Lee Metcalf

Senator Lee Metcalf 512 x 682

"In evaluating Lee Metcalf, it is not difficult to project what rewards his...service in the Congress will bring to America in the years ahead. He was a tireless champion of preserving and protecting our Nation's natural heritage for succeeding generations to use and enjoy. This gentle man from Montana loved the Earth and all its living creatures." Senator Jennings Randolph of West Virginia

Ceremony Renaming Refuge in Honor of Lee Metcalf Lee Metcalf wrote in 1961: "There is no clearer lesson in history than that men and nations underwrite their own destruction as they violate the inexorable laws of nature-and unwisely use and waste basic resources…America's ghost towns, once thriving communities, are tombstones to dead resources. They are monuments to exploitation in lumbering, grazing, commercial fishing and farming...men and interests who had a reason for doing so have fought conservation with bitterness and in many cases with success. The war is raging still, and it is yet very far from being won."

Dignitaries at Ceremony Renaming Refuge for Lee MetcalfHe was a long-time member of the Migratory Bird Commission. During his tenure therein, the Commission purchased 525,000 acres of land to create 43 National Wildlife Refuges (Mavericks: The Lives and Battles of Montana's Political Legends by John Morrison and Catherine Wright Morrison). The lands that now make-up Lee Metcalf NWR were part of the purchases made. 


Mrs. Metcalf Speaking at Refuge Renaming Ceremony Biographical Directory of the United States Congress records that Lee Metcalf was "a Representative and a Senator from Montana; born in Stevensville, Ravalli County, Mont., January 28, 1911; attended the public schools; graduated from Stanford University in 1936 and received a law degree from Montana State University Law School; admitted to the Montana bar in 1936 and commenced the practice of law; member, State house of representatives 1937; assistant attorney general of Montana 1937-1941; in December 1942 enlisted in the Army, attended officers’ training school, was commissioned, went overseas in 1944, and participated in the Normandy invasion and the Battle of the Bulge; after V-E Day was concerned with the care and repatriation of displaced persons; helped in drafting ordinances for the first free local elections in Germany and supervised the free elections in Bavaria; discharged from the Army as a first lieutenant in April 1946; associate justice of the Montana supreme court 1946-1952; elected as a Democrat to the Eighty-third Congress; reelected to the three succeeding Congresses (January 3, 1953-January 3, 1961); was not a candidate for reelection but was elected in 1960 to the United States Senate; reelected in 1966 and 1972 and served from January 3, 1961, until his death; co-chairman, Joint Committee on Congressional Operations (Ninety-third and Ninety-fifth Congresses); died in Helena, Mont., January 12, 1978; cremated; ashes scattered in one of his favorite areas in the wilderness of the State of Montana."

The Refuge was renamed in Senator Metcalf's honor on August 16, 1978. A public tribute was held July 29, 1979 in a ceremony on the Refuge. Robert L. Herbst, then Assistant Secretary of the Interior, addressed those in attendance with these remarks. The black and white photos on this webpage are from the ceremony.

Papers from Lee Metcalf are physically housed by the Montana Historical Society Research Center Archives (Helena, MT); an online detailed finding/descriptive aid and can be found at this link.

Further comprehensive biographical material can be found in the following books: Mavericks: The Lives and Battles of Montana's Political Legends (John Morrison and Catherine Wright Morrison); Metcalf of Montana, How a Senator Makes Government Work (Richard D. Warden); Lee Metcalf: Democratic Senator from Montana (Peter J. Petkas). A magazine article, "Consider Lee Metcalf, the Invisible Senator", from The Nation (May 10, 1971) by Robert Sherrill also details Senator Metcalf.