Inducted in 2013
Jay Darling was born in Norwood, Michigan, in 1876, the son of a Civil War veteran and Congregational minister. As a boy in Sioux City, Iowa, Jay tramped, fished, trapped and hunted. At Beloit College in Wisconsin, he began drawing caricatures of his fellow students and faculty, signing his cartoons with a contraction of his last name, D'ing. He developed a lifelong interest in biology, today known as environmental studies. By 1906, he was hired by the Des Moines Register and Leader, and he started including some conservation-themed cartoons. In 1911, he moved to the New York Globe and in 1916, he was hired by the New York Herald Tribune, one of New York's major newspapers, which also signed him to a national syndication deal.
Unlike 21st century newspapers, the newspapers of the early 1900's used as many cartoons as photographs and almost all newspapers featured an editorial cartoon on the front page, above the fold, just under the headline. His first conservation themed cartoons appeared before 1910 and, in the 1920s, regularly for the rest of his career. They focused on wetland conservation, including barrier free rivers, wildlife preservation, pollution problems and, especially waterfowl issues. He was an opponent of damming a river as the only solution to all water issues. He was an early and vocal opponent to DDT's indiscriminate use--long before Rachel Carson. He won Pulitzer Prizes for his cartoons in 1924 and 1943.
He became active in many conservation issues and organizations. As a member of the Iowa State Fish and Game Commission, he proposed the nation's first Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit to use scientifically trained staff to perform professional, non-political wildlife research and management. He paid one-third of the cost of the unit himself for the first three years, along with Iowa State University and the Fish and Game Commission. At least forty states followed Iowa's lead establishing these units.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt appointed him to the President's Committee for Wildlife Preservation with Aldo Leopold and Thomas Beck, founder of the group that became Ducks Unlimited. On March 1, 1934, FDR appointed Darling as Director of the Bureau of Biological Survey, now called the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In this post, Darling pushed employees out into the field. He again pushed for more scientific research into wildlife issues to support science based rather than the politics.
During the early 1930s, he conceived the Federal Duck stamp program and drew its first stamp. His good friend, Herbert Hoover, had strongly supported the 1929 Migratory Bird act but that act had virtually no funding. Federal Duck Stamps have now raised over $750 million dollars to do just that. In 1936, with Leopold and others, he was instrumental in the founding of what became the National Wildlife Federation.
Darling is perhaps the most famous cartoonist between Thomas Nast and Herblock. To many, his fame as a conservationist, proselytizer for water, wetland and wildlife issues is just as great.