Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version



Published in Great Plains Research, Vol. 18, No.1, 2008. © 2008 Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln


Sutton, an introspective and very private man, sadly destroyed many of his personal papers before he died. His Bird Student: An Autobiography (1980) documents his life only through 1935 and the end of his Cornell days. Jackson's book is especially valuable, therefore, in documenting Sutton's later years, after he had reached his prime both as scholar and artist. Although I thought I personally knew Sutton very well and wrote a small book based on a collection of his paintings of baby birds, I learned much from Jackson's narrative, which details Sutton's World War II experiences, his often frustrating years at the University of Michigan, and finally his move in 1952 to the University of Oklahoma, where his name soon became synonymous with Oklahoma ornithology. From there Sutton made repeated field trips to Mexico and the Canadian Arctic, generating eight books and more than 150 short publications, as well as producing some of his best paintings.

In addition to his richly documented text, Jackson provides a detailed account of Sutton's writings, a list of the books and monographs he illustrated, and the names of his graduate students and research topics. Persons who knew George Sutton will read this book with special interest and great pleasure, for it illuminates the life of this remarkable man as no other single source could do. Those who read it without having met Sutton will doubtless regret never knowing one of the giants of American ornithology.