The Man Behind Sanibel's Wildlife Refuge
Written by: Amy Bennett Williams
Fort Myers News Press
: March 11, 2007
His full name might not spark
instant recognition, but his nickname perhaps the best-known in
Florida probably rings a bell. Ding.
The man and his
legacy are celebrated in WGCU-TV's newest Untold Stories documentary:
'Sanctuary: 'Ding' Darling National Wildlife Refuge.'
As in Jay Norwood 'Ding' Darling the man for whom the currently troubled
but world-renowned Sanibel wildlife refuge was named, the two-time Pulitzer
Prize-winning editorial cartoonist, the ardent conservationist who fell in love
with the region's barrier islands in 1935 and had a winter home on Captiva (now
part of artist Robert Rauschenberg's island holdings.)
He was a big man, with
a commanding voice, a formidable intellect, a wry sense of humor and immense
energy, says his grandson, Kip Koss, president of the Key Biscayne-based J.N.
'Ding' Darling Foundation.
So, who was the man who inspired the movie? Was he as
distinctive a character as his trademark flourish of a signature?
'(He) lived fully and well,' writes David
Lendt in the preface to his book, 'Ding: The Life of Jay Norwood Darling.'
'He tasted the juices of
sports and politics, fame and despair, art and power, science and education,
journalism and conservation. For more than 80 years he plied his talent for
wringing everything possible from life.'
Born in 1876 in
Norwood, Mich., Darling began his cartooning career in 1900 with
the Sioux City Journal. After joining the Des Moines Register as a cartoonist in
1906, he began signing his cartoons with the nickname 'Ding' derived by
combining the first initial of his last name with the last three letters.
Syndicated in 130 daily newspapers, his work reached an audience of many
millions with cartoons noted for their wit and political satire, the biography
notes. He was awarded Pulitzer prizes in 1923 and 1942, and in 1934 was named
the best cartoonist by the country's leading editors.
Concerned with pollution and
extinction of wildlife, he worked these themes into his cartoons. An avid hunter
and fisherman himself, Darling used his cartoons to emphasize that regulations
governing these sports should be observed.
In July 1934, President
Roosevelt asked Darling to head the U.S. Biological Survey, precursor to the U.S
Fish and Wildlife Service. In this capacity, Darling battled for greater
national attention and spending for conservation. Darling was responsible for
securing about $17 million to restore wildlife habitat.
1945, the J.N. 'Ding' Darling National Wildlife Refuge originally was known as
the Sanibel National Wildlife Refuge, an arm of the Everglades National Wildlife
Refuge, now known as Everglades National
Darling died in 1962 at 85;
in 1967, the refuge was renamed to honor him.
Sources: The News-Press
archives, dingdarling.org, David Lendt,