Pennsylvania author Tom Benjey tells the story of the remarkable Craighead family – a clan that valued the lessons to be learned in nature, embraced learning and recognized no barriers to pursuing their groundbreaking conservation efforts.
Members of the extensive Craighead clan that are most familiar to people in the western United States are twin brothers Frank and John, who each had Montana connections, and famed author and younger sister, Jean Craighead George.
Benjey gives readers background information on the history of this Scots-Irish family’s arrival in Pennsylvania in the early 1700s. However, he devotes a good share of the book to the accomplishments of the three siblings.
An affinity for nature and the outdoors was a strong family trait, and the twin brothers built careers on researching and writing about a variety of topics, from training Cooper’s Hawks in their teens, to their pioneering work with grizzlies in Yellowstone National Park. Throughout their careers, their work was widely published in magazines and professional journals.
John spent several years teaching at the University of Montana, and died last September in Missoula at age 100. Frank worked outside of academia at a number of positions, including stints for the U.S. Department of Defense.
One of Frank and John’s most notable collaborative accomplishments was the writing of The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act; Frank also established the Craighead Institute, headquartered in Bozeman.
Jean Craighead George was a brilliant academic and achieved enviable success as an author, penning several books for young readers, including the trilogy that begins with My Side of the Mountain. Benjey conducted several personal interviews with her, providing valuable insight into the family’s history and many accomplishments.
Benjey is the author of several books, including Doctor, Lawyers, Indian Chiefs and Keep A-Goin’: The Life of Lone Star Diet. He wrote this book at the suggestion of Dr. David Maasland, a lifelong friend of the Craighead family.
– Judy Shafter