I had the privilege Friday to join in a renaming celebration at the Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge in Mississippi. It is now the Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge, a tribute to the 15th U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director.
Sam D. Hamilton’s family, Southeast Regional Director Cindy Dohner, Steve Reagan, Project Leader for Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee and Choctaw National Wildlife Refuges, and I unveil the official refuge sign for the Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge near Starkville, Mississippi. Photo by Tom MacKenzie/USFWS.
A little over two years ago Sam died unexpectedly. I was with him when he passed away, and will remember that day for the rest of my life. Though my grief can’t compare to that of his family, losing him is one of the hardest things I’ve had to endure.
Naming a refuge to honor a person is something we rarely do, but Sam was special –- a dear friend, a colleague, a leader and a true conservation hero.
And this refuge always held a special place in his heart.
Sam caught his first fish here at Noxubee. He began his career here, as a Youth Conservation Corps employee. It was this place that helped nurture in him a sense of responsibility for the natural world. It was this place that helped inspire him to public service.
When people visit the Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge, I hope they will learn about the importance and the rewards of public service.
I hope they will see this beautiful place, and learn of a man who rose -- with only the birthright of a strong family and good education -- to become Director of the world's leading wild life conservation organization.
I hope they will be inspired to serve their fellow citizens, their communities and their nation as this man did.
Martin Luther King said, "Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?’"
Sam answered that question by dedicating his career to public service. Let’s do all we can to help others follow in his path.