Amherst Magazine

Joseph Jackson Walter '62

Submitted by Craig H. Morgan

From The Olio

Walter JOSEPH JACKSON WALTER
600 Parrish Road, Swathmore, Pa.
Prepared at Swathmore High School
American Studies
Phi Alpha Psi, President
Squash "1962", "A", 2,3,4
Tennis "1962", "A", 2,3,4
Sphinx
Richard Mayo-Smith Fellowship

Joseph Jackson (Jack) Walter '62, died July 18, 2008
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In Memory

Grief and astonishment were inseparable as his friends learned of the sudden death of Jack Walter this summer. "He was so fit," everyone said—but our disbelief at the tragedy went beyond his apparent good health. Jack had a lifelong quality of elegance: the economy of gesture of a natural athlete and of a natural gentleman. And I think it was that graceful, masculine presence in the world that made him seem invulnerable.

He succumbed to a series of strokes on July 18, at Inova Hospital, in Fairfax, VA.

My first memory of Jack at Amherst suggests something of his character (though it does not reflect well on mine.) It was freshman year and we were in the required phys. ed. Class. It seems anachronistic, but I'm pretty sure we were playing soccer. Anyway, Jack was talking it up, urging his side on, and I thought: Who is this guy? Doesn't he know this doesn't matter? But he knew the way in which sports do matter, and the spirit he brought to the playing field—and especially the tennis and squash courts—served him well throughout life. A keen sense of competition never left him—that was one side of his personality. But it was complemented by quite another. He was influenced greatly by his Quaker upbringing, and a commitment to peace and reason and "friendly persuasion" informed his dealings with the world. It helped to account for the rich texture of Jack's personality, a personality that mingled worldly, sharp-elbowed realism with a passion for fairness and decency.

Jack relished politics, and his career was given largely to public service. Not long after law school, at Yale, he held the unlikely post of secretary of the Florida Department of Business Regulation. This was a job whose chief benefit, he would later say, was that it introduced him to the woman who became his wife, Susan Draude. They moved to Washington, where, in 1979, he was confirmed as director of the US Office of Government Ethics.

The highlight of Jack's career was his presidency of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. He was instrumental in securing for the American people the home of James Madison, Montpelier; the spectacular Rockefeller estate, Kykuit, in Westchester County; and the "Glass House" of Philip Johnson in New Canaan, CT, among other triumphs. He fought successfully to avert the devastation of Civil War battlefields, to prevent commercial development on Ellis Island, and to save the charitable tax benefit for historic preservation that has been key to the enlightened renewal of our historic urban areas.

Jack had a passion for the beauty that is realized in the successful marriage of landscape and architecture. He and Susan lived in the rural village of Waterford, VA, where as president of the Waterford Foundation he worked to preserve the beauty of that corner of the state. A few years ago, as Susan contemplated early retirement from her high-pressure post at General Electric, the Walters brought their ultimate home, a magnificent thirteenth century farmhouse in southwestern France, amidst vineyards and fields. The house was magnificent, that is, after they finished saving it from the forces of gravity, let the light in, and turned the massive barn into what may well be the largest kitchen in France.

My wife and I memorably visited them there. Jack treasured his friendship with his friends and neighbors in the tiny village of Heux. His language skills, it is true, lagged behind his enthusiasm, leading to wonderfully comic evenings of pantomime and "franglais" around the dining room table.

Jack is survived by Susan, by his beloved stepdaughter, Allison McBane, and by Allison's three children, one of whom, Jackson, carries Jack's name forward.

—Dick Todd '62

And the following is an obituary that appeared Thursday, July 24, in the Washington Post-----

J. Jackson Walter, 67, a former federal ethics watchdog who made vital contributions to preserving heritage sites, including parks and shipwrecks, while running the National Trust for Historic Preservation for eight years, died July 18 at Inova Fairfax Hospital after multiple strokes.

A real estate lawyer and public administrator, Mr. Walter became the first confirmed director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics in 1979. The office, which he led for three years, originated from a post-Watergate law to vet public figures for potential conflicts of interest.

He grew increasingly combative about what he told Time magazine was the Reagan administration's "anti-government rhetoric and mentality" resulting in a casual approach to following federal ethics guidelines. He had tussled with several administration figures, most prominently first lady Nancy Reagan for accepting clothing as loans and gifts from U.S. designers.

In 1984, Mr. Walter was appointed president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, established in 1949 as a congressionally chartered protector of historic properties.

He said he wanted the organization "to be a major central figure in public debates about what our cities should look like, where tall building should go, and try to put historic preservation right in the middle of those debates instead of at the end."

Among his most vital contributions was saving historic preservation tax credits, which began in 1976 to encourage developers and municipalities to reuse historic structures instead of tearing them down.

As part of its tax reform effort, the Reagan administration in the mid-1980s had threatened to eliminate the credits, considered one of the most important tools preservations have.

During his tenure, Mr. Walter achieved several victories. He oversaw the restoration and public opening of James Madison's Montpelier estate north of Charlottesville. And he succeeded in preventing proposed development on New York's Ellis Island and protecting several Civil War sites from encroaching development.

In what he called a much-overlooked need, he worked to pass a federal bill in 1988 that protected historic shipwrecks by giving states more authority to supervise salvage efforts.

He also engineered arrangements to open landmark private properties to the public, including the Philip Johnson Glass House in New Canaan, Conn., and the John D. Rockefeller estate Kykuit in Westchester County, N.Y.

To gain media attention, Mr. Walter devised the National Trust's annual list of 11 most endangered historic places. The lists have included specific sites, such as Antietam National Battlefield Park in Washington County, Md., and all of Vermont, because of an influx of big box retail stores.

Some preservationists were never satisfied with the scope of the National Trusts efforts and complained that its focus was too much on prominent structures in the East.

Mr. Walter told the Los Angeles Times in 1991 that the trust had begun to head in a good direction, "away from the mansions and country houses of the famous."

Joseph Jackson Walter, known as Jack, was born Nov. 6, 1940, in Swarthmore, Pa. He was a 1962 graduate of Amherst College in Massachusetts and a 1966 graduate of Yale University's law school. He signaled an early interest in preservation by attending Yale architecture scholar Vincent Scully's lectures on urban planning.

Early in his career, Mr. Walter practiced law in Boston and became secretary of the Florida Department of Business Regulation.

From 1982 to 1984, he was president of the National Academy of Public Administration, a nonprofit group that advises federal, state and local officials on managing government.

After resigning abruptly from the Historic Trust, he made an unsuccessful bid for a seat on the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors.

He was executive director of the Waterford Foundation, a preservation group, and former board chairman of the parent company of the Leesburg Today newspaper. He served on other community boards, including the Country Life Center, which works to establish rural conservation districts.

He lived near Waterford and owned and renovated a 13th-century farmhouse in Heux, a village in southwestern France. A lanky fitness enthusiast, Mr. Walter enjoyed playing tennis.

Survivors include his wife of 30 years, Susan Draude Walter of Waterford; a stepdaughter, Allison McBane of McLean; and three grandchildren.

----Adam Bernstein (Washington Post Staff Writer)

Walter
  From The Washington Post