Edward H. Hilliard, Jr., 1922-1970

Publication Year: 1971.


1922– 1970

A lifetime of devotion to the mountains and to the preservation of wilderness came to an end on August 15, 1970, when Ed Hilliard was killed, with a climbing companion, near the summit of North Maroon Peak, Colorado, by a rockfall.

Born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky in 1922, Ed graduated from Yale and served in France in World War II. Family trips to remote Montana each summer in his boyhood helped Ed develop an extraordinarily broad and deep appreciation of nature. In his adult life whatever time and resources he could spare from devotion to his family and extensive business interests were spent in tireless efforts for the betterment of the world he loved and wanted to preserve. With vision and energy Ed pursued an ideal which called for synthesizing the fragmentation he deplored in the conservation movement. He took the lead in bringing together diverse groups into local, state, and national organizations. Though a leader of national importance in conservation circles – Vice President of the Wilderness Society, founder of the Rocky Mountain Center on Environment, major organizer of the First National Congress on Population and Environment – he never sought acclaim for himself or his accomplishments.

To Ed, climbing was only one of many ways in which he could fulfill his deep need to be in and with nature. He was just as happy backpacking, camping, observing game, or bantering with companions around the campfire, but however he went into the outdoors he went as on a quest - a never-ending search for understanding of the natural world so that he could better fulfill his mission to work for its preservation. He leaves to us who knew and worked with him an awesome challenge — to carry on the tasks he so energetically organized. Ed felt fervently that men should be as much as possible a part of the life-cycle of nature. He had requested simple burial in a far off wilderness location in a simple pine box that “would not thwart the natural process by which matter reverts to its chemical components to be re-utilized in the life span of some successor form of life.” He was borne along a faint trail by relays of his friends to a grave near timberline on the east flank of the rugged and wild Gore Range. His resting place is on a grassy bench backed by cliffs, with a tumbling stream and a stand of spruce at hand. Any lover of the mountains would approve of the place.

Andrews D. Black