can find the genesis of East
Texas' modern-day environmental movement hidden in the memories
of Jack McElroy of Tyler.
In the spring of 1966, McElroy was the supervisor of the Texas National
Forests when he was assigned to escort Supreme Court Justice William
O. Douglas on a tour of East
Douglas, already an ardent conservationist (the word environmentalist
had not emerged), was invited by Liberty mayor Dempsie Henley to tour
East Texas' threatened
Big Thicket, an area sprawling
over several counties north of Beaumont.
Douglas used the invitation as a reason to tour other parts of Texas,
including the state's four national forests, Caddo
Lake, the Guadalupe
peaks of West Texas,
and industrial forestlands in East
He spent two weeks in the state and wrote "Farewell to Texas:
A Vanishing Wilderness." In it he deplored the loss of wilderness
areas throughout the state.
McElroy feels Douglas' tour and the publication of his book ignited
the save-the-forests movement in places like Houston,
Austin and Dallas
and led to widespread acceptance of the environmental movement in
otherwise conservative Texas.
"It was his first visit to Texas. He spent a couple of weeks
here and when he left, he felt he knew everything there was to know,"
said McElroy. "The timbermen in East
Texas blamed me for bringing him here, but I was simply doing
my job," he said.
At the time, Douglas, 67, was already the author of 20 books on nature.
With the physical condition of a man half his age, he was renowned
for his stamina.
During his tour, Douglas heaped praise on McElroy and the management
plans of the Texas National Forests, but he complained about the lack
of additional public lands in the state. "Real estate operators
are eating you away. There's no overall program for conservation,"
he told reporters. Douglas' book, published in 1967, was an indictment
of dam-builders, ranchers, lumber companies, oil and gas companies,
and others who were managing land resources in Texas.
He predicted: "The people of Texas are aroused against these
modern Ahabs; and their voices are beginning to be heard. But heroic
action is needed if the shining bits of wilderness that are left in
Texas are to be salvaged."
As a part of his tour, ..... next
The county line magnolia
and General Sam Houston Cypress