Newton B. Drury

Newton Drury
Newton Bishop Drury played multiple roles in the development of California State Parks throughout his adult life—outside advocate and partner, employee, and prominent leader.

Drury’s relationship with State Parks began with the Save the Redwoods League soon after its founding, when he and brother Aubrey were hired as the League’s public relations firm in 1919. He became League executive secretary that same year. He and Aubrey worked to bring in private donations for the purchase of redwood groves. This led to the establishment of some of early redwood parks, including Humboldt Redwoods State Park.

As it became clear that private donations would not be the key to preserving the redwoods, Newton Drury became involved in the movement to create a California state park system. He served as secretary to the California State Park Committee, gathering public support for the senate bills that would create a State Park Commission.

Drury did more in these early years than save the redwoods. The State Park Commission hired him as a part-time acquisition officer in 1929. One of his many important tasks was acquiring land for the wilderness area of Mount San Jacinto State Park. He stayed involved with the preservation of the Mount San Jacinto wilderness for the next three decades.

His leadership in conservation and parks led to Drury’s appointment as National Park Service director in 1940. Drury successfully protected the national parks against the pressure for exploitation during World War II.

Newton Drury left the National Park Service in 1951 and accepted an appointment by Governor Earl Warren to be Chief of the Division of Beaches and Parks. (The position of division chief was the equivalent of what is now called director of the Department of Parks and Recreation.) As division chief, Drury oversaw one of the California State Park System’s greatest periods of growth. His acquaintance with the Hearst family from his Save the Redwoods League work was instrumental in the acquisition of Hearst San Simeon State Historical Monument, also known as Hearst Castle.

After his mandatory retirement from state service, Drury returned to the Save the Redwoods League. He again became executive secretary, and then executive director when the position name changed. He was elected President of the League in 1971, served in that capacity until 1975, and then was Chairman of the Board until his death in 1978. Throughout this time his connection with California State Parks benefited both the League and the park system.

Newton Drury received many awards and honors, including an honorary Doctor of Law from University of California, Berkeley, his alma mater, because of his work as "a conservationist who has applied rational imagination and boundless industry to the public service of his State and Nation." Other awards included two Pugsley medals from the American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration, given to recognize contributions to the development of public parks in the United States. Perhaps the most fitting honors are the two redwood groves named for him in State Parks—the Drury Brothers Grove at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park and the Newton B. Drury Grove at Humboldt Redwoods State Park; the Newton B. Drury Parkway through Prairie Creek Redwoods; and the peak that bears his name in the wilderness area of Mount San Jacinto State Park.