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David Rockefeller Visits Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

National Park News

On Friday, May 31st, David Rockefeller, Sr., son of philanthropist John D. Rockefeller, Jr., paid a visit to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Rockefeller was on vacation to see the Great Smoky Mountains, which he had last visited in 1950 when he and his father took a road trip to the area.

In 1928, John D. Rockefeller Jr. made a $5 million donation in memory of his mother, Laura Spelman Rockefeller, to help acquire land to form Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Rockefeller Monument at Newfound Gap was created in her honor, and was the site of a famous park dedication speech by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1940.

While in the Park, Rockefeller toured the natural history collection, home to 60,000 items including mammals, reptiles, amphibians, insects, plants, rocks and soil samples. Rockefeller, an avid collector of beetles, or Coleoptera, has a personal collection of some 90,000 beetles from all over the world within the “Rockefeller collection of Coleoptera.”

“What a wonderful experience for all of us to meet Mr. Rockefeller, and through his presence, reach through history to those connected with the Park’s formation.” said Superintendent Dale Ditmanson. “Because of his family’s generous donation so many years ago, Great Smoky Mountains National Park was created and the variety of plant and animal life within has been protected for almost 80 years. It was an honor to meet Mr. Rockefeller and show him a small sampling of the specimens which reside in our natural history collection.”

While the natural history collections tour focused mainly on the park’s examples of beetles, other items, such as an American black bear cub and a hellbender, a species of giant salamander, were examined.  One item of particular interest was a specimen of a passenger pigeon, which has been extinct since the early 1900s.


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