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Notable Arkansans

by Clyde Snider, Special to the Democrat-Gazette | May 9, 2021 at 2:37 a.m.

She was born in 1907 in Pine Bluff, and graduated from Ouachita Baptist College (now Ouichita Baptist University) in 1929 with a bachelor of arts degree in music. While at Ouachita, she met her future husband, John T., from Arkadelphia; the couple married in 1930 and, in 1937, had a daughter. At first, her interest was in music — primarily performing organ concerts in their newfound home of El Dorado, where John T. owned and operated a Chevrolet dealership in nearby Smackover.

During their vacations exploring the wonders of America, she always had her camera with her and enjoyed photographing interesting things. One day, she attempted to photograph a beautiful bird — a Steller's jay — without success. The failure prompted her to study the techniques of well-known wildlife photographers, specifically the way they used natural camouflage and special equipment. She soon was developing her own skills by photographing birds in and around El Dorado. Although she had no formal training, she became quite adept and, within a few years, was entering photography contests and gaining respect from others in the field.

In the 1950s, after her years of practice and hard work, her photographs began to appear in such leading publications as National Geographic, Time, Life, Field and Stream and Reader's Digest, and she found that her hobby had developed into a full-fledged career. She began trekking the world, pointing her camera at beautiful scenery and wildlife of all kinds. She rode an elephant across a river in India, took a two-week expedition across the Greenland ice cap by dogsled and broke her ankle when attacked by a 600-pound bull sea lion in the Galapagos Islands. Eventually, she took photographs on all seven continents.

By the mid-1960s, she had become one of the most respected nature photographers. Her pictures were published in two National Geographic books: "Song and Garden Birds of North America" and "Water, Prey, and Game Birds of North America." Even children's nature magazine Ranger Rick (published by the National Wildlife Federation) regularly featured her photos. Her images continued to be published throughout the 1970s and into the 1980s. In 1980, she published her own photo collection in "Wings on the Southwest: Birds and Creatures of the Southern Wetlands."

Over her lifetime, she took more than 250,000 photographs. Some 58,000 of her slides and related materials are housed at the Riley-Hickingbotham Library at Ouachita Baptist University.

She died in 1990 and is buried in El Dorado.

Who was this amazing photographer, whom the Arkansas Gazette called "the globe trotting nature photographer" in a 1980 article?

See Notable Arkansans — Answer


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