The founder and spiritual icon of The Woodlands — George P. Mitchell — will be one of scores of historical figures honored in the new National Garden of American Heroes created by President Donald J. Trump

In a press release posted to The White House website on Monday, Trump explained the garden as well as provided a list of honorees that will be recognized under the executive order.

“I made it the policy of the United States to establish a statuary park named the National Garden of American Heroes (National Garden). To begin the process of building this new monument to our country’s greatness, I established the Interagency Task Force for Building and Rebuilding Monuments to American Heroes and directed its members to plan for construction of the garden,” Trump stated in the executive order. “The National Garden will draw together and fix in the soil of a single place what Abraham Lincoln called “[t]he mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield, and patriot grave, to every living heart.” In the peace and harmony of this vast outdoor park, visitors will come and learn the amazing stories of some of the greatest Americans who have ever lived.”

Township board member Ann Snyder, who knew the Mitchell family very well, said the National Garden is an appropriate place for Mitchell to be honored on a national level.

“I was extremely pleased that the founder of The Woodlands, George P. Mitchell, is being recognized and honored as one of the National Gardens of American Heroes recipients,” Snyder said in an email. “He is most deserving. Mr. Mitchell epitomized greatness as a businessman , real estate developer and philanthropist. His life embraced all that makes our country great.”

Jim Carman, president of the Houston Region for the Howard Hughes Corp., said he and other corporate officials were very pleased to see Trump honor Mitchell. The Howard Hughes Corp. has been leading the development of the community for more than 15 years after Mitchell sold the community to various national developers.

“We are pleased that the National Garden of American Heroes will include George P. Mitchell,” Carman said in an email. “Mitchell was a philanthropist of many causes, and his creation of The Woodlands has made him a hero to all of us who call the community our hometown. The Woodlands itself stands as a monument to his extraordinary vision and exceptional commitment that continues to define one of the most successful master planned communities in the nation.”

Long legacy

Mitchell’s legacy as a pioneer in the oil industry as well as a visionary futurist who wanted The Woodlands to be a master-planned community focused on sustainability where residents could, “Live, work, pray and play,” has been recognized at the regional and state level, but the presidential honor was welcomed by many in the community and those who knew the oil icon.

Loren Steffy, a former Houston Chronicle business reporter who wrote what is considered the definitive life story of Mitchell, said Mitchell’s, “place among so many esteemed Americans in the garden of heroes is well deserved.” Steffy said Mitchell had been theorized to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom from former President Barack Obama, but was never bestowed the honor.

“I was a little surprised, just because Mitchell has been passed over for recognition before,” he noted, referring the Obama decision to not honor him. “But they seem to be casting a wide net and he certainly belongs on the list.”

One of the big reasons for Mitchell’s renown, he added, was helping develop and fine-tune hydrologic fracturing, also known as ‘fracking’ which has helped the United States not rely on foreign oil.

“Mitchell redefined the American city and developed the technology that broke our foreign oil dependence. The son of Greek immigrants, he lived the American Dream. As a businessman, he was a pioneer of sustainable development and his innovations with hydraulic fracturing redefined global oil markets and saved every American household thousands of dollars a year in energy costs. While fracking remains controversial, it unleashed an abundance of natural gas that has helped usher in a green energy renaissance.

Steffy’s book — George P. Mitchell, Fracking, sustainability, and an unorthodox quest to save the planet — was released in 2019 and includes hundreds of pages about Mitchell’s varied personal and professional interests, including donations supporting science and research.

“Mitchell also gave tens millions of dollars in support of science — environmental protection, medical research, high energy physics and cosmology to name a few. He believed in the indomintable nature of the human spirit and never wavered in his belief that humanity could solve its greatest problems,” Steffy added. “As his friend Stephen Hawking said, ‘It can be said of very few people that they changed the world, but George Mitchell is among those few.’ His place among so many esteemed Americans in the garden of heroes is well deserved.”

With the end of the Trump presidency on Wednesday, the future of the National Garden is left in the hands of President-elect Joseph R. Biden, who is set to be sworn into office on Wednesday.

According to the executive order, “The National Garden should be composed of statues,” and be funded by the Department of the Interior. The people honored in the memorial are described as, “historically significant American,” which the order describes as, “an individual who made substantive contributions to America’s public life or otherwise had a substantive effect on America’s history.”

Aside from Mitchell, there are more than 100 other prominent figures planned for the garden, including: numerous former presidents; photographer Ansel Adams; boxer Muhammad Ali, women’s rights activist and suffragist Susan B. Anthony; famed jazz musician Louis Armstrong; iconic actor Humphrey Bogart; native American Indian legend Sitting Bull; famed Pittsburgh Pirate baseball player Roberto Clemente; civil rights leaders Coretta Scott King and The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., Ohio State track and field pioneer Jesse Owens; civil rights activist Rosa Parks; former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia; Jeopardy host Alex Trebek; pioneering Black journalist Ida B. Wells-Barnett; Orville Wright and Wilbur Wright, and baseball pitcher Cy Young.

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