Born into a wealthy family, Robert Marshall chose to eschew the comfortable lifestyle in favor of throwing himself, both physically and emotionally, into America's wild lands. Despite a weak heart, Marshall set a rugged pace on frequent hikes of 50 miles or more a day through untamed wilderness. His physical determination was matched by a will of steel: When opponents argued for roads through wilderness to provide easy access for millions of people, Marshall took a firm stand in favor of keeping the land pristine. He is credited with almost single-handedly getting 5.4 million acres added to the federal wilderness system.
With degrees in forestry from New York State College and Harvard University, Marshall began work with the U.S. Forest Service in 1925. He took his talents to Washington, DC in 1933, serving as first director of forestry for the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, and then as head of the Forest Service's Division of Recreation and Lands. In 1935, Marshall joined with other conservationists to form the Wilderness Society. As a scientist, sociologist, and adventurer, Marshall spent much of his adult life exploring the country's uncharted wilderness areas. As a bureaucrat, he fought to protect those areas. Along the way, he became one of the nation's leading conservationists. Today, the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area in the Montana Rockies, one of the last great, unbroken stretches of wildlife habitat in the lower 48, serves as a living monument to its gifted and dedicated namesake.
Back to Past Inductees