LEE EMMETT YEAGER

Photo of Lee Yeager

Lee was born in Sky Lake, Mississippi, in 1906. He had very humble beginnings, starting his education in a country school with six boys and one teacher. It was in sixth grade that he had his first girl classmate. He often recounted his fascination with the wildlife around him as he grew up, as well as stories about his pastimes, including yoking chickens like oxen, chasing grasshoppers for fish bait, and putting turtles in the nests of hens. Later on, Lee attended an academy and then went to college. He earned a BS degree in 1932 at Mississippi State College, and an MS degree in 1933. He received an MF degree in 1933 and a PhD degree in 1937 in forestry and wildlife management from the University of Michigan.

Lee began his professional career working as an assistant entomologist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture from 1937 to 1938. In 1938, he began work as a forester/biologist with Illinois State Natural History Survey and continued there until 1945. At that time he went to work as a biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and remained there until he retired.

Lee is the first wildlife biologist known to have published an article (actually two) about the wildlife habitat values of coal strip-mined lands. He also was one of the first to study floodplains and their value and effects on wildlife, as well as the importance of other wetlands. Over 100 of his writings and articles have been published, covering many topics, including wetlands, furbearers, big-game range ecology, wildlife-land-use relationships, and squirrels. Lee served as chairman of The Wildlife Society index committee, which painstakingly prepared an index of all printed Transactions of the American Game Conference, 1928-35, and for the Transactions of the North American Wildlife Conference, 1937-47.

He was a dedicated member of The Wildlife Society and held many positions within the organization. He was treasurer from 1941 to 1943, vice president in 1944, president in 1945, and region four representative from 1950 to 1951 and 1953 to 1961. In 1969, he was awarded honorary membership in The Wildlife Society and in the next year the Distinguished Service Award of the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Lee also was an important advisor and helper to over 45 graduate students in his roles as leader of the Colorado Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit from 1947 to 1962 and biologist in charge of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Cooperative Unit Program from 1946 to 1947 and 1963 to 1967.

Lee was elected to the Washington Biologists' Field Club in 1965.

Lee is remembered by students as dedicated, conscientious, and full of energy. He died on June 4, 1983, of stomach cancer.