In honor of the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, Great Smoky Mountains Association has released a list of the 100 most influential individuals in Great Smoky Mountains National Park history, including many who have had a direct impact on Friends of the Smokies.
The list was published in a special issue of Great Smoky Mountains Association’s award-winning Smokies Life Magazine, available now.
“It’s amazing to see how deep the roots of our relatively young organization reach back into this park’s history,” said Brent McDaniel, director of marketing at Friends of the Smokies. “These people paved the way for the establishment and preservation of GSMNP and we are honored to continue in their footsteps.”
Included on this prestigious list, alongside famous names like Roosevelt and Rockefeller, are former Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Gary Wade and former Great Smoky Mountains National Park Superintendent Randall Pope who were both instrumental in the formation of Friends of the Smokies, along with Bob Miller, former park spokesman. Justice Wade served as Friends of the Smokies’ board chair for two decades and worked closely with Wilma Maples to help fund the park’s Twin Creeks research facility. Maples was one of the park’s first female employees and later a community leader, successful entrepreneur, and philanthropist in Gatlinburg.
Jim Hart has been the president of Friends of the Smokies for the past 14 years. Under his tenure, Friends of the Smokies’ fundraising total has topped $50 million in support of the national park. Charles Maynard was the first executive director of Friends of the Smokies and helped establish the organization’s strong foundation.
Kathryn McNeil served on Friends’ board and donated her home and 574 acres to the park for what would later become the Appalachian Highlands Science Learning Center at Purchase Knob. Recently, McNeil endowed a full-time Parks as Classrooms Resource Education Ranger to provide more comprehensive, hands-on science education programs for middle and high school students in western North Carolina year-round.
Margaret Stevenson was a hiking legend in the Smokies and became the first woman to hike every trail in the park in 1976. In 1997, the Margaret Stevenson hiking group established a fund in her honor to support trail maintenance in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which became part of Friends of the Smokies’ Trails Forever endowment to rehabilitate hiking trails in the park. Wilma Dykeman was an Asheville author who wrote lovingly about her native Appalachia and was one of Friends of the Smokies founding board members.
Charles Webb, editor of the Asheville Citizen-Times in the 1920s and 30s, and Steve Woody, resident of Cataloochee Valley in the late 1800s, are relatives of Friends of the Smokies board members Laura Webb and Steve Woody, respectively. Ben Morton, mayor of Knoxville in the mid-1920s, is the grandfather of emeritus board member Judy Morton and for whom Morton Overlook on Newfound Gap Road is named.
“It took thousands and thousands of people to get this place protected as a national park in the 1920s and 1930s, and it takes ten times that many to keep them pristine,” said Steve Kemp, interpretive products and services director at Great Smoky Mountains Association.
Photos: Friends of the Smokies