Stevenson, James O. (Deceased)
Jim was born in Chicago, Illinois, on April 16, 1908. Jim became interested in birds early in life, his first known field notes dating from 1923. He often went bird watching in Chicago’s Lincoln Park, along the shore of Lake Michigan, and at the Cook County Forest Preserve. He graduated from high school in 1925 and that summer hitchhiked with a friend to southern Illinois to meet ornithologist Robert Ridgway. Their efforts led to a day of bird watching with that famous scientist. After high school, Jim moved on to the College of Wooster in Wooster, Ohio. He transferred to Occidental College in Los Angeles, California, and graduated from there with a BA degree in biology in 1930. He conducted research relating to bird ecology and physiology at the Baldwin Bird Research Laboratory under S. Charles Kendeigh at Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, and received his MA degree in biology in 1932. He continued his studies at the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology at the University of California at Berkeley from 1931 to 1934. In 1934, Jim was hired to collect bird specimens for the Arizona State Museum, and next worked with the Iowa Fish and Game Commission studying wetlands. From 1935 to 1936, he supervised wildlife conservation projects in state parks of eight southwestern states under the direction the National Park Service in Oklahoma, as well as working with the Civilian Conservation Corps to assess habitats in potential park sites. He then moved to Washington, D.C., and was employed to supervise field biologists who were researching problems in national parks. He became the first refuge manager of the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas under the Bureau of Biological Survey. There he spent much of his time observing, studying, and photographing whooping cranes. He took the first ever color films of their courtship dances, and published a number of scientific and public interest articles on these cranes. In 1943, he published an article called Will Bugles Blow No More? about their endangerment. From 1941 to 1943, Jim became assistant chief of the Section of National Park Wildlife for the Fish and Wildlife Service. He served as executive officer aboard the USS Alnitah in the South and Western Pacific regions of World War II from 1943 to 1945. He used any free time, of course, to observe exotic birds. Upon his return in 1946, he worked again for the Fish and Wildlife Service, this time as a member of the first river basins study team. Until 1959, he continued working on surveys of water resource development projects to determine the impact on the wildlife and fish and to determine ways of reducing harm and increasing the benefits coming out of these projects. He became assistant chief of the Division of River Basin Studies and helped create the first wetlands protection programs in the prairie pothole region. He started to work in the field of legislation; four of the most noteworthy acts he contributed to being the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act, the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act, the Bald Eagle Act, and the Endangered Species Act of 1966. He also did a large amount of work on the publication Compilation of Federal Laws Relating to the Conservation and Development of our Nation’s Fish and Wildlife Resources. He retired from his position as chief of the Office of Legislation in 1970. Jim held positions in many professional organizations, becoming a charter member of The Wildlife Society, member of the American Ornithologists’ Union in 1927 and elected member in 1948, member of the Cooper Ornithological Society in 1928 and life member starting in 1978, member of the Wilson Ornithological Society in 1933, member of the Association of Field Ornithologists in 1969, and member of the Cosmos club. He wrote over 40 articles, most about birds, for Audubon Magazine, The Auk, Condor, Wilson Bulletin, Wildlife Society Bulletin, the Atlantic Naturalist, and others. He also wrote a memoir called Which Reminds Me in 1990. Jim liked to travel and be active throughout his life, and he made trips to many parts of the globe. These destinations include many parts of North America, Central America, South America, the Caribbean, Europe, Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. He liked to return to the same areas after a time to observe how the wildlife and habitats had changed. Jim received the Distinguished Service Award of the Department of Interior. When asked for one word to describe him, John Gottschalk said “integrity.” Jim was known for his extensive network of friends. He made a point to keep in touch with them, sending out cards for someone’s special occasion almost everyday, and he often included interesting articles, cartoons, and books. He often signed these letters “Keep the faith and think clean thoughts.” He is remembered as being quite a gentleman--courteous, thoughtful, and generous. He also was an avid hunter of grouse and waterfowl, heading out each fall with friends to the midwest, the Eastern Shore of Maryland, and Canada. He was elected to membership in the Washington Biologists’ Field Club in 1949. He served as treasurer during the 1960s, and was on the finance committee at the end of his life. He was named an honorary member in 1989 after 40 years of participation and service. His visits to Plummers Island and with other members of the Washington Biologists’ Field Club were frequent. Jim died of a stroke on October 14, 1991. After he died friends spread his ashes from the Island into the Potomac River, as he wished. A plaque was installed on the Island in memory of this popular and active member.