Our Roots

Historical Perspective


John Campbell Britton

He cared for trees.

Born on December 14, 1937, in the rugged and majestic mountains in Ely, Nevada, John Campbell Britton was a naturalist from his earliest beginnings. He was also an accomplished artist, teacher, buckaroo, and cattle rancher taking every experience into account as he became one of our most respected pioneers in arboriculture.

John was raised in Palo Alto and lived in Oakland for many years. A graduate of The California College of Arts and Crafts in 1965, he received an MFA in Sculpture from the University of California at Berkeley in 1967. He taught at the California College of Arts and Crafts for a number of years. He lived briefly in Monument Oregon, working as a buckaroo and operated a small commercial cattle ranch.

He founded Britton Tree Services, Inc. in 1976 in St. Helena, CA where he and his wife and companion, Denice Froehlich Britton, worked together for 20 years. Over the next 25 years, John became a nationally respected arborist, who was well known for being actively involved in his community and profession. John received numerous awards for his contributions to arboriculture, including the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA), formerly the National Arborist Association, and Award of Merit for his outstanding service. John was a member of the TCIA for nearly 20 years, in a career that spanned more than 30 years in the profession. From safety to education to improving professionalism, he was a pioneer in arboriculture.

John was one of the first to invite specialized trainers to teach tree crews safe work practices and aerial rescue techniques. He thought one of his greatest undertakings was to teach tree workers to prune in a way that enhanced a tree’s appearance while at the same time improved its health and structure. And, he believed that workers should understand enough tree biology to be able to care for trees with skill, passion, and understanding.

At a time when the idea was not popular, John was a staunch supporter of education and was confident that certification would help elevate the profession.

John served on the founding Western Chapter ISA Certification Committee, which developed the first Study Guide for Arborists and Tree Workers. As the WCISA Certification Program was becoming established, he served as Committee Chairman and ran the program out of the Britton Tree offices for over five years.

His program became the blueprint for today’s International Society of Arboriculture Certification Program, a worldwide program with more than 53,000 participants around the world.

A member of the board of directors of the National Arborist Association and past president of Western Chapter of ISA, he also served as ISA representative to ANSI A300 Committee and was past president of the NAPA Valley Chapter of the California Arborist Association. In addition, John served as trustee of the National Arborist Foundation and volunteered on numerous other committees.

His willingness to fight for trees, his dedication and love of caring for trees, translated into concrete efforts on behalf of the profession of arboriculture.

Surrounded by family and friends at his much-loved McKinney Creel Ranch, in Klamath River, California, John Campbell Britton passed away on September 2, 2001. John is remembered well. His contributions to our industry were many.

Upon his death, the Western Chapter ISA set up a fund to honor the memory of “the pinnacle arborist.” This fund as grown into what is today known as “The Britton Fund.” Supported by the generosity of the tree-care community, The Britton Fund provides education, research, and scholarships for the benefit of arboricultural professionals and students.

Would you like to know more about our history? 

The Western Chapter of the ISA began in 1934.  Read about WCISA’s colorful history in its on-line publication Roots to Crown. Celebrating 75 Years of Arboricultural, Western Style.