Poet, ranger, author, documentarian. Shelton Johnson has done it all. And now he's been recognized for his excellence as a national park interpreter with the Freeman Tilden Award.
Ranger Johnson, who works as Yosemite National Park, received the award last month during the National Association of Interpretation Conference in Connecticut. The award is the highest given by the National Park Service for excellence in interpretation. Ranger Johnson was one of the seven finalists from regions throughout the country competing for the national award.
The ranger was recognized for his extensive collaboration with Ken Burns during the filming of the landmark documentary The National Parks: America’s Best Idea. Ranger Johnson appeared in the film extensively reflecting on his experiences as a national park ranger. Additionally, he worked on a collaborative project telling the previously untold stories of diverse peoples in national parks. These messages are reaching far beyond Yosemite and have facilitated lasting connections between African Americans and their national parks.
“We are extremely proud of Shelton and couldn’t be happier that he has been recognized by receiving this award. It is even more meaningful that this award was given by his peers. Shelton’s work here in Yosemite and on the Ken Burns film will reach millions of people for generations to come,” said Tom Medema, acting chief of Interpretation and Education at Yosemite.
Shelton Johnson has worked for the National Park Service for more than 20 years. Before settling in at Yosemite, he worked in Yellowstone National Park, Great Basin National Park, and the National Mall in Washington D.C.
Ranger Johnson was selected by a panel of interpretive experts from around the country. As the recipient of the 28th annual National Freeman Tilden Award, he received a sculpted portrait bust of Freeman Tilden and $4,000.
To gain some insights into the ranger's skills, check out this 11-minute video produced by PBS.