George Little, environmental leader and former state senator, is remembered

02/05/09 5:51PM By Bob Kinzel
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(Host) George Little - a leader in Vermont's environmental movement and a former state senator - died this week.

He was also known for his work with civic groups around the state.

And he was known for his modest but strong personality.

VPRs Bob Kinzel has this remembrance.


(Kinzel) George Little was born in Burlington in 1921, attended Burlington High School and graduated from the University of Vermont. In the early 1950s, along with his father, George Little senior, he founded the George Little Press.

Tom Slayton is a former editor of Vermont Life magazine. He says the George Little Press had a strong reputation in the community:

(Slayton) "He was remembered by the staff at Vermont Life, the George Little Press was remembered as one of the best top quality operations in the state of Vermont...George was very active in community affairs and I think he encouraged his staff to do the same because it seemed like several members of his staff were very active in good causes in Burlington."

(Kinzel) George Little served on the Burlington Board of Alderman in the mid 1960s. He was elected to two terms in the Vermont House in 1968 and served in the Vermont Senate from 1983 to 1992.

Tom Slayton was a reporter covering the Statehouse when Little was chairman of the Senate Natural Resources committee:

(Slayton) "He was one of these people that was always the same no matter what circumstances you met him under he was always modest, unassuming just as gentle and soft spoken as a person could be, but he had an enormous effectiveness. He was very effective in moving environmental issues forward he never took credit for any of it."

(Kinzel) George Little had a major impact on many pieces of environmental legislation. In 1990, he worked to improve air quality standards throughout New England.

(Little) "It begins the process of looking into the quality of air in Vermont and begins to get a handle on what's going on out there. I think at some point Vermont has to begin to think that we are part of the area wide, and the country wide and maybe even the global wide situation with clean air."

(Kinzel) He also played a key role to make land available to develop Burlington's waterfront:

(Little) "This is just a continuation of the process of making what could really be one of America's truly great waterfronts with the back drop of the Adirondacks and the proud lake there and the way the city shapes down, it could be really a truly magnificent site and some day it will be and this bill is one small step in getting it started."

(Kinzel) Chittenden senator Doug Racine served on two committees with Little - Natural Resources and Appropriations:

(Racine) "A lot of it was about the environment. It was also about children. It was also about low income Vermonters. George had a special affinity for folks who are struggling. George also had a real concern about where we're going, the future of Vermont...He wanted Vermont to remain a special place for future generations his kids and his grand kids and his great grandchild."

(Kinzel) Little was very active in the development of the Echo Lake and Science Center on the Burlington Waterfront. On the wall of the center's lobby is a tribute to Little. It's one of his favorite Abraham Lincoln quotes:

"I like to see a man proud of the place in which he lives. I like to see a man live so that his place will be proud of him."

George Little was 87 years old.

For VPR News, I'm Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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