Statement | August 8, 2022

Statement on the Death of David McCullough

We at the National Trust for Historic Preservation were deeply saddened to learn of the passing of David McCullough, acclaimed author and longtime Trustee.

David McCullough had a remarkable understanding of the way that history has shaped our nation’s character, and he used his formidable skills as a storyteller to bring that history to life for millions of Americans. His love for history also extended to a passion for saving the places where history happened, and he was a lifelong advocate for historic preservation, serving as a trustee of the National Trust in the early 2000s, and for the past two decades as an honorary trustee of the National Trust.

David McCullough was one of the prominent voices leading the successful fight against the proposed “Disney’s America” theme park near the Civil War battlefield at Manassas, Virginia—and on many other occasions he spoke eloquently of the importance of protecting the tangible evidence of our past.

The loss of such an eloquent and thoughtful voice for America’s history will be felt in profound ways. We at the National Trust celebrate the work and life of David McCullough as an author, historian, and preservationist, and we thank him for his lifetime of service.

One such occasion was just a few short weeks after the attacks of 9/11. David McCullough gave a speech at the historic First Baptist Church in Providence, Rhode Island, during the National Preservation Conference, in which he noted the many times we as a nation have overcome adversity and uncertainty, and he reminded us how the places we preserve can help us understand how we can move forward:

“Imagine if there were no such buildings, if there were few or no historic places. Imagine how it would be if there were no Gettysburg battlefield, no Brooklyn Bridge, no Faneuil Hall. The list could be very long. Each and every one could have been swept away, destroyed, heedlessly like so much else. . . .

All these buildings, these American places, all are tangible, evocative expressions of distant times and extraordinary people. And those people are here, with us, in a way they would not be if those structures were not here. [They represent an] all important, inexhaustible source of strength, and that is our story, our history, who we are, how we got to be where we are, what we have been through, what we have achieved, what we have built. . . .

We know what footsteps we walk in.”

On behalf of myself and the National Trust, I would like to offer my deepest condolences to David’s family, friends, and to all those whom he inspired throughout his life.

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The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded nonprofit organization, works to save America’s historic places.
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