Joe Carithers Papers 1909-2001 (bulk 1958-1977)

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Joe Carithers Papers 1909-2001 (bulk 1958-1977)

MS 600

Collection Summary

Creator: Joe Carithers
Collection Name Joe Carithers Papers
Inclusive Dates: 1909-2001
Bulk Dates: (bulk 1958-1977)
Physical Description: 11.5 linear feet
AbstractThe Joe Carithers papers contain correspondence, work records, and personal records pertaining to Carither’s work and family life as a nature conservationist and Special Assistant to former Secretary of the Interior, Stewart Udall.
Collection NumberMS 600
Language: Materials are in English.
Repository University of Arizona Libraries, Special Collections
University of Arizona
PO Box 210055
Tucson, AZ 85721-0055
Phone: 520-621-6423
Fax: 520-621-9733

Biographical Note

Joseph Frank Carithers, Jr. (1926-2001) was as a conservationist in Southern Arizona and an advocate for the creation and maintenance of National Parks in the western United States. Carithers was born in Memphis, Tennessee to Joseph and Doris Carithers. In 1932, the Carithers family moved to Tucson, Arizona. Joseph Carithers, Sr. became superintendent of Tucson Mountain Park in 1937. Carithers attended Roskruge Junior High School and Tucson Senior High School, though he did not graduate from the latter.

In October 1944, Carithers enlisted in the United States Army and served in the Philippines and Japan until November 1946. Upon returning to Tucson, Carithers received his General Education Diploma and briefly attended the University of Arizona (1947-1948). In 1948, Joe Carithers married Hildegarde Meurer. Meurer had a daughter, Lynda Anne (1945), from her previous marriage. Carithers and Meurer had one son, Douglas Lee Carithers (1949).

Carithers succeeded his father as Superintendent of Tucson Mountain Park in 1949 and worked for the park until 1957. During these years, Carithers became involved in a number of regional conservation organizations including the Tucson Audubon Society (President, 1955-1957), Arizona Conservation Coordinating Committee, (Chairman, 1955), and the Desert Protective Council (Executive director, 1960). In 1956, Carithers co-founded the Arizona State Parks Association and was named temporary chairman of the organization. Arizona Governor Ernest W. McFarland awarded Carithers with a citation for, “outstanding leadership and service to the State of Arizona,” in 1957.

In April of 1957, Carithers accepted a position as Assistant Western Representative of the National Parks Association and his family relocated to Carmel Valley, California. Devereux Butcher (1907-1991), Carither’s long-time friend and colleague in the National Parks Association, left the Association in 1959 and founded National Wildlands News in Washington, D.C. Carithers was invited to join Butcher at National Wildlands News and the family relocated to Washington, D.C. in 1960.

Stewart Udall, United States Secretary of the Interior (1961-1969), named Carithers a Special Assistant to the Secretary in April of 1961. From 1962 through 1968, Carithers occupied a number of posts in the National Park Service, working from both the Regional Office in Santa Fe, New Mexico and Washington, D.C. Between 1968 and 1977, Carithers was posted to Canyonlands National Park and Big Bend National Park.

Joe Carithers believed strongly that sites of natural heritage should not be disturbed for manmade projects. In the 1950s and 1960s, he vocally opposed the Shrine of the Ages monument, designed by Harold E. Wagoner, within Grand Canyon National Park and proposed rifle ranges in Tucson Mountain Park. Carithers was also critical of the Glen Canyon Dam project which flooded a large area of Northern Arizona to create Lake Mead. Of particular concern was the fate of Rainbow Bridge National Monument which was within the projected flood zone. In the early 1960s, Carithers was also active as a proponent of the proposed Saguaro National Monument, now Saguaro National Park.

Throughout his life, Joe Carithers wrote poetry and essays which often reflected his appreciation for nature and public parks. He also took extensive photographs of park lands and drew illustrations of nature scenes.

Joseph Frank Carithers, Jr. died at his home in Roswell, New Mexico on June 20, 2001.

Scope and Content Note

The Joe Carithers papers document Carithers’ career as a conservationist and his involvement in national parks throughout the twentieth century. The papers contain ephemera, newspaper clippings, agendas, memoranda, correspondence, reports, photographs, personal objects, and books, many of which pertain to the Glen Canyon Dam, Lake Powell, conservation efforts aimed at Rainbow Bridge National Monument, the proposed Shrine of the Ages chapel, the founding of the Arizona State Parks Association, administration changes at the National Parks Association, and the creation of Saguaro National Monument. The papers also include a vial of water from Rainbow Bridge National Monument dated 1960. Some documents were acquired and retained by Carithers in the course of his work with the National Parks Service. Others were provided to Carithers by colleagues who worked elsewhere in conservation. The Joe Carithers papers do not contain documents related to Carithers’ employment with the City of Odessa, Texas.


