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News Notes by Tom Gill

Thomas Harvey GillTom Gill: 1891 to 1972

Tom Gill was born in 1891 at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He graduated in 1913 from the University of Pennsylvania with a major in languages. In 1915, he graduated from Yale University with the degree Master of Forestry. Besides having a fine command of the English language, he was articulate in Spanish and French, and conversant in German. 

Upon graduating from Yale, Gill went to work for the U.S. Forest Service as a forest ranger in Fort Collins, Colorado.  During World War I, he was a pilot and instructor in the Army Air Service. After his WWI service he returned to the Forest Service as forest supervisor of the Black Hills National Forest at Deadwood, South Dakota.

In 1922, he was transferred to Washington, D.C. where for the next three years he was in charge of information for the Branch of Public Relations. In this position he was in charge of educational activities, including relations with newspapers; editing and writing magazine articles; writing and directing motion pictures; and preparing speeches and articles for the chief forester.

In January of 1925, the American Forestry Association, Washington, D.C. appointed him associate editor of American Forests and Forest Life. A year later he became executive director and foresters of the Charles Lathrop Pack Forestry Foundation in Washington, D.C., a position he held until the Foundation's liquidation in 1960.

Tom Gill, a quiet man, possessed the gift of words and was a prolific writer. Much of his work was fiction, stories of adventure involving cowboys, forest rangers, and frontier characters. His 12 books of fiction included Guardians of the Desert, Death Rides the Mesa, North to Danger, The Gay Bandit of the Border, and No Place for Women. The first book was published in 1930, the last in 1946.

In addition to his fiction, Gill wrote numerous short stories and serials which were published in leading magazines of the day, such as Saturday Evening Post, American Magazine, Cosmopolitan, and Reader’s Digest.  His writing brought him into personal contact with editors of national magazines, as well as with columnists, professional writers, and radio commentators. Several of his novels were made into movies.

But Tom Gill was much more interested in forestry than he was in fiction writings. He was one of the leading drafters of the report establishing the forestry division of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations; he established, financed, and directed as president the activities of the International Society of Tropical Foresters; he won the Sir William Schlich Memorial Medal in 1954; and he participated in the first six of the seven World Forestry Congresses. At the time of his death he was planning to attend the Seventh Congress in Buenos Aires.

Most of the leaders in forestry from other countries were Gill’s personal friends; they kept him in close touch with developments in forestry world-wide. Also, a heavy travel schedule throughout the world gave him a first-hand acquaintance with the forests of other countries. In 1953 his outstanding contributions to Latin American forestry were recognized when the University of the Andes in Venezuela conferred on him an honorary doctorate. Everywhere he went he studied the forests for scientific interest, and, with his flair for the dramatic, observed the people and settings for use in his fiction. His particular interest was tropical forestry. McMillan Publishing Company published his Forests and Mankind in 1930—a book co-authored with Charles Lathrop Pack. McMillan also published Gill’s Forest Facts for Schools which was the most widely distributed school book on forestry in its day. His Tropical Forests of the Caribbean (1931) was until then the definitive work on the area. With Ellen Dowling he compiled a book in 1943 for the American Tree Association called the Forestry Directory. Gill was particularly interested in land use in Mexico and in 1951 wrote Land Hunger in Mexico.

(Abstracted from an article by A.J. McClure, Journal of Forestry. 71(11):716-7. 1973).

Books and other publications by Tom Gill



Inventory of the Thomas Harvey Gill Papers, 1912 - 1972 in the Forest History Society Library and Archives, Durham, NC. <>


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News Notes by Tom Gill

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