Born on August 24, 1853, Lyon Gardiner Tyler was the thirteenth of his father's fifteen children, the last seven of whom were born after the president left office. He was the fifth child by President Tyler and his second wife, Julia Gardiner, a prominent New York socialite. After his father left office in 1845, the Tylers lived at Sherwood Forest Plantation in Charles City County until Lyon was eight years old, when his father's death in January 1862 and the onslaught of the American Civil War (1861–1865) prompted the family to move north, to the maternal family enclave in Staten Island, New York. In 1869 Tyler returned to Virginia to obtain both a bachelor's and a master's degree in law from the University of Virginia. As a student, he was a member of Kappa Sigma Fraternity and the Jefferson Literary Society, and was a well-regarded contributor to the student magazine.
Support for Public Education
While in Richmond, Tyler worked hard to support and reform public education. He taught and served on the board of the Virginia Mechanics Institute, which he helped to revive. His election to the House of Delegates in 1887 put him in an excellent position to lobby for funds for the College of William and Mary. He procured $10,000 for the restoration of the school, which had been dormant nearly seven years due to war damage and inadequate funding. It reopened in 1888 with Tyler at its helm; while there, he also taught courses in American history and political economy. At the Constitutional Convention of 1901–1902, he secured permanent funding for the college and succeeded in getting it established as a state-owned institution. During the period of 1903 to 1907, when Tyler served on the State Board of Education, the public school system was reorganized and developed. Virginia's public school system became coeducational in 1915 and, by the end of Tyler's presidency of William and Mary in 1919, many alumni went on to assume prominent positions in the new school systems.
Work as Historian and Author
During his presidency of the college, Tyler became a vigorous scholar of Virginia history, conducting research throughout the state and campaigning for the preservation of local courthouse and genealogical records. In 1896, he persuaded the General Assembly to appropriate $5,000 for copying seventeenth-century county court books, setting a precedent for the preservation of state records through public spending. In later years, he made the preservation of such records his personal mission, traveling extensively throughout Virginia to gather historical and genealogical material from cemeteries and courthouses. He was elected to the State Library Board in 1915 (during his term as president of William and Mary) and served until his death in 1935, all the while encouraging the collection, printing, and distribution of primary source materials. He could also boast fifty-two years of membership in the Virginia Historical Society, including forty-seven years on its executive committee and thirty-two as a vice president.
In June 1919, Tyler resigned as president of the College of William and Mary and retired to his farm, Lion's Den, in Charles City County. In 1923, two years after the death of his wife Anne Tucker, he married his second wife, Sue Ruffin. Their two sons, Lyon Gardiner and Harrison Ruffin, joined three children from his first marriage, Julia, Elizabeth, and John. He remained an active speaker, writer, and researcher until his death from pneumonia on February 12, 1935.
- The Letters and Times of the Tylers (three volumes, 1884–1896)
- Parties and Patronage in the United States (1891)
- The Cradle of the Republic: Jamestown and the James River (1900)
- England in America (1904)
- Williamsburg, the Old Colonial Capital (1907)
- Men of Mark in Virginia (1906–1909)
- Encyclopedia of Virginia Biography (1915)
- History of Virginia from 1763 to 1861 (1924)
August 24, 1853 - Lyon Gardiner Tyler is born.
1869 - After spending seven years in Staten Island, New York, with his mother's family, Lyon Gardiner Tyler returns to Virginia. He obtains his bachelor's and master's degrees in law from the University of Virginia.
1882 - After spending several years as principal of a private school in Memphis, Tennessee, Lyon Gardiner Tyler returns to Virginia to practice law in Richmond.
1887 - Lyon Gardiner Tyler is elected to the Virginia House of Delegates and lobbies to help restore funding to the College of William and Mary.
August 23, 1888 - After closing in 1881 because of a lack of funds, the College of William and Mary reopens with Lyon Gardiner Tyler as its president.
1896 - Lyon Gardiner Tyler persuades the Virginia Legislature to provide $5,000 for the copying and preservation of seventeenth-century county court records, setting a precedent for the preservation of state records through public funding.
1902 - As a result of the Constitutional Convention of 1901–1902, Lyon Gardiner Tyler secures permanent funding for the College of William and Mary and succeeds in getting it established as a state-owned institution.
1915 - Lyon Gardiner Tyler is elected to the State Library Board.
July 1, 1919 - Lyon Gardiner Tyler resigns as president of the College of William and Mary.
1923 - After the death of his first wife, Anne Tucker, Lyon Gardiner Tyler marries his second wife, Sue Ruffin.
February 12, 1935 - Lyon Gardiner Tyler dies of pneumonia and is buried in Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond.
Cite This Entry
- APA Citation:
Chroninger, K. Lyon Gardiner Tyler (1853–1935). (2012, May 2). In Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved from http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Tyler_Lyon_Gardiner_1853-1935.
- MLA Citation:
Chroninger, Kelly. "Lyon Gardiner Tyler (1853–1935)." Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, 2 May. 2012. Web. READ_DATE.
First published: October 8, 2008 | Last modified: May 2, 2012