Honoring Mack Prichard, the “Conservation Conscience of Tennessee”

Mack Prichard wearing a Radnor Lake t-shirt

Mack was involved in the campaign to save Radnor Lake from development. Courtesy of Jim Robertson.

Banner Image: Mack Prichard leads Governor Winfield Dunn and others to virgin timber in Savage Gulf in 1971. Courtesy of Tennessee State Parks.

Mack Prichard
was given this nickname by Phil Bredesen, one of the many Tennessee governors he served under during his half-century of service. After Mack’s passing in 2021, Governor Bill Lee designated March 31st as Mack S. Prichard Day, commemorating Tennessee’s first state naturalist and state archeologist. 

But Mack was so much more than those titles can describe. For more than 50 years, he was an eloquent spokesman for the natural world, playing a key role in facilitating the acquisition of more than 40 sites. Many of these sites went on to become state parks or natural areas— meaning if you’ve ever visited a natural park in Tennessee, Mack likely had a hand in creating it.

Mack Prichard in his officeMack Prichard assembles a slide show in his crowded office. Courtesy of Mack Prichard.


Our very own Radnor Lake was included in this list, after Mack met with concerned citizens to prevent the lake from being drained and developed into housing. The group held many strategy meetings, met with the governor, Congressional and General Assembly leaders, conservation groups and many others. The group had just a few weeks to raise in excess of $3 million—a massive amount of money in 1973—but managed to accomplish their goals and save Radnor Lake.

Mack grew up in Dyersburg and Memphis, hunting and fishing with his father near West Tennessee. At 15 years old, he gave a talk in favor of preserving Parkin Mound, an ancient Indian mound in Arkansas. His speech was so successful, the owner of the property donated the entire site to the state. Shortly after, Mack was hired as a seasonal naturalist at Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park in Memphis. His natural people skills and knack for managing projects was immediately recognized by his superiors, earning him increasingly important positions within the Tennessee State Parks organization. 

Then, in 1964, Mack began working with the Department of Conservation’s Planning Division. With Mack’s help, the department was able to acquire several parks across the state including David Crockett, Rock Island, Henry Horton, Pinson Mounds and Old Stone Fort. Things didn’t end there. In 1971, Mack became Tennessee’s first state archeologist, and continued securing significant archeological sites like Mound Bottom, Mace Bluff, Link Farm, and Sellars Farm. 

Mack’s conservation efforts were fueled by passion, and often involved personal appeals to state representatives and government bodies. In 1971, he convinced Governor Winfield Dunn to join him in visiting the virgin timber at Savage Gulf, in hopes of transforming the land into a State Natural Area. Mack assembled a team to accompany him on several hiking and horseback expeditions into the Cumberland wilderness. After the expeditions, Governor Dunn was so impressed that he not only acquired the park, but signed the Natural Areas Act of 1971—which helped solidify and maintain the acquisition of several State Natural Areas.

Ever since, Mack was one of Radnor Lake’s strongest and most constant supporters. He served on the first board of advisors and continued to be an active advisor until his death. Mack went on to travel the state for decades, speaking, meeting and educating thousands of people on the profound importance of conservation,
until his death on April 28, 2020 at age 81

As Randy Hedgepath so eloquently said, “Everyone who loves the natural beauty, biological diversity and fascinating history of Tennessee owes a debt of gratitude to Mack Pritchard!”

We couldn’t agree more. Thank you, Mack.






Mack presents a slide show. Courtesy of Jim Robertson.


Read more about Mack’s life and legacy:

Mack Prichard, Lifelong Environmentalist by Ann Tidwell
(article from Friends of Radnor Lake Spring 2021 newsletter)

Remembering State Naturalist Mack Prichard by John Froeschauer
(article from The Tennessee Conservationist)