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News: In Memoriam: Dr. William Seale, Jr.

 

November 22, 2019

GCA Medalist, Honorary Member, Author, Historian, Editor, Historic Preservationist

“Author, historian, editor, historic preservationist… all terms that only hint at the scale, scope and impact of Dr. William Seale’s accomplishments.” One of the GCA’s most distinguished and endearing honorary members, William received the 2004 GCA Medal for Historic Preservation. In 2013 he authored The Garden Club of America, 100 Years of a Growing Legacy. William recently passed away at the age of 80.

A native Texan, William’s first encounter with the GCA occurred as a young boy thumbing through a copy of the classic two volume work, The Gardens of Colony and State, which was published by The Garden Club of America in the 1930s. This experience exposed him to the fascinating history underlying both the subject of gardens and the GCA’s devotion to learning and the transmission of knowledge. According to friends, he grew up with an innate love of architecture and preservation. His studies at Southwestern University and graduate work at Duke University prepared him for his professional and personal calling — to breathe life into the history of our nation.

William was a prolific writer and American historian, publishing more than a dozen books illuminating people and places in our nation’s history. The President’s House: A History in two volumes, published by the White House Historical Association in 1986 and 2008, solidified his stature as a White House historian. He also wrote The White House: Actors and Observers and The White House Garden. More recently, he authored A White House of Stone (2017); Imperial Season (2013); Blair House: The President’s Guest House (2016); and To Live on Lafayette Square: Society and Politics in the White House Neighborhood (2019). As founding editor of White House Historical Quarterly, the award-winning magazine of the White House Historical Association, he was invited to participate in PBS productions featuring the White House and its inhabitants.

Beyond just writing about celebrated, historic structures, William showed his immense skill and talent for preservation by orchestrating the reconstruction of more than seven state capitols, five governors’ mansions and many historic houses—including those of Andrew Jackson, George Eastman, Wade Hampton, the Old Governor’s Mansion in Milledgeville, Georgia, and Bullock Hall in Roswell, Georgia, which is the Greek Revival Mansion of Theodore Roosevelt’s ancestors.

Fortunately for many within and outside the GCA, William graciously shared his incredible knowledge, wit, and love of history through lectures, tours and informal conversation. He liked to share stories from the lives of characters from American places that have made a difference in our society and culture. He was the keynote speaker at two GCA annual meetings and spoke at GCA Centennial events in New York City. Married to Lucinda Seale (GC of Alexandria, Zone VII), a former Visiting Gardens Committee chairman and member of the Flower Arranging Study Group, he became intimately involved with the GCA through travel, meetings, and new friendships.

Dr. William Seale’s life work defines historic preservation and his contributions as an author, lecturer and raconteur have made our nation’s history live for millions.

As one of the GCA’s most distinguished honorary members, husband of Lucinda, and a leading national volunteer, William has delighted all who have traveled with him or experienced one of his lectures with stories about our nation’s history and the personalities who have made a difference in our society and culture.

 

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