Browse the history of MDC's first 50 years.
Only a few decades ago, it wasn't unusual to see fields of rocks in the Ozarks or acres upon acres of broomsedge, that indicator of worn-out land. Today, fields of bare rocks are rare, and broomsedge have largely been replaced with improved pastures. Wildfires are nowhere nearly as common as they were, and reforestation cloaks hills that were formerly cut, goated and burned.
Sydney Stephens died October 17, 1948. Students in the wildlife conservation class at the time remember Dr. Rudolf Bennitt, associate zoology professor at the University of Missouri, standing before the class and crying as he announced Stephens' death. What sort of man could evoke such emotion?
On the first day of July 1937, E. Sydney Stephens was confronted with the necessity of coming up with some sort of organization. Amendment NO. 4 had passed by a sizable majority, indicating that the public was ready for a nonpolitical, scientifically-based wildlife and forestry program. But how do you go about starting one?
Irwin T. Bode had a history of successful development of new programs before he became director of Missouri Conservation Department.
Bode had one trained wildlife biologist, Harold V. Terrill, who had been hired by Ramsey in September. He needed more biologists to get some sort of wildlife program going, and he needed someone to head up a forestry program. Both he and Stephens shared a dream of improving the position of the game warden by giving him a larger role in the management of wildlife and forests. That needed organization and personnel.
Bode's aim was to have most of his personnel out in the field "on the firing line," as he expressed it. He preferred to have a minimal staff in the Central Office and the bulk of the Department's personnel actually working with citizens on the land.
In November of 1941, Irwin T. Bode had officially completed four years as director. He brought this fact up at the January 1942, Commission meeting and was given a vote of confidence and reappointed for another four year term.
Read about Commissioner Bode's last few years with MDC.
William E. Towell became the Department's second director in 1957. A native of St. James, Towell's achievements included streamlining the Department's administration and locating all sections and divisions under one roof for the first time.