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Robert Stanton

Robert George Stanton was born on September 22, 1940 in Forth Worth, Texas. His mother was a short order cook and his father was a hay contractor. He grew up in Mosier Valley, one of the oldest African American communities in Texas, settled by free slaves. He graduated from I.M. Terrell High School in Forth Worth in 1959.

He earned his bachelor's of science degree from Huston-Tillotson College in Austin in 1963. The summer of his junior year in college he began his career with the National Park Service. Borrowing $250, he bought a train ticket to Wyoming and a park ranger's uniform and worked as a seasonal ranger at Grand Teton National Park. Stanton, along with several other African Americans, was recruited by then Interior Secretary, Stewart Udall who traveled to predominately Black college campuses recruiting students.

In 1963, Stanton began his graduate studies at Boston University and went back to Huston-Tillotson to work as the director of public relations and alumni affairs from 1964 until 1966. That year, he took a full time job with the Park Service as a personnel management and public information specialist in the Washington, D.C. headquarters office. In 1969, he became a management assistant and in 1970, he was appointed superintendent of Virgin Islands National Park in St. Thomas. In 1974, Stanton became deputy regional director of the Southeast Region of the National Park Service in Atlanta and in 1976 he returned to Washington, D.C. as assistant director of park operations. In 1978, Stanton was named deputy regional director of the National Capital Region, where he remained until 1986. In 1987, he returned to headquarters as associate director for operations, and in 1988, he became the first African American to serve as director of the National Park Service. Stanton's nomination for the post by former President Clinton was the first that had to be approved by the U.S. Senate…he was confirmed unanimously. He retired from that position in 2003.

Stanton currently works as an adjunct professor at Texas A&M teaching courses on conservation. He has also taught at Yale University and been the recipient of numerous awards for his civic work and environmental stewardship.

Accession Number




Interview Date



Last Name


Maker Category
Middle Name



I. M. Terrell High School

Mosier Valley School

Huston-Tillotson University

Boston University

First Name


Birth City, State, Country

Fort Worth



Favorite Season




Favorite Vacation Destination

National Parks

Favorite Quote

Mankind Differ As The Waves But Are As One As The Sea

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Interview Description
Birth Date


Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City




Favorite Food

Steak, Potatoes

Short Description

Federal government official Robert Stanton (1940 - ) is the first African American to serve as director of the National Park Service.


Grand Teton National Park

Huston-Tillotson College

National Park Service

Virgin Islands National Park

Texas A&M University

Yale University

Favorite Color


Timing Pairs

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Robert Stanton's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Robert Stanton lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Robert Stanton describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Robert Stanton describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Robert Stanton talks about his Mosier Valley ancestry and his grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Robert Stanton describes his earliest childhood memory and names his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Robert Stanton talks about the Mosier Valley community in Texas

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Robert Stanton remembers efforts to improve African American children's schooling in Mosier Valley, Texas

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Robert Stanton describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Robert Stanton describes his experience at Mosier Valley Elementary School in Texas

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Robert Stanton talks about early adolescence and his brother's death in the Korean War

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Robert Stanton talks about his adolescent influences and busing to I.M. Terrell High School in Fort Worth, Texas

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Robert Stanton describes his high school experience in Fort Worth, Texas and his aspirations as a teenager

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Robert Stanton remembers Huston-Tillotson College in Austin, Texas

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Robert Stanton remembers being recruited to work for the U.S. Department of the Interior in the summer of 1962

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Robert Stanton remembers working in Grand Teton National Park during the summer of 1962

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Robert Stanton talks about working for Huston-Tillotson College in Austin, Texas and returning to the National Park Service

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Robert Stanton talks about the beginning of his career at the National Park Service and meeting his wife

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Robert Stanton talks about working as superintendent of the U.S. Virgin Islands National Park

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Robert Stanton talks about his work as deputy regional director of the Southeast Region and assistant director of the National Park Service

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Robert Stanton recalls his tenure as deputy regional director of the National Capital Region of the National Park Service

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Robert Stanton talks about climbing the National Park Service hierarchy to serve as the director

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Robert Stanton remembers the director of National Park Service nomination process

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Robert Stanton describes his accomplishments as director of the National Park Service

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Robert Stanton describes congressional oversight hearings he experienced as director of the National Park Service

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Robert Stanton reflects upon African American's interaction with the National Park Service

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Robert Stanton talks about challenges facing the National Park Service

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Robert Stanton talks about what he would like to have done as director of the National Park Service

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Robert Stanton talks about the National Park Service's role in preserving African American history

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Robert Stanton talks about his favorite national parks and the parks he has yet to visit

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Robert Stanton recalls teaching at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut and bringing students to the World Park Congress

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Robert Stanton talks about his current consultation and board work

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Robert Stanton reflects upon how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Robert Stanton reflects upon his life

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Robert Stanton reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Robert Stanton narrates his photograph, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Robert Stanton narrates his photographs, pt.2







