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Insights and Artifacts
Summer 2005 Courier

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.

George Tucker doing research at Chippokes Farm Museum 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.

George Tucker doing research at Fort Norfolk archeological dig 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 from
Edenton, wearing a straw hat decorated with fresh spring flowers. Her gesture in his honor captured the strength of the George Tucker spirit, active and engaged to the last day of his ninety five years. The Norfolk Historical Society’s historical essay contest, named for him and aimed at high school students, is only one attempt to honor his memory. The new Norfolk History Museum will have its George Tucker Room and the Norfolk Public Library Foundation plans to give his name to its endowment fund for local history and genealogy.


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