Dwight Fay Rettie papers , 1916-2008

Overview of the Collection

Rettie, Dwight Fay, 1930-
Dwight Fay Rettie papers
1916-2008 (inclusive)
1950-1995 (bulk)
55.25 linear feet, (39 containers)
Collection Number
Coll 167
Dwight Fay Rettie worked for and managed a variety of Federal government agencies from 1955 to 1986. The Papers contain documents pertaining to Rettie's work for various government agencies including the Department of Health and Human Services, National Park Service, and Bureau of Land Management. The materials include policy papers, subject files, meeting minutes, speeches, and correspondence. Also included are personal correspondence, writings, and publication materials.
University of Oregon Libraries, Special Collections and University Archives
UO Libraries--SCUA
1299 University of Oregon
Eugene OR
Telephone: 5413463068
Access Restrictions

Collection is open to the public. Collection must be used in Special Collections and University Archives Reading Room. Collection or parts of collection may be stored offsite. Please contact Special Collections and University Archives in advance of your visit to allow for transportation time.

Additional Reference Guides

See the Current Collection Guide for detailed description and requesting options.


Historical NoteReturn to Top

Dwight Fay Rettie, the oldest son of Lois Chloey Morris and James Cardno Rettie, was born March 27, 1930 in New Haven, Connecticut. Rettie spent his early years growing up in Portland, Oregon, Juneau, Alaska, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The family moves stemmed from James C. Rettie's employment with the Natural Resources Planning Board in the late 1930s and 1940s.

Rettie attended Grant High School in Portland, Oregon and later graduated from Haverford School in Pennsylvania, class of 1948. After high school, he began working summers for the U.S. Forest Service as a blister rust control crewman, lookout and smokechaser. In fall of 1948, Rettie entered Yale University's pre-med program only to switch to political science which better suited his public service ambitions. He graduated with honors in 1952. That fall, Rettie was drafted into the army. He had reached the rank of Staff Sergeant when he was discharged in 1954. Rettie then entered Graduate School at the University of California, Berkeley, where he received a degree in Political Science (Public Administration). His thesis was titled "National Forest Timber Sale Policy, a Study of the Disposal of Federally Owned Resources Severable from Land."

Upon graduation in 1955, Rettie moved to Washington, D.C. to take a job with the Treasury Department as a management intern for the Bureau of Public Debt. In March, 1957, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) gave Rettie a job in the Management Improvement Office. After several months, BLM director Edward Woozley asked Rettie to temporarily serve as the Bureau's Information Officer. This temporary move lasted for the next five years, with Rettie as Chief Public Affairs Officer. In 1963, Rettie was moved to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and promoted to head the Office of Information and Education. Serving as Assistant to the Commissioner (of Public Affairs) of Fish and Wildlife, he worked on projects associated with President John F. Kennedy's special interest in conservation as outlined in a message to Congress.

Following Kennedy's assassination, Rettie was asked to serve on the Poverty Program Task Force, headed by Directer of the Peace Corps, R. Sargent Shriver. When this assignment was completed, he returned to the Department of Interior with a legislative blueprint for the new Job Corps, which was associated with President Johnson's "War on Poverty" program. Later, he was promoted to Staff Assistant to Under Secretary John Carver.

Working for Carver, Rettie wrote speeches and analyzed policies. In October, 1964, he enrolled in a special management training course wrote speeches and analyzed policies. In October, 1964, he enrolled in a special management training course sponsored by the Department of Defense. The course was an outgrowth of a new planning, programming and budgeting system (PPBS) designed by Secretary of Defense Robert MacNamara. President Johnson had declared that this system was to be implemented government-wide by the following year and Rettie helped with this implementation within the Department of Interior.

After the completion of the first budget cycle, Rettie accepted a transfer and promotion to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) where he filled the post of Director of Open Space Land Programs. The programs were a collection of grants to cities and local governments to buy and develop parks and open spaces within urban areas. While at HUD, Rettie also served as the Department's representative to the Council on Historic Preservation.