Robert Stanton talks about the beginning of his career at the National Park Service and meeting his wife
Robert Stanton describes his accomplishments as director of the National Park Service
What were you doing for the [National] Park Service [NPS] in 1966?$$My first appointment was in personnel management and public information.$$And you held that position until 1969?$$Until 1969 and then I was reassigned to, to the National Capital Region [NCR] in a park position as a management assistant.$$Um-hm.$$And I served in that position until 1970. Our director of the park service at that time did something similar to, to what [Secretary of the Interior] Stewart Udall did, he looked at the faces of all of his superintendents from South Pacific to Maine, from Alaska to the U.S. Virgin Islands, and did not see one black face among the hundreds of superintendents. And he too said, "This is a new day," and he and my regional director at that time and--he conferred with the regional director and also with his deputy director and said that we were going to make an appointment and I have the distinction of being, and I say this with all humility, of being the first African American to be appointed by the park service as a park superintendent. The thing that's so interesting is that two individuals who made a--who played a very prominent role in that appointment, were two gentlemen who was at Grand Teton National Park [Wyoming] in '62 [1962], the original director, Russell Dickenson, when I was appointed superintendent, was my first chief ranger. And the gentleman who was the number two for the whole of the park service working with Director [George B.] Hartzog [Jr.], was [Harthon L.] Spud Bill who was the superintendent at Grand Teton, so they had a lot of influence on me. But I might mention the other thing about the Teton experience. As I mentioned earlier, Secretary Udall directed his staff to recruit among a fairly large number of historically black colleges and universities [HBCU], and one of the colleges they attended was Livingstone College in Salisbury, North Carolina. And I don't know how many students were selected but one I know that was selected from there, William D. Kennard [ph.] another good Omega [Psi Phi Fraternity] man I might add, also worked in Grand Teton '62 [1962] and '63 [1963]. And when I came to the Washington [D.C.] area in 1966 for my permanent job, William was a bachelor, and I was a bachelor then, and so we were about to go out on the town here in Washington and he said, "Hey [HistoryMaker] Bob [Robert Stanton], there's this young lady that just finished from Livingstone, she's now working at HUD, [U.S. Department of] Housing and Urban Development, and I've been dating a girl from Livingstone," he said, "why don't we just double date?" I said, "Sounds great to me William," you know. You probably getting two or three dates this week, you know.$$(Laughter) That would be the first of many--$$Yeah, right.$$--this week, right?$$Yeah. So the next thing I know, William was my best man; his brother was in the ministry and his brother was administering the wedding. But Teton has had a lasting experience on me but probably the best because I married Janet Moffatte [Stanton] of South Carolina and the best thing that ever happened to me, yeah, yeah, yeah.$$That's great.$$Thirty-eight years of marriage, yeah.$Tell us a little bit about some of your accomplishments as director [of the National Park Service (NPS)]?$$Well, again, a director, any, any, any accomplishment as a superintendent, management assistant, regional director, or associate director, or director, is in direct proportion to the support that you get from your staff and their motivation and their interest, and I had the best group of federal employees in the National Park Service whom I worked with daily and I think we accomplished a great deal. We accomplished a great deal on several fronts. One is in working directly with [U.S.] Congress to get new authorizations that allow for more revenues to be available to the park service to, to meet some of those needs and congress authorized new legislative authorities for the park service to have more resources at its disposal, and I was very pleased with some of those legislative accomplishments. Also further to congress, congress during my tenure as director approved nine new parks, extended the boundary of I think twenty-something parks. And two parks that came into the system while I was director speak specifically to events associated with African Americans. Little Rock Central High School [National Historic Site, Little Rock, Arkansas], which is very close to me because the nine students who integrated Little Rock Central High School [Little Rock, Arkansas] in 1957 were my peers, and that now is a national historic site. And the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site [Tuskegee, Alabama] to commemorate the bravery of those fighters notwithstanding that the [U.S.] Army or the [U.S.] military was segregated but yet they still fought valiantly in World War II [WWII]. But I also I was very proud that congress passed legislation authorizing the [National] Underground Railroad Network to Freedom and it was my great joy--$$Hmm.$$--to be invited by President [William Jefferson "Bill] Clinton to join along with a number of other distinguished citizens including Rodney [E.] Slater who was secretary of transportation at that time, Congressman Carl Stokes [sic. Ambassador Carl Stokes], (unclear) and others to witness him personally signing the Underground Railroad Network to Freedom. And but also on the operational side, I think we improved the quality of interpretation, the visitor experiences when one goes to the park. One of the passions I have is to increase the involvement of young people in a program we inaugurated we call the Public Lands Corps that provided for the expanded involvement of young people. We expanded the Parks Classroom Program. We improved the safety of our employees in the work place. I was very concerned about the number of lost time injuries of our employees suffering back strains or automobile accidents and what have you, so substantially improved that. And certainly the construction of new facilities and the upgrading and maintenance of facilities. Major conservation projects included the restoration of the Everglades National Parks [sic. Everglades National Park, Florida], an agreement to remove some dams out of Olympic National Park in Washington State, alternate transportation systems at the Zion National Park in Utah, also at Acadia [National Park] in Maine. So I think a number of major improvements were made over my roughly four years as the director of the park service. Could have been more had I stayed in longer but that was not to be (laughter).$$And not your choice, not your decision.$$That's right. That's right.