July 26, 2004 by

J. Gordon Edwards


Categories: Education, Military, Writers/Editors

jedwards.jpgJ. Gordon Edwards was a mountain climber, an author, a park ranger and an educator, but he also held an unofficial title: the patron saint of climbing at Glacier National Park.
The San Jose, Calif., resident served in the U.S. Army during World War II. Although Edwards was trained as a mountaineer in preparation for an invasion of Italy, he actually spent two years toiling as a combat medic in the European theatre.
From 1949 to 1956, Edwards worked as a ranger and naturalist at Glacier National Park in northwestern Montana. For the next four decades, he taught biology and entomology at San Jose State University. His expertise and extensive collection of insects were acknowledged with a museum named in his honor.
As a skilled hiker and climber, Edwards literally blazed trails to more than 70 peaks. His 1961 book, “A Climber’s Guide to Glacier National Park,” has become a favorite text of area climbers. He also released the guide’s copyright to the Glacier Natural History Association, and donated all royalties from its many reprints to the nonprofit organization. A founding member of the Glacier Mountaineering Society and a member of the prestigious Explorers’ Club in New York, Edwards’ final years were spent leading tourists on climbs and sharing his knowledge of the park.
Edwards died on July 19 of a heart attack while hiking up Divide Mountain with his wife, Alice. He was 84.

15 Responses to J. Gordon Edwards

  1. Mike Orlando

    Gordon was like a second father to me. We use to meet at the Coffee Cup in SJ and talk about entomoloty, hiking and scientific subjects. He was always smiling and very happy. He seemed to love life and people and always had a great story to tell about his experiences. I will miss him greatly

  2. Gordon Gribble

    I just today learned of Gordon’s death. I am so sorry to hear this. I met Gordon in 2000 at my seminar on natural chlorine compounds at San Jose State University. We had corresponded for many years about DDT and the misconceptions of this life-saving pesticide. My deepest sympathy goes out to his wife and family.
    Dr. Gordon Gribble

  3. Dave Wilson

    It was my good fortune to have been an entomology student of Dr. Edwards from 1967-1970.
    His life and zest for living had such a positive impact on many, many people. As a starving college student, working two jobs, one of which was managing apartments in an old Victorian house near the college, I mentioned to him I was working on a plumbing problem. Typical of Doc Edwards, he came by (2 AM), to lend a hand and thread some pipe.
    Doc Edwards lived by his motto

  4. Bill Freeman

    I met Gordon Edwards in 1957 and was a student of his for the next 3 years. After graduating with a major in Entomology we kept in touch for the next 44 years. He was more than a professor and mentor to me; he was a person that showed me what life was really about. I learned more from him during our coffee shop visits over a 35 cent hamburger than I ever learned from him in the classroom. He was one of the people I most admired in my lifetime. I just found out this morning of his passing from a telephone message on my recorder from Janie. My heart goes out to both Alice and Janie. The light Gordon gave the world will always shine in my memories and I will miss him so very much. God’s Speed Gordon…wherever you are I am certain you have a butterfly net with you and you’re lighting up a place in the universe.
    Bill Freeman

  5. Robert L. Cushing

    I just learned of Dr. Edward’s death yesterday (October 6, 2004) when I was talking to a colleague about bear attacks. The colleague described J. Gordon’s encounter with a grizzly at Glacier. I considered the damage that might have been and realized how lucky we were, that we, as students of the sixties and seventies were able to enjoy Dr. Edwards for the great professor, professional and fine friend that he was. I still have those silly redwood boxes full of pins (the insects have long vanished) and the memory of a man that I first met in class as he was consuming a handful of DDT.
    Robert L. Cushing, REHS MA

  6. Ken Weiner

    Dr. Edwards was the best professor bar none I had at SJSU. I minored in Entomology and majored in Criminal Justice, and have been a Park Ranger since 1980. Dr. Edwards wore a suit and tie to class, plaid shirts for field trips, and always found time for his students. He was inspiration for most if not all of his students at SJSU and will be sorely missed.

