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J. Ross Eakin


John Ross Eakin (October 13, 1879 – June 8, 1946) was born in New Martinsville where his parents, Justus and Laveda Wright Eakin, owned the former Eakin House Hotel. In 1900, Eakin graduated from West Virginia University, earning a Civil Engineering Degree. In 1902, he joined the United States Geological Survey as a Topographical Engineer (measuring western mountains and valleys), working in that capacity until June 1917, when he enlisted in the Army, serving on the front lines in France and rising to the rank of Captain, Coast Artillery Corps (later Major in the Reserves).

In 1919, Eakin rejoined the Geological Survey and in December married Marion Mabelle Buckley of Prince William County, Virginia. From May 1921 to January 1931 he served as the Superintendent of the Glacier National Park in rugged Montana, with a single exception from January 1924 to April 1927 to serve as the Superintendent of the Grand Canyon.

In January 1931, Eakin became the first Superintendent of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. During the early period of that tenure, he worked to help develop the Park through accumulating, managing and protecting the land, planning roads and trails, and enhancing tourist sites such as Cades Cove & Clingmans Dome. Eakin also utilized nearby Civilian Conservation Corps camps to do significant Park work such as building fire towers, fire roads and campsites. Eakin served as Superintendent for 14 foundation years at this, America’s long-time most-visited Park.

A stroke in 1945 ended Eakin’s National Park Service career. He died in Johnson City, Tennessee the following year and is buried, along with his wife, at Arlington National Cemetery.

Written by William Buckley Fountain