|Booker Hall Rucker III|
BH’s career began as a ninety day research project in 1963 that stretched into thirty-six years of service to Missouri’s system of state parks and historic sites. As a graduate student in archaeology, Booker completed his three-month study of a steam engine shed at Watkins Woolen Mill State Historic Site. While teaching classes, Booker worked on other research projects First State Capitol State Historic Site in St. Charles and Washington State Park in Desoto. In 1965, the Director of Missouri State Parks, Lee C. Fine, offered him a permanent job in the central office in Jefferson City. By 1971, Booker was promoted to Chief of Historic Sites and three years later became the Assistant Director of the State Parks Division.
From 1979 until 1989, Rucker served as Director of Historic Sites and Historic Preservation. During the 1990s, he was chief of interpretive programs until becoming director of Cultural Resource Management in 1993. After thirty-six years with the Missouri Division of State Park, Rucker retired in 2003.
During retirement, B.H. worked with the Foundation for Restoration of Ste. Genevieve, Missouri in the preservation and restoration of the 1787 Memorial Cemetery and other projects in Ste. Genevieve, as part of a long term interest in French colonial architecture. Also in retirement, he co-authored a book on the State Parks of Missouri, which has just been released.
Before entering the world of historic preservation, Rucker’s universe consisted of West 13th Street in the Powell Addition in Rolla. At the time of his birth during the Fall of 1939, Rolla did not have a hospital and Rucker was delivered at the home of Dr. Scott in St. James, Missouri. He was raised in the stone house his father, Ray Rucker, designed at 800 West 13th Street, which was constructed the same year he was born. During extended correspondence with BH over the course of the years, he relayed his childhood memories of growing up in Rolla. A reoccurring story was visiting the elderly Tucker couple at 707 W. 13th Street. BH stated,
|Booker, standing, with his brother Ray in 1943 at 800 W. 13th Street. Photo courtesy of BH Rucker.|
“One of my strongest memories is the homemade bread Mrs. Tucker used to make. I’ve never had warm, fresh bread so good since those days. I used to carry it warm in a brown paper bag, from their house to ours and it was all I could do not to open it up and eat it on the way home.”*
Another story was attending West Side Elementary and the temptation to cross “the old wooden railroad bridge.”
“One thing does resonate strongly though, "Line's Store." Also known as the Southside Market, but we kids all knew it as Kenny Line's store. When I went to West Elementary School, we were allowed to leave the school grounds to walk to Line's Store for candy. It was supposed to be a "straight there, straight back" trip. Unfortunately, it often wasn't, too many temptations along the way. One thing was so totally forbidden that it couldn't even be considered, was to go on past the corner onto the old wooden railroad bridge. Of course, we did so at every opportunity -- on the bridge, around the bridge, under the bridge. Sometimes we got caught and there was hell to pay with Mrs. Martin, the principal.”**
The Rucker name is deeply embedded in the history in Phelps County. Rucker’s Great Grandfather, Major John Fleming Rucker, arrived in Rolla in 1889 with his young family and entered the tie and timber business. John Rucker won a contract to provide ties to the Missouri Pacific Railroad and rafted timber down the Big Piney and Gasconade Rivers. His ventured proved successful and left his oldest son, Booker Hall Rucker I, to run the operation in Rolla.
Booker Hall Rucker I was best known for his dealings with property across Phelps County. In 1900, he joined David Cowan and created the firm Cowan and Rucker, abstractors, insurance and real estate agents. Four years later, Booker organized the Rolla Land and Investment Company. Booker was also involved with the community in various ways. He served as the Phelps County Clerk, was elected Alderman several terms and was chairman of the Phelps County Democratic Committee. In 1903, Booker married Margaret Southgate, the daughter of William Southgate, a judge and a former Sergeant in the Union Army (which is humorous since Booker was the son of a former Confederate Major). Together they had two sons, Ray Rucker and Booker Rucker, Jr.
|BH's favorite building designed by his father. The Rucker family home at 800 W. 13th Street. Photo courtesy of BH Rucker|
BH’s father, Ray Rucker, was a civil engineer who designed numerous buildings in Rolla. Ray’s designs included the E.E. Fiend House (1000 West 12th Street), Tucker Dairy Building (101 W. 10th Street), Rucker House (800 W 13th Street), the two former USO buildings (901 N Elm Street and 207 West 9th Street) and the Rucker family home at 800 West 13th Street constructed the same year BH was born. BH’s mother, Jessie Stark Rucker, will likely be remembered by patrons of the Rolla Public Library where she worked for roughly four decades.
After graduating from Rolla High in 1957, BH attended the Missouri School of Mines before transferring to the University of Missouri two years later. Even though he never resided in Rolla after he left in 1959, BH was still heavily involved with his hometown. He aided in research and writing with the Phelps County Historical Society and the Missouri State Historical Society-Rolla Research Center. Personally, he was a constant help with the Rolla Preservation Alliance. We would inundate BH with questions and he seemed to never tire of telling us his recollections and sharing his personal photos of the town he called home. We will forever be indebted for his help and we will miss his stories about his family and the assorted characters he encountered while growing up in Rolla.
In addition to his wife, Elaine of 51 years, B.H. is survived by two children, John Rucker (Linda Moore), Jefferson City; Sarah Rucker Williams, Columbia; three grandchildren, Sam Luke Williams, Emily Elaine Williams, Marnie Jane Rucker Williams; two brothers, Ray Rucker, Rolla; Stark (Penne) Rucker, Australia; and numerous nieces and nephews.
A remembrance service will be 2 p.m. Saturday, January 9, 2016, at Dulle-Trimble Funeral Home with visitation following till 5 p.m.
Memorials are suggested to the Missouri State Parks Association, of which he was a long term board member.
* Email correspondence with BH Rucker - October 28, 2013
** Email correspondence with BH Rucker - November 7, 2013