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SCAD mourns passing of art benefactor, author and historian

Earle W. Newton II
SCAD archive photo
The SCAD community mourns the loss of Earle W. Newton II, whose generous donation of art forms the core collection of the college’s Earle W. Newton Center for British and American Studies.

By Toni Newton, special to The Chronicle

Published: Friday, June 2, 2006

Earle Williams Newton II passed away peacefully at his home in Ponte Vedra, Fla., May 24. He was born April 10, 1917, in Cortland, N.Y., to Earle Williams Newton and Anna (Moore) Newton. Newton earned his Bachelor of Arts degree magna cum laude from Amherst College, Mass.; his master’s degree from Columbia University, N. Y.; and his Ph.D. from Walden University, Naples, Fla. He was a Fulbright Scholar who studied in England and received his diploma of Museum Administration from Bristol University, England. He also was a senior research scholar at the University of London and a lecturer at Uppsala University in Sweden. Newton served his country as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy at Pearl Harbor.

Newton began his career when he started his own printing business, The Bibliophile Press, out of his parents’ home in 1930 when he was just 13 years old. He printed cards, letterheads and pamphlets, and continued to operate his press during the summers while he was a student at Amherst College. Amherst’s poet-in-residence, Robert Frost, was very interested in his student’s printing career. Frost offered Newton the opportunity to print the first separate edition of his poem “The Gold Hesperidee.” Newton’s mother, herself an accomplished artist, illustrated the cover, and his friend and, at his wedding, best man, Charles Miller, designed the text cut. The publisher’s copy of the poem is inscribed, “To Earle Newton, my best wishes in his next undertaking as a publisher, Robert Frost.”

Newton founded two magazines, Vermont Life and American Heritage, in the late 1940s. Over his long and distinguished career, he was director of historical research for Webster Publishing Company in St. Louis; director of the Vermont Historical Society; director of Old Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts; director of the Institute on Historical and Archival Management at Radcliffe-Harvard Universities; director of the Pennsylvania Bureau of Museums and Historic Properties; director of the Museum of Art, Science and Industry in Bridgeport, Conn.; executive director of the Historic St. Augustine Preservation Board; director general of the National Quadricentennial Commission; president of St. Augustine Restoration Inc.; acting director of libraries at Flagler College, St. Augustine; executive director of the Pensacola Historical Restoration and Preservation Commission; acting chancellor of Mark Hopkins College, Brattleboro, Vt.; Executive Director of the Richmondtown Restoration, Long Island; adjunct professor of humanities and honorary fellow at Norwich University, Vt.; director of the Museum of the Americas, Vt.; and donor of and consultant to the Earle W. Newton Center for British and American Studies at the Savannah College of Art and Design.

Conferred honors and awards include the Queen of England’s honor of Officer of the British Empire in 2003 for his large donation of British and American artwork to SCAD and his lifelong desire to promote “Anglo-American” culture (www.scad.edu/newton); Knight Commander of the Order of Isabella la Catolica, Spain, presented in 1965 for Newton’s work in the restoration of St. Augustine during the 1960s; American Institute of Graphic Arts’ Editorial Award for 1950, 1951 and 1952; and Special Award of Merit from the American Association for State and Local History in 1949.

Newton was the author of “The Vermont Story: A History of the People of the Green Mountain State 1749-1949,” “Before Pearl Harbor,” “Essays on the Social and Economic History of Vermont,” “The Americanization of the Gulf Coast, 1803-1850,” “The Upper Connecticut: Narratives of Its Settlement and Its Part in the American Revolution,” “Spain and Her Rivals on the Gulf Coast,” “In Search of Gulf Coast Colonial History” and “Our American Heritage: An Interpretation.”

Newton was a member of the American Association of State and Local History, the American Association of Museums, the American History Association, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Vermont Historical Society, the Inter-American Institute of Fine Arts, the British Museum Association, the International Council on Museums, the Newcomen Society, Rotary, Phi Beta Kappa, Cum Laude Society and Sigma Delta Chi.

Newton leaves behind his beloved wife and life partner of 69 years (1938), Josephine Antoinette Lyon Newton of Ponte Vedra; his daughter Antoinette Newton Townsend (Clark) of Jacksonville; a sister, Nancy Felt (Arthur) of California; two nieces; a foster son, Augustin Fernandez of Spain; and very special friends Cecilia Mott and John Sundeman. He was predeceased by his son, Earle Williams Newton III, in 2000, and his sister, India Alida Newton, in 1995. He leaves an incredible legacy through his tireless work in the arts and the generosity of his knowledge and contributions to past and future history.  

The family wishes to thank the Northeast Florida Community Hospice for their invaluable support, and all the wonderful caregivers who truly cared for him. By request of the family, no public services will be held. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that any donations be given to the Northeast Florida Community Hospice.

Toni Newton is Earle W. Newton’s daughter.

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