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Harry E. Murphy

B.S. Forestry, 1943

Harry E. Murphy graduated from Penn with a B. S. degree in forestry in 1943, after gaining experience with a summer fire-fighting branch of the U.S. Forest Service. With World War II ongoing, Murphy enlisted in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and was assigned to the Transportation Corps in England. In his free time, to temporarily escape the war, he pursued his lifelong passion for plants and the natural world by earning a "Technical Certificate" from the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew.

After the war, Murphy served as a district forester for the Arkansas Forestry Division before going to Sheffield, Alabama, to work in the Forestry Relations Division of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), a large federal landowner. It was through the TVA, that Murphy met a Yale-educated forester, John M. Bradley, Jr., of Birmingham, Alabama. In 1952, they formed a consulting forestry partnership. At that time, the consulting forestry profession was almost unheard of.

The two men led the way for change, with measures such as loans that allowed private, nonindustrial landowners to borrow money based on the value of their timber, the use of the latest technology (including the first computers) in forest inventories, the acceptance of the pulp and paper markets by local sawmillers, and the development of trade associations for landowners, giving them political clout. The economic value of southern forestland increased as much as 500-fold over the next 50 years, thanks to consulting foresters like Murphy and Bradley who, client by client, developed the practice of long-term stewardship and investment. By 1993, when Murphy retired as executive vice president of the company, it had been renamed Resource Management, Service, Inc. (RMS), and was one of the most prominent and highly regarded consultants in the South.

For his forestry work in the South, Murphy was honored by the Southeastern Society of American Foresters (SAF) with its Award for Forest Excellence and named a Fellow in the national SAF. He also worked at the national level as a member and a leader in the Association of Consulting Foresters (ACF), where his efforts in favor of forest and tax policy reforms earned him a national Legislative Committee award. He worked internationally (mostly in Latin America) on forest resource inventories and feasibility studies, and was a member of the International Society of Tropical Foresters (ISTF) and the World Forestry Committee of SAF. His commitment to natural resources encompassed a broad vision of forest stewardship, as evidenced by his position on the Alabama Governor's first "Forever Wild" (preservation) Committee and his recognition as a recipient of the W. Kelly Mosley Environmental Award. He has also been honored by the Boy Scouts of America, with the Silver Beaver Award and by the American Red Cross.

Though officially retired, Murphy maintains an office at the RMS Building in Birmingham. He is active in several forestry-related organizations, such as the Forest Landowners Association and the Society of American Foresters. He continues to serve as the secretary/treasurer of the Bradley/Murphy Natural Resources Extensions Trust, which promotes the stewardship of forests and related natural resources in the private sector. An active member of South Highlands Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, Murphy backs many ministries. He supports the Central American Medical Outreach, an innovative nonprofit that helps connect U.S. and Honduran healthcare professionals and supplies in the service of building sustainable medical services for one million impoverished people.

April 2007