Faces from the Past

 

 

Kitchens pioneered forestry education

By James Barnett
Journal Correspondent

Born into a sawmill family in Trout, Louisiana, in 1913, Jim H. Kitchens, Jr. was well oriented in timberlands and sawmilling long before he received his forestry degree from Louisiana State University in 1937. He pursued a law course several years before settling into forestry as a career. When he graduated jobs were scarce so he worked on a Soil Conservation Service project funded by the Works Projects Administration (WPA) for 18 months. He received an appointment with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) in 1938 and spent the next two years engaged in fire prevention activities where he pioneered the art of communicating conservation lore to all levels of society. He interests were always in public relations, rather than traditional forestry.

In 1940, then Louisiana Governor Sam Jones revitalized the Louisiana Forestry Commission and staffed the organization with professional foresters. Kitchens began his tenure as chief of information and education with the Louisiana Forestry Commission in New Orleans. However, his assignment in this capacity was interrupted in 1942 by a tour of duty in the U.S. Army that lasted nearly four years. For 11 months of that time he served in the European Theatre with the 95th Infantry Division. He was awarded three battle stars, the bronze star, and combat infantry badge. His Army career continued in a reserve capacity until 1957 when he retired as a major with 23 years service.

Following World War II, Kitchens returned to the Louisiana Forestry Commission and was located in Baton Rouge. He quickly gained national recognition in forestry education circles because of his leadership in the publication of the textbook, "Ten Lessons in Forestry" and the companion teacher manual, "Behind the Curtain of Green." He also led the organization of information and education chiefs for all 12 Southern states to coordinate forestry education efforts on a regional scale.

Kitchens became executive director of the Louisiana Forestry Association in 1951 when he replaced John Ferran who had died unexpectedly. He teamed up with the Association's outstanding Editorial Advisory Committee to publish Forests & People magazine. He led the effort for eight years and during that time the magazine twice was recognized as the best of its kind in the nation. Always using a positive approach, and working with member-committee groups, Kitchens managed the affairs of the Louisiana Forestry Association through years which saw basic reforms in the forestry environment of Louisiana. These included a modern forest tax law, expanded and improved forest fire protection, a hog control law, and a comprehensive program of forest research. Kitchens was the catalyst, the talent and leadership of the association that was in the forefront of a movement that pushed forestry among the top industries in Louisiana.

He entered the employment of T.L. James & Company, Inc., in 1959 as Assistant Director of their Forestry Division. He led the reforestation of over 100,000 acres of cutover forest land and implemented extensive forest management programs of that company. He also played a major role in inducing capital investments by forest industries and helping create thousands of jobs for his fellow citizens.

Jim Kitchens was a gentleman from the old school, a tall, lanky son of a sawmill man who used his talents to bring forestry into the modern age. Many of the benefits which the forestry community in Louisiana enjoys today are do to the leadership of this man.

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