as a historian prompted him to expand the Service’s role in teaching about America’s natural resources, history, and culture – an expansion brought about in part by Kennedy’s insistence that the National Park Service reach out beyond the parks through the Internet.

Kennedy’s almost four-year tenure saw the NPS restructure its field operations and sharply reduce its central office staffs as part of a government-wide effort to downsize the federal bureaucracy. He refused, however, to let government cutbacks be guided by a non-inclusive definition of history. Kennedy himself put it bluntly in a 2002 interview when he said, “The impulse to prune back the budgets and get rid of the newer parks…was all code for: ‘Let’s stop paying attention to blacks, Hispanics, women.’” Kennedy resisted Congressional efforts to scale back the park system in ways that would have made it less reflective of what he called “the capaciousness of the sense of what the American past is.”

During his multi-faceted and highly distinguished career, Kennedy served as an editor, historian, journalist, banker, and public servant, sitting on boards, commissions, and task forces for six presidents.