  7. blake smith

    Many Glacier has been an important location for me and my family since we first visited in the 1970’s. The first time that I met Mr. Edwards was when we heard that he was camping at Swift current and my brother and father, who were to climb Mt Wilbur, wanted to talk to him about routes. When my entire family entered his campsite he was in his tent and his wife asked my mother if we knew anything about bear bites. Mr Edwards came out of his tent and one of his hands looked like he was wearing a boxing glove it was so swollen. He told us that he had been silly and got between a sow and her cubs in an alder grove and was attacked. He said that the bear chomped down on his hand and that he patted the bear’s face and talked to her until she let go.
    My father and brother did climb Mt Wilbur and on that day Mr. Edwards was sitting in the parking lot of the Swift current store. My mother asked him if he could see my father and brother and he said yes and that they were on their way down. He was mistaken. In fact my brother and father were still going up and we all, including Gordon worried for hours until their arrival that night.
    The same brother and I went back to Many Glacier alone two summers ago and I had read Gordon’s book over and over leading up to the trip. I must admit that I cursed Mr. Edwards a few times on a hike to Mt. Siyeh via a mountain I have forgotton, just behing the HOtel. It was farther and more difficult than he had described but it was June and there was still alot of snow.
    HIs book is beaten and weathered so I am going to buy another. I hope that I can live a life as full and active as he. Cheers to the over hte hill gang
    Blake SMith
    Fort Plain, NY

  8. Ken Proctor

    Gordon, Alice and Janie Edwards are good friends of our’s from many years ago. My wife, Marilyn and I were in the National Park Service with them from 1953 to 1958. When Janie was about one-year of age we baby-sat her while Gordon and Alice hiked and climbed. The same was true for us when they baby-sat our one-year old, Kenny, while we hiked and climbed. We were stationed at Many Glacier in Glacier NP and lived in cabins side-by-side. I climbed ten mountains with Gordon which he recorded in his “Climbing Guide to Glacier National Park.” We did two in one day in the mid-50s, which was one of the most exciting climbs of my life. They were Mt. Carter and Rainbow Peak. We started at 6:00 a.m. and returned to Many at midnight. One time with both Gordon and Alice we climbed mountains in and around Mt. St. Nicholas. In 1961 Gordon and I climbed the Grand Teton in GT National Park. It was an overnighter and we did it in an electrical storm. Great experience and Gordon’s knowledge made the difference. That climb was written up (by Gordon) in the Chicago Mountaineering News Letter of 1961. Gordon was the only person I knew who could find his way on elk trails. We never hit a dead end. He knew his stuff. Marilyn and I have spent many pleasant days socially with the Edwards’ both in San Jose (their home) and Ontario, California (our home). Both of us loved to share slides with each other. Gordon helped me find my camera in a shop in San Jose. I should not end here because I could write a book about our experiences with Gordon and Alice. There is so much about which to talk. But suffice it to say that this couple were two of the finest friends we have ever met. Our lives were enriched by each of them. We will all meet in heaven and laugh and reminisce. God bless them both.
    Ken and Marilyn Proctor, Seattle, WA 8-11-05

  9. Owen Hoffman

    Dr. Edwards had a positive effect on the lives of all he came into contact with.
    In 1966, I was one of his students at SJS. I had him for entomology. The course was required for all of us who chose to major in biological conservation. Dr. Edwards was outstanding both as a lecturer and as a mentor in the lab and field.
    That year, Dr. Edwards inspired me to make the decision to join the world class team of seasonal ranger-naturalists at Crater Lake Natonal Park in 1966. He told me that the experience would change my life. It did.
    Dr. Edwards was the best professor I ever had. I am proud to have had the chance to have known him. His love of life and his enthusiasm for things natural will be remembered forever.
    Owen Hoffman
    Oak Ridge, TN 37830

  10. Lucy Leeburg

    It is with great sadness that I learn of Doc Edwards passing last year. I was an Entomology major at SJS in the early 80’s and had the pleasure of having Doc Edwards for about 90% of my Entomology classes. About 25 students blazed a trail through Costa Rica with Doc for about 2 months during this period. It was an experience that few will ever forget or ever have the chance of repeating. Doc’s classes were some of the most fun and interesting I ever took (especially Medical Entomology). In true fashion, Doc would tell us the most gruesome details of every parasite and illness transmitted by insects (he knew that we were all deeply fascinated by morbidity). I had been thinking recently of Doc and whether we would all hear of his passing and meet again to talk about his enthusiasm for life, his dry humor and his influence on our futures. I’m not sure we’ll all meet up again with him somewhere in the future – he walked way too fast for most of us… Deep regrets to Alice (to whom he always spoke of so fondly and respectfully). If I ever take my family to Glacier, I will be thinking of Doc (and his infamous bear attack).

