William Edward Carson was born at Enniskillen, (now Northern) Ireland, on October 8, 1870. He came to America in 1885, took over his father's lime-manufacturing plant at Riverton, and turned it into a lucrative business. From 1908 to 1919 he chaired the board of directors of the National Lime Manufacturers Association, during World War I (1914–1918) he served with the War Industry Board, and from 1923 to 1926 he was a member of the Hampton Roads Port Commission.
When Harry Byrd ran for governor in 1925, Will Carson managed his campaign. As a reward for his efforts, Byrd appointed Carson to be the unpaid chairman of the newly created Commission on Conservation and Development, whose primary task was to promote Virginia as a favorable location for new businesses and destination for tourists. During his tenure from 1926 to 1934, Carson had roadside markers placed to designate historical sites and encouraged the creation of the Colonial National Historical Park, which connected Jamestown, Williamsburg, and Yorktown.
The Commission on Conservation and Development reflected its divided nature in the creation of Shenandoah National Park for both scenic and commercial purposes. This rift also manifested itself in the objectives of its two creators, Harry Byrd and Will Carson. Although both thought the commission could help develop the state, Byrd focused on the need to lure industry, while Carson emphasized the appeal of Virginia's natural resources and history to tourists and business alike. Byrd eventually took the value of the tourist trade seriously, but the influence of Carson's more subtle advertising approach enabled him to become the commission's driving force. He was later recognized for his work when a peak in Shenandoah National Park was named for him.
October 8, 1870 - William Edward Carson is born in what is now Northern Ireland.
1885 - William E. Carson moves from Ireland to America.
1925 - William E. Carson manages Harry F. Byrd's campaign for governor of Virginia.
1926 - Virginia's General Assembly creates the Commission on Conservation and Development, and Harry F. Byrd names his good friend William E. Carson as the agency's first chairman.
1933 - Harry F. Byrd supports George Campbell Peery for governor of Virginia instead of William E. Carson, a move that effectively ends the friendship between Byrd and Carson.
April 9, 1933 - William E. Carson spends time with U.S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt at Camp Rapidan, in Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains, and convinces the president to put the Civilian Conservation Corps to work establishing state parks in Virginia.
1934 - William E. Carson announces his retirement from politics once it becomes clear that the Byrd Organization will not offer him a job as chairman of the Commission on Conservation and Development in the new administration.
1934 - A portion of the Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park is opened after William E. Carson successfully lobbies U.S. president Franklin Roosevelt and the U.S. Congress to use federal funds on roads in and near the park, including the "skyline drive along the mountain top."
March 25, 1942 - William E. Carson dies in Riverton, Virginia.
Cite This Entry
- APA Citation:
Heinemann, R. L. William E. Carson (1870–1942). (2010, November 23). In Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved from http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Carson_William_Edward_1870-1942.
- MLA Citation:
Heinemann, Ronald L. "William E. Carson (1870–1942)." Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, 23 Nov. 2010. Web. READ_DATE.
First published: November 6, 2008 | Last modified: November 23, 2010
Contributed by Ronald L. Heinemann, a professor of history at Hampden-Sydney College.