Walter Eugene Packard was an agricultural engineer and a social activist with interests in agricultural reform and land settlement. The Walter Eugene Packard papers are now entirely open to researchers at The Bancroft Library.
Born in Oak Park, Illinois, Packard was educated at Iowa State College and started his career in El Centro, California, where he worked for the University of California College of Agriculture to establish and then supervise the Imperial Valley Experimental Farm (see above photo). In 1917, Packard moved to Berkeley as Assistant State Leader of Farm Advisors. He was granted a leave of absence from April to July, 1919 to serve in the Army Education Corps as consultant to returning soldiers interested in obtaining land. While still on leave, he both studied and taught economics at Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Shortly after returning to Berkeley, Packard accepted the position of superintendent of the Delhi State Land Settlement, a University of California sponsored project in Merced County. He resigned in 1924 and became a private consultant. From 1926 to 1929, he worked for the Mexican government as Jefe del Departamento Agronómico de la Comisión Nacional de Irrigación, making reconnaissance studies of potential irrigation projects. Returning to California he spent the next several years engaged in consulting work, including a study of potential benefits of the proposed Central Valley Project and the feasibility of the Columbia River Basin Project. From 1933 to 1938, Packard worked with the Agricultural Adjustment Administration and then the Rural Resettlement Administration, becoming Regional Director and finally National Director. Consulting work from 1939 to 1945 included a study of Linn County, Oregon for the Farm Security Administration and a report on the Central Valley Project for the Haynes Foundation. In 1945, Packard was appointed land consultant to Rexford Guy Tugwell, Governor of Puerto Rico, and in 1948 went to Greece, first as irrigation specialist for the American Mission for Aid to Greece and then as chief of land reclamation for the Economic Cooperation Administration.
The Packards returned to their Berkeley home in 1954, when Packard retired. Until shortly before his death in 1966, Packard remained actively involved in numerous organizations and projects concerned with public power, conservation, world peace, and improved conditions for the farm laborer.
Packard’s daughter was Emmy Lou Packard, an artist, muralist, and social activist who studied with Diego Rivera and served as his assistant during the creation of his fresco for the Treasure Island World’s Fair in 1940. Packard’s brother, John C. Packard, was a founding member of the Los Angeles Chapter of the ACLU and an attorney for Upton Sinclair. Packard’s mother, Clara, was herself an activist, with ties to the anti-war movement in Los Angeles, and a patron of the Whitman School, a progressive secondary school founded in Los Angeles in 1919.
Lara Michels, archivist