Thursday, March 27, 2008

Obituary: Leonard Rapport

Speaking of history . . . Leonard was a legend in my profession. I had the occasion to talk with him on several occasions and he also made a cradle for his own children to sleep in, which made its way through the profession as well as the National Archives. My older son was one of the last "archives babies" to sleep in the "MARAC Cradle."

Leonard A. Rapport, Noted Archivist and Author

Leonard Rapport, 95, died Monday evening, March 17, 2008, at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington D.C. of cardiac and respiratory arrest.

A sixty-year resident of Washington D.C., he was born in 1913 in Durham, N.C. and later moved to Asheville. He graduated Biltmore Junior College (UNC-Asheville) in 1932, the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill in 1935 and joined the staff of UNC Press from 1935-38. As a member of the Federal and North Carolina Writers’ Projects from 1938-41, he collected and published life stories, including “The Tobacco Auctioneer,” which appeared in A Treasury of Southern Folklore(1940). He received his MA in American History from George Washington University in 1957. A WWII volunteer, Lieutenant Rapport served with the 502nd, 82nd, and the 101st Airborne units from 1941-1948. After the war, he co-authored Rendezvous with Destiny: A History of the 101st Airborne Division with Arthur Northwood, Jr., considered definitive by many.

A distinguished archivist, historian, and author, Mr. Rapport worked for the National Archives from 1949 to 1984, specializing in the documentation of the Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights. He was particularly noted for his writings on archival subjects, including “No Grandfather Clause,” first published in The American Archivist in 1981, which brought fresh insight to reappraisal and influenced the thinking of a generation of archivists. After retirement from the National Archives, he collected the unpublished documents of the Federal Convention of 1787 for the American Historical Association. He was a steady contributor to many historical publications, several of which are translated into different languages.

The recipient of several awards and honors, he received grants from the Ford Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities, among others. The Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference (MARAC) established an annual scholarship in his honor and he was the first recipient of the Society of American Archivists (SAA) Award for Lifelong Service to the Archival Profession. He was a member of the Cosmos Club of Washington D.C.

Ever the Eagle Scout of his youth, he was a great hiker and wood chopper. He trekked the Appalachian Trail from Virginia to North Carolina to attend the 50th reunion of his class of 1932. From 1989 until 1993, at the age of 80, he made five long solitary walks across the British Isles. He had a contagious love of life, humor, and companionship, complete with an astonishing memory for minute details of the past 95 years.

He is survived by his wife of 61 years Virginia (Reynolds) and daughter Jody Lynn of Washington D.C., son Russell, daughter-in law-Rebecca (Robison) and granddaughter Kate Lee of Austin, Texas.

1 comment:

Lana Gramlich said...

My sympathies. I'm sure he was a wonderful man.