B&C Member Spotlight - Philip Kingsland Crowe

By PJ DelHomme 

Before spearheading international conservation efforts as director of the World Wildlife Fund, this member was busy gathering secret intelligence during World War II.


If James Bond had been a conservationist, his name would have been Philip Kingsland Crowe. His world included advertising, journalism, international conservation and diplomacy, and, of course, espionage. Crowe always had a knack for quenching his sporting thirst wherever he found himself. In India, he was pigsticking. In England, he was fox hunting. He even found time to hunt elk in Montana.

Little will be found online about Crowe’s early days, but thankfully he filled in quite a few details of his life on his “data sheet” that is on file with the Club. He also left behind a handful of fascinating books that explain what influenced his view of the natural world and planted the seeds of adventure in his psyche.

Crowe was born in 1908 in New York City, attended St. Paul’s School in New Hampshire, and graduated from the University of Virginia in 1930. On growing up in New York City, he wrote, “I learned to ride on a hired nag in Central Park, caught my first fish, a gold one, in the fountain of Gramercy Park, and shot my first bird, a sitting pigeon, with an air rifle on the roof of our apartment house.” In college, he was a fan of the local cock fighting ring and wrote his term paper on “these gallant little birds.” His professor turned him into the local sheriff. Turns out that his teacher was president of the local chapter of the Audubon Society.

After graduation, he worked as a reporter for the New York Evening Post and on freighters in the Mediterranean. “It was not until I settled down to the life of a Wall Street broker that I realized how dull life can become,” he wrote.

Crowe with a 3.5 pound brown trout on the Falkland Islands in Argentina.

Setting Sail

Realizing that being a desk jockey was not for him, Crowe set sail to Saigon in 1935. He hunted sladang (Indian bison or gaur) and man-eating tigers in India. In 1937, he went fox hunting in England. He fell back into “normal” life and to a job with Life and Fortune magazines and got married. His formative hunts sparked a lifelong passion for wildlife, adventure travel, and environmental conservation that would come to define much of his future endeavors. Then came World War II.

With the world descending into conflict, Crowe's unique skillset and thirst for adventure made him an ideal candidate for clandestine operations. From 1941 to 1944, Crowe served as chief of secret intelligence for the Office of Strategic Services (the precursor to the CIA) in England and “East China,” including India, China, and Burma. When he toured Air Force bases in England, he went fox hunting.

After the war, Crowe briefly returned to advertising at Fortune, but it could hardly compare to intelligence gathering during a world war. He soon began a career in the United States Foreign Service.

The Diplomatic Conservationist

Crowe began his diplomatic career in 1948 as the American special representative of the Economic Administration in China. His first ambassadorial appointment came in 1953 when President Dwight D. Eisenhower named him as U.S. ambassador to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). In addition to Ceylon, he served as U.S. ambassador to South Africa from 1959-1961, Norway from 1969-1973, and Denmark from 1973-1975.

During the Eisenhower administration from 1957-1959, Crowe was special assistant to Secretary of State John Foster Dulles. His profound understanding of geopolitics, experience in far-flung corners of the globe, and unconventional background made him an invaluable counselor and advisor.

Crowe became a member of the Boone and Crockett Club in 1956, and it was around this time that his diplomacy experience and love for wildlife steered his career in a new direction. In the 1960s, Crowe led six wildlife missions sponsored by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) that traversed the Near East, South America, the Far East, the Middle East, Central America, and South Africa.

During his trip to the Near East and Africa in the spring of 1963, he spent four months traveling to nine countries to meet with the highest-ranking official who would have him. In Somalia, he met Aden Abdullah Osman, President of the Somalia Republic. In his report to the WWF, he paints a bleak picture of game protection in the country. “The Somalia leopard, the finest in the world, is now so rare that native hunters get as much as $100 for a prime pelt,” he wrote. “Ivory and skin auctions are conducted by the government with only cursory attention to the legality of the source.”

Crowe recounted his travels, meetings, and pleas for conservation in his book, The Empty Ark, the royalties from which all went to the WWF. In addition, he paid for his travel out of his own pocket. In his reports and in his book, he lobbied for expanded national parks, stricter hunting regulations, and comprehensive conservation policies. For over a decade, he served as a director of the World Wildlife Fund and sat on the advisory council of the African Wildlife Leadership Foundation. He lectured on wildlife and conservation, raising money for various wildlife projects around the world. To further amplify his voice, he published numerous books reliving his hunting adventures and calling for conservation stewardship.

Right: Crowe with an Indian bison in Mysore, South India.

Crowe returned to the diplomatic service as the United States ambassador to Norway from 1969 to 1973, followed by a term as the U.S. ambassador to Denmark from 1973 to 1975. After this, he retired from diplomatic service, remarried, and had a daughter. Crowe died October 16, 1976, at his home in Easton, Maryland following a heart attack. Philip Kingsland Crowe seemed like the kind of person who would always have a crowd gathered around him at a cocktail party, the listeners leaning in to absorb every detail of his story. He had a unique set of skills that he harnessed in defense of vanishing species around the world. He was an accomplished diplomat and well-respected member of elite social circles who never lost his taste for adventure in far-off lands. Crowe created a legacy of conservation stewardship and served as an unconventional voice to anyone who would listen.

Member Spotlights

Boone and Crockett Club members have come from a cross-section of famous accomplished people whose lives and careers have written and recorded the history of this country since the late 19th Century. They have been naturalists, scientists, explorers and sportsmen, writers and academicians, artists, statesmen and politicians, generals, bankers, financiers, philanthropists, and industrialists. Their diversity of ideas and activities during their careers have made the Boone and Crockett Club rich in its fellowship and achievements. To read more member spotlights, just click here

PJ DelHomme writes and edits content from his home in western Montana. He runs Crazy Canyon Media and Crazy Canyon Journal

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"The wildlife and its habitat cannot speak. So we must and we will."

-Theodore Roosevelt