Texas State Parks and the CCC: The Legacy of the Civilian Conservation Corps

Texas State Parks and the CCC: The Legacy of the Civilian Conservation Corps

Texas State Parks and the CCC: The Legacy of the Civilian Conservation Corps

Texas State Parks and the CCC: The Legacy of the Civilian Conservation Corps

Excerpt

The story of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and how it built state parks in Texas between 1933 and 1942 needs to be told for those who steward the parks, the millions of Texans and others who visit them each year, the communities where the parks are located, and descendants of CCC workers who toiled so hard to build an important part of modern Texas.

The CCC was one of several large projects launched by the federal government during the Great Depression. The famous and far-reaching Works Progress Administration (WPA) overshadowed the CCC, as did some other initiatives of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal administration. The CCC was at first not a separate federal agency; it had to borrow its staff from the Departments of Agriculture, War, Interior (notably the National Park Service), and Labor, and even the US Office of Education. Nor was the CCC’s launch marked by an attention-getting Washington ceremony; Roosevelt merely sketched his idea for a CCC and how it might be organized on a scrap of paper. And later there were slurs and snickers about the CCC’s alleged inefficiencies. Indeed, if the men who worked so hard in the CCC had known they would one day be subjects of studies touting their historical uniqueness and importance, they would have found it hard to believe. They saw themselves, not inaccurately, as a ragtag lot dressed in ill-fitting army uniforms that, like the knapsacks on their backs, were leftovers from World War I. Yet the CCC became a cornerstone of the New Deal.

Given the CCC’s relatively short duration, why is its story important? Nationally, between 2.5 and 3 million men joined the CCC, and 50,000 of them worked in Texas. Thousands of others were employed by the CCC to support its workers.

Overwhelmingly, CCC enrollees came from families subsisting on relief benefits, and many found themselves far from home for the first time in their lives. Their children and grandchildren, nieces and nephews, spouses and colleagues have heard their personal stories, pored over their prized photo albums, and visited . . .

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