In September of 1971, Rettie resigned from federal service to accept a job as Executive Director for the National Recreation and Parks Association (NRPA), anon-profit organization concerned with the parks and recreation movement. Here, Rettie attempted to strengthen the NRPA's lobbying power in Washington, D.C. and spent much time traveling and making speeches to garner NRPA support.

Rettie was offered a job in the National Park Service (NPS) by Director Russell E. Dickinson in September, 1975. He accepted the offer to guide the development of the newly-formed Urban National Parks. Rettie developed the master plan for Gateway National Recreation Area in New York and New Jersey. The largest unit of the NPS, Gateway was a complex project involving urban problems new to the field of recreation. In 1978, Rettie was named Deputy Chief of Park Planning and Environmental Quality for the NPS. He was promoted to Chief of the Office for Management Policy in 1981.

Dwight Rettie retired from the NPS in 1986. Living in Arlington, Virginia, he has been active in community affairs. For six years Rettie served on the Arlington County Public Utilities Commission, primarily involved with the construction of a cable television ordinance. He has also served on the governing board of the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority, a state agency governing 8,000 acres of park land.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The Dwight F. Rettie Papers consist of correspondence, speeches, reports, both subject and general files, and memos which document the span of his professional career in government and private industry. Rettie's work with the National Park Service comprises the largest segment of this voluminous collection. The remainder of the material covers his work with the U.S. Treasury Department, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Department of Interior, Housing and Urban Development, and the National Recreation and Park Association. Material reflecting Rettie's involvement in several community projects is also included.

Rettie's initial job with the federal government was with the Treasury Department in the Bureau of Public Debt. As a management intern with the Fiscal Service, Rettie worked on improving the management within the Bureau. Reflecting this activity are reports and memos concerning inventory control, interview policies, and a copy of the Control Manual for Non-expendable Personal Property, which Rettie helped to develop.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) series documents Rettie's roles of Information Officer and Chief of Public Affairs. Much of the BLM material consists of news releases and speeches, reports on the history of the BLM and its future goals, and notes on the BLM's policy of public access to information. In addition, there are reports and research papers on topics such as public lands, conservation, grazing, and, of special note, letters from Oregon's Governor Mark Hatfield and Senator Wayne Morse about Oregon public lands. Completing the series are numerous memos and news items regarding various BLM activities and issues.

Included in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife series are Rettie's drafts for President Kennedy's message on conservation to Congress. Also present is an article by Rettie in the September, 1963 issue of The Conservationist, assorted issues of Fish and Wildlife Report, news releases, and a variety of material concerning fishery topics.

Department of Interior material covers the position Rettie held with the Job Corps as well as the work he did in the Department of Defense Management School. Reports, memos and drafts for the Job Corps' Anti Poverty Program and for the Corps itself can be found here. Course materials for the Defense Department's management training program Rettie attended are included. A speech by Rettie at the conclusion of this course contains his thoughts on the Planning, Programming and Budgeting System he helped implement within the Department of Interior. The remainder of this series consists of reports and memos concerning this implementation. Of note is a speech on conservation by President Johnson with sections written by Rettie.

Housing and Urban Development material consists of Rettie's speeches, remarks and news releases during his employment as Director of Open Space Land Programs. Many reports and memos concerning open space and urban land use are included here as well as material reflecting his work on historic preservation.

Over eighty speeches by Rettie can be found in the National Recreation and Parks Association (NRPA) series, spanning the years 1971 to 1975. The speeches chronicle his travels across the country and abroad, touting the NRPA and its endeavors. Other NRPA material includes an endorsement by actor Eddie Albert, minutes of NRPA Board of Trustees meetings and administrative files. The administrative files document office proceedings and contain correspondence, memos and letters of thanks to NRPA supporters. They have been maintained in Rettie's original order, which is chronological by year but reverse chronological order within each month.

The National Park Service (NPS) series spans the years 1975 to 1986 and consists of speeches, general office files and subject files. Aside from Rettie's speeches, in chronological order, the series is divided by year into general and subject files. The general files are arranged roughly chronologically month to month. They contain drafts, reports and correspondence, which all serve as a daily log of work done by Rettie and his staff. These files have also, like the NRPA series, been left as received, keeping Rettie's own arrangement intact. As such, they reflect ongoing National Park Service operations even though some material, as presently grouped, may appear out of order. Overall, the files document the development of strategy and policy inside the NPS. NPS subject files, on the other hand, are more topically arranged. They closely correlate with the information found in the general files. Together, both sets of files document Rettie's NPS assignments.

