Ed Bearss, Past Chief Historian Of National Park Service, Dies At 97Historians in the News
tags: obituaries, historic preservation, Civil War, National Parks, battlefields, public history
Ed Bearss, a former National Park Service chief historian with a penchant for Civil War history, has passed away at the age of 97.
Bearss passed away Tuesday, peacefully and surrounded by family.
The Montana native's Park Service career began in 1955 at Vicksburg National Military Park, where he served as the park historian. While there he was instrumental in locating the resting place of the Union gunboat Cairo.
A decorated U.S. Marine veteran of the Pacific Theater of World War II, he attended college and graduate school on the GI Bill before pursuing a distinguished career in the Park Service. In 1981, Bearss became the chief historian for the Park Service, a position he held until he retired in 1995. During his career Bearss completed several detailed studies for the agency and has authored many books. In 1990, he was a featured commentator on the Ken Burns' The Civil War.
As one of the powerful voices in that documentary, Bearrs brought history alive for millions of Americans with his deep voice and evocative descriptions, a style once described by the Washington Post as nearly “Homeric monologues.” Although a prolific author on topics in military history, including a three-volume history of the Vicksburg Campaign, Bearss was particularly dedicated to the importance of preserved landscapes and how they enhance the understanding of the past. He was among the originators of the modern battlefield preservation movement and a devoted tour guide, travelling up to 200 days per year into his 90s.
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