Every so often it's good to look into the past to revisit the people who got us where we are today. Looking Back is a series on the people who helped shape the National Wildlife Refuge System. The series is based on "A Look Back," a regular column written by Karen Leggett, from the Refuge System Branch of Communications, which appears in each issue of the Refuge Update newsletter.
Bob Hines is the only U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employee ever to hold the title national wildlife artist. He had no formal training and no college degree, but he did have a keen eye and an uncanny ability to render what he saw with precision and beauty.
Born in Ohio in 1912, Hines began drawing pictures to comfort his mother after the death of his infant daughter. His mother died young; his father encouraged Hines' interests in animals and scouting. Eventually, Hines would illustrate three merit badge handbooks for the Boy Scouts. Long before that, he was a staff artist for what is now the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
In 1946, his painting of five redhead ducks was selected for the Migratory Bird Hunting (Duck) Stamp.
"If I had worn a vest, I'd have popped all the buttons," said Hines, who never lost his feeling of ecstasy over the award. When he was offered a position in Washington, D.C., with the Service in 1948, his wife stayed in Ohio to raise their children and Hines went to work for Rachel Carson -- who had written about the record-breaking sales of Hines' winning stamp.
Hines and Carson were colleagues and friends for years; he illustrated her 1955 book, The Edge of the Sea, as well as countless Service publications. Hines also initiated a standardized process for selecting the annual Duck Stamp, turning it into an open competition with exacting standards. After retiring from the Service in 1981, he created the cover art for the first several issues of Bird Watcher's Digest.
Former Service director Lynn Greenwalt, who frequently sought out the quiet of Hines' studio, wrote that Hines' "talent was formidable and his work legendary … He lived a life of adventure and notable accomplishment, without fanfare and little fame."