Conrad Jamison Jr.: The Brief Life of a Tennessee Naturalist
During an evening of his 1942 winter break from George Peabody College
in Nashville, Conrad Jamison Jr.
and his friends William Simpson and Arthur McMurry walked their dates along the dark streets of Franklin.
The following morning, Jamison
and Simpson returned and, to the delight of the elderly homeowner, climbed the tree and banded the young owls.
and Simpson were no strangers to banding owl nestlings in the cold.
gained further insight into Barn Owls when he
successfully raised a young bird found near Woodmont Boulevard in Nashville.The pair published their findings in the December 1942 edition of The Migrant
, the quarterly journal of the Tennessee Ornithological Society
.Citing the Barn Owls in Franklin and previous sightings in Nashville by Jamison
and Simpson, the young men concluded that fall nesting in Tennessee was a regular occurrence.
...Conrad Jamison Jr.
had a curiosity about nature that transcended his
short life and his
work continues to inform Tennesseans.His
keen eye for nature and love of science are not only apparent in his
observations about birds but also in his
teaching and his
, however, also had another love, his
country.And for that devotion, he
, like many Tenneseans, paid the ultimate price.
Born July 10, 1922 in High Point, North Carolina, Jamison
moved to Nashville as a youngster and began his
life-long interest in nature and in sharing his
findings with others. After attaining the rank of Eagle Scout at age 16, Jamison became an instructor for the bird-study merit badge at the Boy Scouts' Camp Boxwell, then located at the Narrows of the Harpeth River in Cheatham County.Never missing an opportunity to teach others, he was also active in working with young people at Nashville's Vine Street Christian Church.
In addition, Jamison's work with the TOS
, which began in 1937, included many birding outings where he
findings, banded various species, and studied birds of prey, including training some for falconry. Jamison
enrolled in Peabody Demonstration School
as a senior in 1939.There, in addition to being president of the student council, he
organized the bird club which met each Wednesday to participate in round table discussions, review magazine articles about birding, or view a motion picture on the subject.When the weather allowed, meetings were extended for birding field trips to the Peabody College
and Vanderbilt University campuses, along with occasional off-site field trips to Radnor Lake.
After graduating high school, Jamison
enrolled in the George Peabody College
in Nashville (now part of Vanderbilt University) where he
artistic skill and made numerous illustrations of birds.
accompanied Dr. Shaver on botanical collecting trips throughout Tennessee and illustrated many fern species.
The professor lauded Jamison
"fine pen work" and published the co-ed's illustrations with his
early articles in the Journal of the Tennessee Academy of Science
and in the Ferns of the Eastern Central States with Special Reference to Tennessee.This book, originally published in 1954, still serves as the definitive reference for Tennessee ferns.No fewer than 36 of Jamison's illustrations appear in this work; all were done before his
graduation from college.
During high school and college, Jamison
and other young men regularly assisted Amelia Laskey, who is known for establishing the bluebird trail at Percy Warner Park in Nashville in 1936 and for contributing numerous bird observations for scientific literature, with banding Chimney Swifts.
Many of the young men who regularly assisted Laskey moved from Nashville during their college years, but according to her, Jamison
"fortunately remains in Nashville as he is a sophomore from Peabody College
" and "has become the 'engineer' of the Swift banding project since William [Simpson] left."
appears to have never missed an opportunity to observe birds, teach about birds or record his
findings for others to learn from and use.As vice president of the Nashville Chapter of TOS, Jamison regularly wrote articles for The Migrant, updating members on the Nashville chapter's field outings and observations.
While working on the construction of the Army Air Forces Classification Center
in Nashville during the summer of 1942, Jamison
made published notes in The Migrant
findings."Three pairs of Red-headed Woodpeckers raised their young on the camp area this summer.In view of their recent reported scarcity- it may be of interest to state that the writer located 3 or 4 additional pair about the city."
was busy with his
teaching at Camp Boxwell, his
membership in TOS
, and his
botanical illustrations, the United States was engaged in a global war.World War II affected the naturalist's observations as many TOS members on the homefront were restricted from field trips and meetings due to travel restrictions and gas rationing.
War rationing also limited metal bird bands, and the paper weight and number of pages of The Migrant
were reduced.Rather than enroll in Vanderbilt Medical School upon his completion of his B.S. in August, 1944, Jamison joined the Armed Forces.His
service during World War II was not unlike many other members of TOS
.During the war, The Migrant
was used to update state-side members of the current address of members in the Armed Forces
.Sadly, the journal was also used to list those who had perished in the conflict.Jamison
completed basic training at Camp Blanding, a large training facility in the northern panhandle of Florida on Kingsley Lake.It is easy to imagine Jamison
on the extended hikes to Keystone Heights, camping out overnight at the nearby reservation, and birding and taking notes on his
observations as he
did in Tennessee.Training in the Army's
Intelligence and Reconnaissance School soon followed.
Assigned to the 376th Infantry Regiment of the 94th Infantry Division, Jamison
arrived in France on January 22, 1945.The 376th had been in Europe since September 14, 1944, and although just over four months had passed, it is likely that the hardened veterans who had spent 106 days on the front lines at St. Nazaire viewed Jamison
as a young, green recruit, despite his
being older than most men on the line.
The words of Albert Gainer, one of the original members of the TOS
, best describe Jamison
and what his loss meant: "[I] quite frequently had the pleasure of Conrad's
company on trips afield and found him a tireless and most congenial companion.