George McDaniel, the driving force behind the Drayton Hall Preservation Trust for more than 25 years, has announced he’ll be stepping down at the end of the month. It’s bittersweet news for Drayton Hall staff and supporters, all of whom will miss George’s leadership but pleased he’ll have the opportunity to spend more time with family, research and writing. Here’s more from the official announcement:
Drayton Hall Preservation Trust (DHPT), a privately funded nonprofit organization responsible for the operation and administration of Drayton Hall, A National Trust Historic Site, today announced that President and Executive Director George W. McDaniel, Ph.D. would be stepping down on June 30.
“Drayton Hall has been my passion and purpose for more than 25 years,” said McDaniel, “and I can’t imagine a better or more fulfilling vocation. But the time has come to turn over leadership responsibilities so I can focus on family, research, writing and other projects. I thank the Drayton family, whose vision made all of this possible, and the Drayton Hall Preservation Trust board of trustees, our outstanding staff and the thousands of Friends and visitors who have supported us during my tenure.”
Under McDaniel’s leadership, Drayton Hall earned international acclaim for its preservation policies and projects and for expanding the research and interpretation of the site to tell a more complete story. Such programs have won awards at the local, state, and national levels.
“With George at the helm, Drayton Hall became a nationally recognized leader in historic preservation,” said DHPT board chair Steve Gates. “He expanded its educational programming, grew its staff and resources and engineered its co-stewardship model with the National Trust. His contributions over the past 26 years have been vital to Drayton Hall and its important mission.”
McDaniel spearheaded conservation of the Ashley River region as well as outreach to both Drayton and African American family descendants, efforts that now serve as models for other historic sites across the nation. He enhanced both the quantity and stewardship of archival, archaeological and museum collections and was instrumental in securing a firm financial future for DHPT by producing either a balanced budget or a surplus every year during his tenure.
“For more than a quarter century, George has been the face of Drayton Hall, and he has represented the very best in historic site leadership,” said Stephanie K. Meeks, president and CEO of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “He has strengthened Drayton Hall’s connections to the community, created a transformative experience for visitors, and led the exemplary preservation of the site and the surrounding landscape of the Ashley River corridor. George is widely recognized for his work in interpreting African American history at Drayton Hall. His innovative approaches have become models for engagement and interpretation that have influenced the way this important work is done across the National Trust’s portfolio of sites and many other properties around the country. George’s legacy and impact will be felt for years to come.”
Joseph P. Riley, Jr., Mayor of the City of Charleston, added: “George McDaniel has given extraordinary and invaluable service to Drayton Hall, to the City of Charleston, and to the historic preservation movement. He has served as a local and national spokesperson for historic preservation, history education, and historic sites, and leaves a permanent and positive mark on our region and on the preservation of our historic and architectural treasures nationwide.”
In July, McDaniel will transition to President Emeritus, a consultative position that will advise DHPT board and staff. McDaniel will also take a well-deserved (and long deferred) sabbatical commencing July 1 through September 30. Vice President and Deputy Director Carter C. Hudgins, Ph.D. will serve as interim executive director until a permanent selection is made. A search committee, led by Gates, has already begun its research and evaluation process to find new leadership.
“I think that George has done an absolutely wonderful job as executive director since he’s been at Drayton Hall,” said Charles Henry “Charlie” Drayton, III, 7th-generation descendant of the Drayton family. “I hope that he enjoys his well-deserved sabbatical. He has built remarkable bridges of friendship, for my family continues to feel so much a part of Drayton Hall.” Catherine Braxton, a descendant of the African American Bowens family, and a member of the DHPT board, agreed and said, “George is a bridge builder. He sees our common humanity.”