Herndon Dowling

Obituary of Herndon Glenn Dowling

Herndon Glenn Dowling, Jr., died at home in Talladega, Ala., at the age of 94. Known as Bud, Doc, Dr. Dowling and the Snake Doctor, he was a Captain (ret) of the U.S. Marine Corps who served in intelligence in Okinawa. When a shell burst next to his hammock, he later said, he should have been dead right then. Instead he lived to earn a Ph.D . at the University of Michigan and become a world renowned herpetologist, publishing widely about the taxonomy of snakes and working as Curator of Reptiles at the Bronx Zoo in New York, doing research at the American Museum of Natural History and teaching at New York University. His interest in reptiles and amphibians began in childhood, when one day, his mother, nee Ada Camp, found him kicking at the kitchen door in Cullman, Ala., where he was born. Sonny, 3, had a frog in each fist and a third in his mouth—and couldn’t open the door. As a teenager, he discovered one of the first mosasaur fossils found in Alabama, later donated to his alma mater, the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. His interest matured as he milked venom from snakes to make antivenin in the South Pacific during WW II and continued for the rest of his life. His archive has been acquired by Western Connecticut State University and will become the Herndon Glenn Dowling Herpetological Collection. He returned to his home state upon retirement and settled in Talladega, where his father, Herndon Glenn Dowling, was the President of the Alabama School for the Deaf and Blind and his mother and sister, Barbara Sweat, were staunch members of the First Methodist Church. He is survived by his wife, Dr. Janann Jenner (herpetologist), his four children (Claudia Glenn Dowling, Christopher Herndon Dowling, Rogers Benjamin Dowling, Erin Dowling Porter), four grandchildren, two great-grandchildren and many nieces and nephews and their descendants, as well as four dogs whose names in latter years eluded him: his favorite Lucy “the Brown Dog,” Sir Walter Wally, Xena and puppy Julia Child. His myriad friends, relations and beloved students and colleagues will remember him always for his welcome (“Have some, very good today!”), his wit, his even temperament, his love of basking behaviors, his alligator wrasslin’ and his very large brain.
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