Although his interest in the bear might seem unusual, it is completely in character for the former speaker of the House. In 1953, at the age of ten, he lobbied his then-hometown of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania to start a zoo. In an interview, his mother recalled:
He was to go to the library. He was ten years old. And instead of going there, he went to City Hall. And he had this list with him of the animals, what they ate, what they cost, everything you'd want to know about that animal. And apparently he stayed quite awhile and they sent him over to Paul Walker, who ran the biggest newspaper in Harrisburg. He's dead now. But he saw the potential in Newtie. And Newtie said, 'Would you run this in the paper for me?' And Paul looked at him and he said, 'Yes, I can if you write an article about it.' And Newtie said, 'Well, I don't have a typewriter.' And Paul said, 'There's one over there.' And it was one of these old relic typewriters. And Newtie wrote the article and he and Paul stayed friends till Paul died. He never visited and didn't go see Paul.
Gingrich has maintained his fascination with animals and zoos ever since. Shortly after the GOP took the majority in 1994, C-SPAN visited Gingrich at Zoo Atlanta: