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David M. Knudson
National Historic Route 66 Federation
Lake Arrowhead, California

Route 66: The World's Largest Preservation Project

David Knudson

From thirty-year partner of Los Angeles advertising firm Walker, Knudson & Campbell to founder and executive director of the National Historic Route 66 Federation. That’s the path David Knudson’s life has taken.

In the summer of 1994 David and his wife Mary Lou, who had been visiting Chicago, decided to drive back to their home in Los Angeles by way of Route 66, the famous American byway. Forty years earlier, as a new college graduate, David had made the same trip, was forever impressed with the unique and exotic places along the way, and vowed to someday return. In 1994 he got his chance, but time (and interstate highways) had bypassed the old road to such an extent that Route 66 was no longer on any roadmaps or marked with road signs.

David and Mary Lou did find the road, but didn’t find much left of the thriving, colorful businesses that had once lined it. David documented the road's rapid deterioration, quite concerned that little or nothing was being done to preserve this American treasure. He sold his shares in his advertising firm partnership, and he and his wife founded the nonprofit National Historic Route 66 Federation with the mission to save as much of the legendary road as was possible.

Since then, the Federation, with members in fourteen countries, has accomplished much in the areas of preservation, education, and advocacy. Its successes include spearheading a $10 million grant program resulting from the National Route 66 Preservation Bill, signed into law in 1999 by President Clinton and aimed at supporting the route’s property owners in their preservation efforts. The Federation has conducted a global marketing effort which draws thousands of travelers from around the world down the road, thus providing income for many businesses; additionally, it has worked with Route 66 communities to produce International Route 66 Festivals that attract thousands of Mother Road enthusiasts. And the Federation's Adopt-A-Hundred Program has solicited enough volunteers to monitor all 2,400 miles of Route 66 (at 100-mile stretches each) for possible preservation problems.

David Knudson, by working with the public, corporations, government entities, and associations, is informing everyone of the need to save "America's Glory Road," in particular, and to preserve our cultural heritage, in general, for future generations. One man with a vision certainly can make a difference.


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