Lyon Gardiner Tyler (1853-1935) President of William & Mary was also known as a prominent Virginia historian. He was the son of U.S. President John Tyler and his second wife Julia Gardiner Tyler. His paternal side of the family dated back to the colonial period: his grandfather John Tyler attended William & Mary where he was a friend and classmate of Thomas Jefferson, both students of the influential science professor William Small. He served in various capacities in the Revolutionary cause and later was a judge in the Federal Court of Virginia.
Lyon G. Tyler attended the University of Virginia earning both a bachelors and masters degree. In 1888, Tyler was appointed president of William & Mary. He brought the institution back from ruin following the Civil War and its closing from 1881-1888. He assembled a faculty known affectionately as the "Seven Wise Men," himself holding the chair of history.
Under his tenure, the College became a state institution in 1906. He began the William & Mary Quarterly, an historical and genealogical journal. He also wrote a number of histories: Narratives of Early Virginia, 1605-1925; Letters and Times of the Tylers; Encyclopedia of Virginia Biography and Williamsburg, the Colonial Capitol. His writings were influenced by his allegiance to Virginia, by a strong belief in states' rights, and by his need to defend the reputation of his father and his presidential administration. He was further influenced by his wish to secure the primacy of the colony of Virginia in United States history as well as reminding his readers that William & Mary was the first institution of higher learning in the South.
He also advocated suffrage for women and in 1918 William & Mary became the first state college in Virginia to admit women. (Note: For more information about the arrival of women at William & Mary, visit the Special Collections Research Center Blog "Mary Comes to the College with William").
Tyler retired as president on February 11, 1919 and formally left the office on June 30, 1919. He is ranked as one of the most effective leaders. A member of the Class of 1893 described him sixty years later as a "lovable man, an ardent Southerner" who led "a remarkable body of scholars."
Tyler married twice, first to Annie Tucker Tyler and secondly to Sue Ruffin Tyler. His voluminous personal and professional papers are in the Special Collections Research Center in the Earl Gregg Swem Library and the department of history bears his name.
Materials in the Special Collections Research Center
- Search Lyon Gardiner Tyler in SCRC database.
- Williamsburg The Old Colonial Capital by Lyon G. Tyler in SCRC Archives and Swem Stacks