In the early 1900s, those who are now called “environmentalists,” would have been known as “conservationists.” Of the great conservationists of the era, New York State benefited from the dedication of the legendary Syracuse native, Louis Marshall (1856 – 1929).
The son of German Jewish immigrants who encouraged their children’s secular and Judaic educations, Marshall was a well-regarded constitutional lawyer and public activist. His behind-the-scenes efforts were critical in the creation of the New York State College of Forestry, which opened in partnership with Syracuse University in 1911. (It is now known as the State University of N.Y. College of Environmental Science and Forestry.) Marshall then served as the president of the Board of Trustees and encouraged the creation of the college’s adjunct Rangers School to train park rangers.
Additionally, Marshall was instrumental in creating protected areas in the Adirondack Mountains, and, later, in successfully adding the “Forever Wild” clause of the New York State Constitution that mandated the maintenance of wilderness areas in the Adirondacks and Catskill Mountains.
Beyond his renown as a conservationist, Marshall was an extremely dedicated member of the Jewish community. He served on the Board of Directors of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America (JTS) and as president of New York City’s Congregation Temple Emanu-El. In one of his most famous advocacies, Marshall took on Henry Ford in an attempt to close Ford’s anti-Semitic Dearborn Independent newspaper. Most notably, along with Jacob Schiff and Cyrus Adler, he helped found the American Jewish Committee (AJC), a political advocacy organization. In his role of President of the AJC (1912-1929), Marshall attended the Paris Peace Conference at Versailles (1919).
Marshall, who was not a supporter of Zionism, passed away on September 11, 1929, while attending a Zionist Conference in Zurich as part of his AJC duties. He and his wife, Florence, had four children, two of whom (Bob and George) also became noted conservationists.