  11. Tim Hamilton

    My father knew Gordon Edwards from when Dad and his brother worked in Glacier in the summer of 1962 or ’63. Dad’s kept “A Climber’s Guide to Glacier National Park” with him ever since. The family visited Glacier again this summer, and we were glad to see that it’s been reprinted. Dad told me lots about him.
    Tim Hamilton
    Walland, Tenn.

  12. Vonny Barlow

    I want to say this about Dr. Edwards. I entered San Jose State as someone who did not really know what I wanted to do with my life. The first time I met Dr. Edwards was in the zoology lab where he was the instructor. We covered much of what you would normally do in a zoology lab. When it came time to cover the insects is when Dr. Edwards made himself known to me. I was agog by what I saw. I can still remember my awe at what I saw and more importatnly, felt! Dr. Edwards noticed this too. He came to me and we talked and he finally said, “you know, we have a general entomology class coming up, you may want to take the class”. I said “sign me up”. Years later, here I am about to recieve my Ph.D. in entomology (next week is my defense) and I have Dr. Edwards to thank for every single bit of it! He gave to me what no one else could. He gave me the ability to know what I am, an entomologist. I have been to the summit of mountains with Dr. Edwards and I have been up to my knees in pools of water with him going after insects. I will never forget that, I can’t forget him either.

  13. Michael R.Fox Ph.D.

    I met Dr. Edwards perhaps 10 years ago, at a number of meetings of very high caliber scientists. At the time I was re-examining the literature on DDT, and the fiasco surrounding the 1972 Hearings and the EPA ban of the substance.
    Edwards was correct from the beginning being opposed to the ban as were dozens of other scientists who contributed to the 9000 pages of testimony at the 1972 hearings. Millions of lives would have been saved.
    While many of those 9000 pages have apparently disappeared from the EPA hearing records, Edwards shared several hundred pages of them with me he’d retained.
    He was the pre-eminent scientist persuaded only by evidence and not popularity, not power, not political expedience, not political correctness. Our nation needs 1000s of Gordon Edwards, now more than ever.
    Michael R.Fox Ph.D.

  14. Robert Brownlee

    I have just become acquainted with Dr. J. Gordon Edwards. I am very interested in all his work. Being a true conservative, I believe the work of many entomologists and biologists of the 50’s and 60’s were the pioneers of scientific environmental awareness. Sadly, much of the truth they strived for has been covered up by politically, idealistic extremists out to destroy big business with contrived propaganda. The lying so called scientists at their beckon call are a disgrace.
    The work Dr. Edwards did to help prevent the ban on DDT was a long and risky effort for someone in his professional community. He wasn’t alone. He recognized that the author of the public ban on DDT was solely responsible for what might be largest single catastrophe in human history. To date human beings in third world countries have perished as a result of the ban on DDT. The good that DDT could have done if it had not been banned was far better than saving birds of prey from a false threat purported by the propagandist sycophants who supported Rachel Carson (author: Silent Spring).
    Today we have parks, schools, environmental groups and most recently (2006) a major bridge in Pittsburgh named after Carson. Dr. Edwards recognized her as just an opportunist looking to fulfill her agenda – wage war against big business. Mainly, pesticide corporations.
    This April 2007 has some new movement afoot to drive the lies of this extremist deeper into our public’s minds. April 20 is the centennial celebration of Carson’s birth. Teresa Heinz is speaking and will likely parrot more of the dribblings and rantings from this woman’s past.
    The work that Dr. Edwards did in the mid 60s should not be in vein. We should pick up where he left off an educate the public about the truth and build a real respect for the environment.
    Things aren’t as dark and gloomy as the environmentalists would like us to believe. Its not an us against them issue. Its a truth issue.
    Rob Brownlee
    Evergreen Conservancy Organization
    Indiana, PA

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