George H. Tucker: 1909 – 2005
With the passing of George Holbert Tucker in early April, Hampton Roads lost its most visible and popular booster for local history. George was a charter member of the Norfolk Historical Society, and authored the Society published book, Norfolk Highlights, 1584-1881, for the city’s celebration of the American Revolution Bicentennial in 1972.
His first book, published in 1934, was Abstracts from Norfolk City Marriage Bonds (1797- 1850) and Other Genealogical Data. It established George’s reputation for thorough research and solid scholarship at the tender age of 25. For the next seventy years he made continuing contributions to the record of history in eastern Virginia, gaining a wide audience after 1949 as a writer and then columnist for The Virginian-Pilot and its sister publication The Ledger-Star. His storytelling skills focused on humor and little-known incidents that attracted a large readership. He frequently enhanced the columns with his own drawings.
George lost his wife, former Norfolk librarian Elizabeth Williams Tucker,
in 1992. With Elizabeth’s encouragement and company on research
trips to England, he had authored two books on Jane Austen, which were
widely praised in both Britain and the United States. Alone at 82, he
continued an active life centered around his weekly history column and
frequent visits to the Pilot, where he had retired in 1975
at age 65. A stickler for detail, George wrote each week’s column
longhand and then copied it on his manual typewriter, double checking
his facts and spelling before he turned it in on Monday morning. After
it was entered into the newspaper’s computer, he reviewed it once
more before signing off for publication.
Always an omnivorous reader, even after his eyesight began to dim from macular degeneration, George valued his contacts and sources at museums and historical organizations throughout Virginia, relying on them for leads on new stories. He made it a conscientious rule to visit a site to see a new discovery firsthand before he’d write about it. Since he did not drive, this gave a friend the opportunity to accompany him on these jaunts, generously compensated by endless stories about people in Berkley and Norfolk and behind-the-scenes tales of Virginia scandals. He had favorite restaurants and favorite waitresses and they adored him in return.
At the reception held following his death, one elderly friend drove
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