Bob Truett

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Felix Bob Truett (born 1932 in Jacksonville, Texas) was director of the Birmingham Zoo from September 1, 1960 to November 3, 1990.

Truett was raised in Texas and the vicinity of Hot Springs, Arkansas. He graduated from the University of Arkansas with high honors in 1955 and spent a few years in the U.S. Army. During part of his service he was the wildlife conservation officer at Fort Chaffee. He worked at the Alum Rock Park Zoo in San Jose, California and the Cincinnati Zoo before being hired to manage the reptile house at Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo. He was brought to Birmingham to succeed Tom Briskey as director.

During his first ten years as zoo director, Truett, his wife, Lisa and their two children, Marietta and Bobby, lived in the WPA-built director's house in Lane Park. The family kept several pets, including five dogs and a boa constrictor.

Truett inherited a troubled park with very few resources to properly maintain and improve its facilities. Over time he ushered in improvements in management that allowed the zoo to survive and to attract ever-growing crowds of visitors. His style of leadership caused rifts, however. Two zoo veterinarians walked away from the job over disagreements about animal care. He helped found the Alabama Zoological Society which helped raise funding for zoo operations and expansion and instituted numerous programs for volunteers and young people. He also participated in zoo outreach programs and frequently appeared as a guest on radio and television programs.

During Truett's directorship, the Birmingham Zoo became the 11th institution accredited by the American Zoological Association. He served as an Accreditation Commissioner of the AZA from 1974 to 1979. In February 1978 two hippopotamuses, an adult female and her juvenile offspring, died as they were being prepared for transport to another zoo. Immediately afterward Truett was charged by the Humane Society of the United States with unnecessary cruelty in Birmingham Municipal Court, but he was acquitted of the charges and successfully sued the Society for falsely accusing him.

Truett also owned and managed the Gymno-Vita Park, a nudist camp near Pell City. He caused some confusion in early 1984 when he accidentally listed the zoo's telephone number in a classified ad for the nudist camp. A planned presentation to zoo staff on the topic of nudism was canceled by the Birmingham Board of Parks and Recreation.

Truett retired in November 1990 after thirty years at the zoo. Mike Williamson took over as acting director. In retirement, Truett has been active in the Church Of The Natural Way and the Alabama Freethought Association. He also helped found the Southeastern Herpetological Society.

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