Hugh Redding was Kisatchie Forest Supervisor

By James P. Barnett
Journal Correspondent

Hugh Redding served as the Supervisor for the Kisatchie National Forest for over 12 years, from 1945 to 1957, twice as long as any other supervisor. His other experiences on the Kistachie included serving as District Ranger in 1934 and as Assistant Supervisor from 1935 to 1945. This period was particularly difficult due to great reforestation need, few employees to deal with supporting the World War II effort, and restructuring the forest after the War. However, although Redding was a real character, he was admirably suited for the tasks at hand.

Born in North Carolina the son of a "peckerwood" mill owner, he soon moved to Montana and was driving logs down the river before he was 15 years old. Although he obtained a degree in forest engineering from the University of Montana, he would rather tell you about the days of his experiences in logging camps when he carried his "turkey", or bedding roll, on his back from one logging camp to another. Before he went to college he described himself as an expert in "flatheadin", tie hackin', skiddin', sleigh haulin', chutin', flumin', river drivin', crusin', scalin', and any other doggone thing."

Redding was employed for the Forest Service in 1922 and worked in Washington, Montana, and Idaho before moving to the Kisatchie National Forest in 1934. While Hugh was described as one of the Forest Service's choice products and most enthusiastic adherents to its aims and objectives, he seemed difficult to discipline. He became known as the Forest Service's "Peck's Bad Boy" after a popular newspaper fictional series describing a mischievous lad who loved to play sneaky pranks on others. The name Peck's Bad Boy became a popular term for any incorrigible rulebreaker.

The land purchased for the Kisatchie National Forest consisted primarily of cutover areas devoid of standing timber. Redding had submitted so many requests for funding for reforestation that his supervisors in Atlanta said that "there couldn't be that much cutover land in Southwest Louisiana as you say." In an opportunity to show the Atlanta supervisor the forest lands, Redding put his point across by planning a route on the Kisatchie so that they did not "see a stick of timber" for five hours. At 7 o'clock that night, the visitor exclaimed, "My God, Redding, let me see one tree before I go back to Atlanta?"

Some of his coworkers recalled that "Uncle Hugh" could spend an evening when out of town drinking water glasses full of sprints, but he would always be up the next morning "at six, whistling and singing, apparently with no ill effects."

Redding took his responsibility as administrator of Kisatchie's forests very seriously, firmly believing that forests cannot be separated from people. Hugh was several decades ahead of his time in realizing the importance of input from the public. He stated, "forests are not a resource that can be enclosed behind a big fence and managed for a single purpose... Unless the public generally knows and feels that it is participating in the activities which are necessary to make forests productive, they not only refuse to cooperate and assist, but they actually hinder the efforts..., because they were not considered in the formulation of the plans which concerned them at least directly."

The time of Redding's service was a period of transition from the Great Depression, through World War II, to peace, and the return to civilian life of millions of former servicemen. The reforestation efforts during the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s resulted in one of the most productive forests in the South. The leadership of Redding helped prepare the forest for the great demand of wood products that began during the 1960s and 1970s as the economy of the country expanded greatly.

Many who knew Redding would echo the summation voiced by one employee: "Hugh Reddingthat was a good guy".

(The Ed Kerr and Elemore Morgan article entitled "The People's Forest" in the 4th quarter issue of the 1955 Forests & People was used as a resource for this article)

Hugh Redding led the Kisatchie National Forest through the turbulent years of World War II and into the period of the 1950s when the demand for wood grew rapidly.