Initially, Rettie was involved with the development of the Urban National Parks, and was eventually named the Representative for Gateway National Recreation Area Planning. In this series, references to Gateway include the park's smaller parcels: Floyd Bennett Field (airport), Jacob Riffs Park (beach), Staten Island, Sandy Hook, and Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. The Gateway material covers a variety of subjects such as nude bathing, alcohol use, crime, transportation systems, and minority conflicts. Also in the Urban material is information concerning the South Bronx and its revitalization, and the development of open spaces into urban parks.

Reflecting Rettie's role of Deputy Chief of Park Planning and later, of Chief of the Office of Management Policy, the material moves from an urban emphasis to a managerial one. Management efficiency, cost effectiveness, and employee surveys comprise a large part of the NPS subject files. Noteworthy is information in the employee surveys and the report, "Where the Park Service Is Going" which addresses ideas and attitudes of rangers and other employees for future NPS objectives, gathered in a nation-wide survey.

The NPS material includes various memos from NPS directors, especially William Penn Mott, for whom Rettie was an advisor. Also included are directives and policy construction for areas ranging from environmental impacts, construction priorities, and land acquisition to campground fees, visitor centers, and public perception of the Park Service. A cross reference sheet listing the major recurring items found within the general files, as well as a list of subject files, can be found at the end of the inventory.

Additional material in the collection includes Rettie's work for the Arlington County Public Utilities Commission and the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority (NVRPA). The Arlington County PUC material details a cable television project and Rettie's involvement with NVRPA concerns that agency's 8,000-acre park system.

Biographical information, family correspondence and mementos complete the collection. One folder of letters of James C. Rettie, whose papers are also held by Special Collections (Ax 626), can be found in this series. Photographs have been separated and transferred to the Photograph Collection.

Series X contains subjects files, NPCA material, and correspondence donated in 2001.

Series XI through XXII contains materials donated in 2008 and processed into the series organization. The materials relating to Rettie's education, to his professional work in the Department of the Interior and for the National Park Service (both officially and as an unofficial "expert in the field"), and as a teacher at Carteret Community College and East Carolina University. Also present in this portion of the collection are materials relating to the research, publication, and marketing of Rettie's book, Our National Park System, as well as copies of Rettie's other published material, including articles, prefaces, an undergraduate and a Master's thesis, and numerous letters to the editor. The Correspondence series contains personal letters and emails to and from various people from 1944 to 2006, as well as a collection of letters from various individuals, institutions and organizations thanking and commending Rettie for services performed in a professional capacity and spanning the course of his professional life. This portion also contains numerous books owned by Rettie, some signed or inscribed by their authors; materials relating to the Carteret Writers organization (of whom Rettie was a member and president) and the Unitarian Coastal Fellowship; a large number of newspaper, magazine, and internet clippings of articles related to the National Park Service and various other subjects; and miscellaneous personal materials relating to Rettie's boats and hobbies.

Series XXIII contains subject files, NPS documents, drafts/manuscripts of writings, publications, and correspondence donated between 2001 and 2006.

Photographs include prints and slides.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Administrative agencies--United States
  • Conservation of natural resources--United States
  • National parks and reserves--United States
  • Parks--United States
  • Public administration--United States
  • Public lands--United States
  • Recreation--United States
  • Urban policy--United States

Personal Names

  • Rettie, Dwight Fay, 1930-
  • Rettie, Dwight Fay, 1930-

Corporate Names

  • National Recreation and Park Association
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • United States. Bureau of Land Management
  • United States. Department of Housing and Urban Development
  • United States. Department of the Interior
  • United States. Department of the Treasury
  • United States. National Park Service

Geographical Names

  • United States--Officials and employees
  • United States--Politics and government--20th century

Form or Genre Terms

  • Clippings
  • Letters
  • Manuscripts for publication
  • Photographic prints