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Born in 1936 in Arizona, John E. Cook worked for the National Park Service (NPS) for 43 years. He began his NPS career in 1953 as a seasonal packer, and then worked as a laborer, fire fighter and ranger. By 1966, he was superintendent of Canyon de Chelly National Monument, and went on to be a deputy regional director, and associate director in Washington, D.C. In 1979, he came to Alaska to be Director of National Park Service Alaska region, when new park areas were being proposed as part of the Alaska National Interest Lands and Conservation Act (ANILCA). He served during the height of conflicts with different interest groups over the management of public lands in Alaska, and traveled to most of the proposed park areas. He prided himself on hiring "good" people, being responsive to local uses, being honest, and giving straight answers so that people knew where he stood. As director, John was involved in park planning, establishment of management regulations, and defining subsistence. He left Alaska in 1983, being fired by James Watt, the anti-conservation Interior Secretary in the Reagan Administration. He finished out his NPS career in the Great Smoky Mountains, the Southwest region, and the Rocky Mountain region. In 1994, John Cook received the Pugsley Medal from the American Academy for Park & Recreation Administration “in recognition of over 30 years in significant leadership roles in the National Park Service." He retired in 1999, at the age of 63.