This collection is organized into 5 series



There are no restrictions on this collection.


It is the responsibility of the user to obtain permission to publish from the owner of the copyright (the institution, the creator of the record, the author or his/her transferees, heirs, legates, or literary executors). The user agrees to indemnify and hold harmless the Arizona Board of Regents for the University of Arizona, its officers, employees, and agents from and against all claims made by any person asserting that he or she is an owner of copyright.

Related Material

The Nature Conservancy in Arizona Records, 1884-1999 (MS 408)

Robert Black Civilian Conservation Corps Collection, 1930s-2000 (MS 445)

Tucson Audubon Society Records, 1944-[ongoing] (MS 368)

See also:

National Parks Service. From Good Neighbors to Armed Camps: Mexico, the United States, and Big Bend National Park, 1944-1980. “Big Bend: Administrative History.” Last updated 3 March 2003:

John R. Moore. Interview number 851: Joseph Carithers. Big Bend National Park Oral History Project. University of Texas at El Paso Oral History Institute. 3 July 1994:

Access Terms

Personal Name(s)
Butcher, Devereux.
Carithers, Douglas.
Carithers, Hildegarde.
Carithers, Joe.

Corporate Name(s)
Arizona State Parks Association.
National Parks and Conservation Association.
Tucson Audubon Society.

Geographic Name(s)
Tucson—Arizona—United States.

National parks and reserves.

Administrative Information

Credit Line

Joe Carithers Papers (MS 600). Special Collections, University of Arizona Libraries.

Processing History

When accessioned by Special Collections, the papers were almost entirely in chronological order. Photographs, reports, and other documents were interfiled with correspondence based on date. This may have reflected the papers’ previous use as a family record, or use by Joe Carither’s while drafting his memoirs. Series 2-5 were constructed from the original folder contents to create additional subject- and organization-based access points.

The Joe Carithers Papers were processed by Dani Stuchel in September of 2017.

