• 1927 - Univ. Georgia
  • 1930 - Harvard Med Grad
  • 1933 - Emergency room surgeon and epidemiologist in San Francisco
  • 1939 - Joined the Sierra Club to take an organized burro trip into the Sierra Nevada
  • 1947 - Married to author Peggy Elliott.
  • 1948 - Successfully fought to increase the size of Mount Tamalpais State Park
  • 1935-1985 Ran his own medical practice
  • 1934-1975 Professor at Stanford Medical School
  • 1961-1964, 1967-1969 - 5 time Sierra Club President
  • 1972 Organized citizens, activists and politicians around a campaign to create the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
  • 1995 - Albert Schweitzer Prize for Humanitarianism
  • 1999 - Receives the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor.
    At the award President Clinton said of him, "He has saved more of our wilderness (100 million acres) than any person alive."
  • The Wayburn Wilderness House in Washington DC is named for him.
  • 2010 - Dr. Wayburn died in his San Francisco home at age 103. Read more: SF Chronicle Article

Photo by Will Rousch

By his own account, Dr. Wayburn was neither a "joiner" nor an "organization man," but he saw the Sierra Club as both a way to explore his beloved Sierra Nevada and as the most effective way to salvage the wild character of an America he saw vanishing before his eyes.

While the Bay Area was his focus, the five-time Sierra Club president also strove to preserve wilderness nationwide. A San Francisco Chronicle profile marking his centennial birthday in 2006 credited him with saving 100 million acres of mountains, meadows and rivers in California and Alaska--a million acres per year of his life.

In the early 1970's he fought to create the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA).

In his memoir, Your Land and Mine,   Wayburn recounted meeting with Representative Phillip Burton. Wayburn was seeking his help in creating the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

  [Burton] studied my maps ... then asked, "Is this what you want?"
  I admitted it wasn't everything. "Well, what do you want?" he demanded. I explained my second "dream plan" ... would in effect bring the total number of protected acres to well over 100,000.
  "Why didn't you present that to me?" Burton wanted to know.
  "I didn't think it was politically feasible," I said.
  Burton erupted. "Get the hell out of here!" he thundered. "You tell me what you want, not what's politically feasible, and I'll get it through Congress."

According the 2006 Chronicle article:
Wayburn and Congresman Phil Burton, who died in 1983, became close friends.

  The two were quite a contrast: big, brash Burton and slim, soft-spoken Wayburn, then a Republican.

"I offered to change the registration of my party. Phil said, 'Oh, no. I need you to introduce as my Republican constituent on the Capitol steps.' Later, I did change my registration, but not until after Phil died," Wayburn remembered.

When the National Park Service opposed Dr. Wayburn's plan for the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, favoring the establishment of a much smaller park instead, Nixon's Secretary of the Interior, Rogers Morton was called upon to testify before the Senate Interior Committee. No great fan of environmentalists, Morton surprised everyone by supporting the Sierra Club's proposal in full. Morton told the shocked hearing: "The Park Service wants me to support their plan, but I went out there to the site with my friend Dr. Wayburn, and he convinced me otherwise."

One, daughter Cynthia Wayburn said. "He has hiked, walked or run almost every day of his life," she says. "Throughout his life he has exercised his mind equally, working as a physician through his 83rd year and as a conservationist up through 99 years of age--two simultaneous jobs for over 40 years."
Source: Marin Magazine

In 1999, when he received the National Medal of Freedom, he whispered something in President Clinton's ear. Back at Sierra Club Headquarters where he still had an office, they asked him what he said. "Sequoia is next" is what he replied.
In 2000, as Clinton was finishing his term, he created 328,315 acres as Giant Sequoia National Monument next to the Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park created in 1890.

In his 2004 book, "Your Land and Mine: Evolution of a Conservationist," he explained why he spent so much of his life on environmental causes:

"Whenever we encroach on the natural world, we crop the boundaries of our own existence as humans, cut off our fields of solace and sensation. Vistas, textures, odors and sound fade and then disappear. In destroying wildness, we deny ourselves the full extent of what it means to be alive.''

"Your Land and Mine: Evolution of a Conservationist", by Edgar Wayburn, MD
An autobiography of a five-term president of the Sierra Club which focuses on his key conservation campaigns, including the Redwoods National Park and the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, some of the most crucial of the twentieth century, and the fascinating cast of characters that populated them. It includes lively portraits of legislators such as Senator Henry "Scoop" Jackson and Representative Phil Burton; land officials such as Interior Secretaries Stewart Udall and Rogers Morton.

Sierra Club:
  - Wayburn history
  - 2005 speech in Anchorage to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the passage of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act
"Edgar Wayburn: The Conserver" in Marin Magazine
5-term Sierra Club chief, Edgar Wayburn, dies

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last updated 16 Apr 2010