Harry Ernest Murphy, pioneering consulting forester, self-confessed “loveable curmudgeon” and philanthropist, died suddenly at the age of 90 in Birmingham, Alabama. He was born September 2, 1921 in Philadelphia, PA to Emma and Vincent Murphy, of German and Scotch/Irish heritage. Harry earned a bachelor’s degree in forestry from Pennsylvania State University, fighting with “The Red Hats” of the US Forest Service in the Pacific Northwest during the summer. In 1942 he enlisted in the US Army, assuming active duty in 1943. In 1944 he was assigned to the European Theater as a construction foreman, overseeing engineering projects at various ports and serving in the Rhineland Campaign. The recipient of the European-African Campaign Medal, the Good Conduct Medal, and the Victory Medal, he rose from the rank of private to Master Sergeant, and later, First Lieutenant in the Corps of Engineers, U.S. Army Reserve.
Working or playing, Harry was always guided by his joie de vivre, or joy of living. While attending land mine school in New Orleans, he sampled every restaurant in the French Quarter. While preparing to ship out from London, England, he studied botany at the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew. He also told memorable stories of those times, lamenting a secret lost love in England and recounting a daring motorcycle escapade in enemy territory.
After the war, Harry came South with his parents to work as a District Manager in the Arkansas Forestry Division and then to manage forestland for the Tennessee Valley Authority, setting up home in Sheffield, AL. He soon met a Yale-trained forester from Birmingham, John M. Bradley, Jr., and the two of them founded Resource Management Service, Inc., which became a highly successful, international forestry consulting firm. Harry believed passionately in the future of the commercial Southern forest and private enterprise forestry, helping to lead the national effort to establish the Association of Consulting Foresters, Inc. (ACF). He was such as evangelist for his profession that he was once described and the “Billy Graham of consulting forestry”. An inveterate traveler, Harry especially enjoyed the culture of Latin American and maintained life-long friendships with friends and consulting colleagues in Argentina, Brazil, Honduras, and Guatemala.
Harry was a member of the Society of American Foresters, the Association of Consulting Foresters, the Forest Landowners Association (and Tax Council), and numerous other state and national professional organizations. An early advocate of Alabama’s “Forever Wild” program, he was twice the recipient of the W. Kelly Mosley Environmental Award. In retirement, Harry focused on mentoring other foresters, and philanthropy, contributing to the Auburn University School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, the Bradley/Murphy Forestry and Natural Resource Extension Trust, the Central American Medical Outreach (CAMO), South Highland Presbyterian Church, and the School of Nursing at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), among other charitable causes.