Container List

Series 1 Correspondence, 1935-1999
This series contains correspondence sent by or to Joe Carithers, his supervisors, or colleagues including carbon copies of correspondence to third parties. This series holds the correspondence sent by or to Carithers and Stewart Udall during Carither’s tenure as a Special Assistant to Udall (1961-1962).
11 Correspondence, 1935
12 Correspondence, 1954
13 Correspondence, January-June, 1955
14 Correspondence, July-December, 1955
15 Correspondence, January-April, 1956
16 Correspondence, May-August, 1956
17 Correspondence, September-December, 1956
18 Correspondence, January-March, 1957
19 Correspondence, April-June, 1957
110 Correspondence, July-September, 1957
111 Correspondence, October-December, 1957
112 Correspondence, January-June, 1958
113 Correspondence, July-December, 1958
114 Correspondence, January-April, 1959
115 Correspondence, May-August, 1959
116 Correspondence, September-December, 1959
117 Correspondence, January-March, 1960
118 Correspondence, April-June, 1960
119 Correspondence, July-December, 1960
120 Correspondence, 1961
121 Correspondence, 1962
122 Correspondence, 1963
123 Correspondence, 1964
124 Correspondence, 1967
125 Correspondence, 1968
21 Correspondence, 1973
22 Correspondence, 1979
23 Correspondence, 1993
24 Correspondence, 1999
25 Correspondence, Undated
Series 2 Work files, 1918-1977
This series contains Joe Carithers’ Work files related to his employment and volunteer service with the United States Federal Government and various conservation organizations across the United States. Subseries 1 contains official documents from his work with the Department of Interior. For correspondence during this time, see correspondence folders for 1961-1979. Subseries 2 contains materials related to Carithers’ other employment and volunteer work including the National Parks Association. Correspondence related to this work can be found in the appropriate Series I folder.
Subseries 1 United States Federal Government, 1918-1977
26 Department of Interior, 1918, 1940-1960
27 Department of Interior, 1961 (1 of 2)
28 Department of Interior, 1961 (2 of 2)
29 Department of Interior, 1962-1965
210 Department of Interior, 1966-1967
211 Department of Interior, 1968
212 Department of Interior, 1971, 1973
213 Department of Interior, 1974-1975
214 Department of Interior, 1976-1977
215 Department of Interior, Undated
216 Travel vouchers, 1962-1968
217 Travel vouchers, 1969-1971
218 Travel vouchers, 1972-1973
219 Travel vouchers, 1974-1977
10 Blueprints, 1949
Subseries 2 Other work, 1927-1969
220 Arizona Conservation Coordinating Committee, 1954
221 Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, 1969
222 Arizona State Parks Association, 1956-1960
223 Desert Protective Council, 1955-1959
224 National Parks Association, 1927, 1955-1957
225 National Parks Association, 1958-1960, undated
31 The Nature Conservancy, 1953-1956
32 The Nature Conservancy, 1957-1958, undated
33 Sierra Club, 1957-1958
34 Trustees for Conservation, 1956
35 Tucson Audubon Society, 1960
36 Tucson Mountain Park, 1951-1960
37 Tucson Mountain Park, undated
Series 3 Personal files, 1962-2001
38 General personal papers, 1962-2001
39 Illustrations, undated
11 Personal objects
Series 4 Writings, 1958-1993
310 Essays and poems, 1958-1993
311 Field notes, 1957-1964
312 Story ideas, undated
313 References, undated
314 “The Quiet Crisis,” manuscript, 1962 (1 of 2)
315 “The Quiet Crisis,” manuscript, 1962 (2 of 2)
316 “The Quiet Crisis,” references and notes, 1962, undated
317 “The Quiet Crisis,” drafts, 1962
318 “Shadows at my Back,” front matter, undated
319 “Shadows at my Back,” chapters 1-3, undated
320 “Shadows at my Back,” chapters 4-6, undated
321 “Shadows at my Back,” chapters 8-9, undated
322 “Shadows at my Back,” chapters 11-14, undated
323 “Shadows at my Back,” chapters 15-18, undated
324 “Shadows at my Back,” chapters 19-21, undated
325 “Shadows at my Back,” inserts, undated
Series 5 Photographs, 1945-1978
This series contains photographic materials created by Joe and Hildegarde Carithers, Devereux Butcher, and possibly others. These materials are primarily organized by geographic location or subject. Subseries 1 contains full-size photographic prints. Subseries 2 contains contact prints. Subseries 3 contains photographic negatives. Subseries 4 contains transparency slides. Photographic negatives are labeled with location and date information if such information was provided by Carithers. Folder titles for the contact prints and full-size photographs provide a partial account of locations and subjects within the photographic negatives.
Subseries 1 Photographs, 1945-1978
41 Carithers family, 1945-1996
42 Canyonlands National Park, undated
43 Carmel Valley, 1958
44 Great Basin National Park, undated
45 Luckenbach, Texas, 1978
46 Old Tucson, undated
47 Prairie National Park Project, undated
48 Rainbow Bridge National Monument, circa 1909, 1946-1967
49 Saguaro National Monument, 1961, undated
410 Tucson Mountain Park, circa 1958
411 Udall, Stewart, undated
412 Zion National Park, undated
413 Unidentified photos, 1961, undated
414 Photo album, 1957
Subseries 2 Contact prints, 1959-1960
415 17 Mile Drive, undated
416 Architecture, undated
417 Arizona snow scenes and Mount Lemmon, undated
418 Aztec, undated
419 Bandelier, undated
420 Big Bend, undated
421 Carlsbad Caverns, undated
422 Casa Grande, undated
51 Chiricahua, undated
52 Coronado, undated
53 Glacier, undated
54 Gran Quivira, undated
55 Grand Canyon, undated
56 Grand Teton, undated
57 Hearst Castle, undated
58 Hohokam canals and Snaketown, Arizona, 1967, undated
59 Lassen Volcanic, 1960
510 Lehman Caves and Elk Hearing, 1959
511 Mendoza Canyon, Arizona, undated
512 Mount Rainier, undated
513 Oregon dunes, 1960
514 Organ Pipe Cactus, undated
515 Personalities, meetings, etc., undated
516 Petrified forest, undated
517 Rainbow Bridge – First Trek, 1960
518 Saguaro, undated
519 Sequoia, undated
520 Shiprock, New Mexico, undated
521 Tonto, undated
522 Tumacacori, undated
523 White Sands, undated
524 Wupatki-Sunset Creek, undated
525 Yellowstone, undated
526 Yosemite, undated
527 Zion, undated
528 Unidentified, undated
Subseries 3 Safety negatives, undated
529 Oversize safety negatives, undated
6 Animals – Rocky Mountain, undated
7 Rocky Mountain – Zion, undated
7 Unidentified, undated
8 Unidentified, undated
Subseries 4 Transparency slides, undated
8 Unidentified, undated
9 Devereux Butcher transparency slides, undated