F. Ross Holland Jr.: Obituary

Historians in the News

F. Ross Holland Jr., the dean of American lighthouse historians and the author of an insightful book on the Statue of Liberty's restoration project of the 1980s, died 16 September 2005 of Alzheimer's disease at his home in Mason, New Hampshire. He was 78. Holland, a historian and cultural resources manager for more than three decades with the National Park Service, wrote prolifically on lighthouses, their builders and keepers including, "America's Lighthouses: An Illustrated History" (1988), "Great American Lighthouses" (1995), and "Maryland Lighthouses of the Chesapeake" (1997).

Holland was born in Savannah, Georgia, and graduated from Georgia State University in 1949. He received a master's degree in history from the University of Texas at Austin in 1958 and served as a park historian at a number of different national park units, including Cabrillo National Monument, Channel Islands National Monument in Southern California, and the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park in Cumberland, Maryland. Additionally, he served in Boston, Denver, and Washington in various Park Service regional and central office management positions.

Few people have left a more lasting mark on present-day NPS cultural resources programs than Holland. He received the Department of the Interior's Meritorious Service Award for his contributions to historic preservation. In addition, in 1983, he received the Interior Department's highest award, the Distinguished Service Award, for "outstanding contributions to the National Park Service in the field of cultural resources."

Holland became a member of the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation after his retirement from the National Park Service in 1983; he later wrote a very personal and thoughtful book entitled “Idealists, Scoundrels, and the Lady” (1993) on the entire difficult experience that led to the restoration of the Statue of Liberty. Throughout his career and well into his retirement Holland continued to be actively involved in defending the principles underlying the National Park Service mission and preservation mandate. Among other things he served on the Mid-Atlantic Council, a group that for years served as National Parks Conservation Association’s citizen watchdog group for the Mid-Atlantic region.

Holland always put the betterment of the parks (especially their cultural resources) first, and time and time again he courageously defended the NPS against political interference. In the words of former NPS Associate Director for Cultural Resources Jerry Rogers, for those who knew Ross Holland, “the real image he leaves behind is a ready smile, a hearty laugh, and a friendly handshake.”

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