Richard Marlin Perkins

MarlinPerkinsZoologist, TV Personality

When Marlin was born here in 1905, little did his mother Mynta (Miller) Perkins know what was ahead for her. He was her 3rd son, but when this one was only 3 years old he would scare his mother with the snakes he brought in to show her. She nursed him through pneumonia when he was 7, caught it from him and died.

Judge Joseph Perkins sent Marlin to live with his Aunt Laura on her farm in Kansas, where he remained for 9 years while the two older boys were sent to a private school.  Marlin loved farm life and his favorite activity was following the horses when they were plowing and bring home any creature the blade brought up. Eventually Aunt Laura found his cache of live snakes, worms, and toads and evicted them from under her house. Not to be deterred, Marlin offered to work free for a neighbor who had horses, filling the stalls with hay. As the farmer had no reason to go to the hayloft, he could and did set up another small zoo of snakes.

When he was 14 he was sent to Wentworth Military Academy to school but the blue racer snakes he kept in his closet were soon discovered and ousted. At 16 his father remarried and the entire family was back in Carthage with Marlin in high school, where he played center on the football team.

After he graduated and spent a year seeing the country he went to the University of Missouri and enrolled in agriculture, but he loved animals, ended up quitting college and applying as the clean- up person at the St. Louis zoo. After two years he headed their reptile department.

From St. Louis he became the director of New York Zoological Gardens in Buffalo, and after a few years there he moved on to Chicago where he got into TV and introduced people to the animals he so loved.  On his show called Zoo Parade he would appear with an exotic animal and tell his audience about its natural habitat. For 6 years he hosted Zoo Parade, then he moved back to St. Louis and Wild Kingdom was born, and that show would win 4 Emmys in its long run on the air. The show was aired on 200 stations and broadcast worldwide in more than 40 countries.Marlin Perkins genuinely loved and respected the animals he cared for, and he is credited with saving animals from extinction by educating people. He was probably the first person to talk about ecology and he taught people to respect and love the animal kingdom.  From 1970 until his death in 1986 he was active in the St. Louis zoo and its programs.


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