Many Baby Boomers will remember Marlin Perkins of the television program of the 1960s called Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. He was a fixture on the show that was all about conserving and nurturing endangered species. Perkins was born here in Carthage, down the street so to speak, in 1905. He enrolled at University of Missouri, Columbia but dropped out to work with reptiles at the St. Louis zoo.
Perkins was always interested in animals of all kinds. One of the members of the Friends of the Library and her husband traveled with the Perkins and his wife in their retirement years. Dorothy couldn’t say enough about what nice people they were and how pleasurable the safaris in Africa were in Marlin’s company.
Later I was to meet Mr. Ralph Hunter when he returned home to the family home in his late years. Hunter had stories about Marlin Perkins too. They were childhood friends despite one being Black and the other White. Hunter recalled hiking out to Spring River with Perkins and catching toads, frogs, snakes, fish and anything that moved to be hauled back to town for study. Hot and exhausted, creatures hanging out their pockets, the boys wanted a cool drink at the drug store. It was a different time and Hunter was not allowed inside. He recalled that Perkins refused to stay inside if Ralph couldn’t, so he would buy them both bottles of pop and return to drink it on the street curb with his friend.
Perkins won four Emmys for his participation in the television program that was an early promoter of ecology. He retired from a second stint at the St. Louis Zoo in 1970, and he died in 1986.