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Mount Vernon’s Horticulture Director Receives Presidential Appointment: J. Dean Norton to Serve on the Committee for the Preservation of the White House

President Biden announced the appointment of members to the Committee for the Preservation of the White House on April 14, 2023. Among the individuals is Mount Vernon native J. Dean Norton, the longtime Horticulture Director of George Washington’s Mount Vernon.

The Committee for the Preservation of the White House is an advisory committee charged with preserving the White House, the official home and principal workplace of the President of the United States. The Committee is primarily comprised of citizens appointed by the President for their experience with historic preservation, architecture, and decorative arts.

As a member of the Committee, Norton will also serve on the Subcommittee for the Preservation of the White House Grounds. Established in 2019, it considers issues relating to the preservation, care, and design of the White House gardens and grounds and advises on the implementation of approved plans. Norton will provide expertise on the care of historic trees, sensitivity to past planting and landscape features, the need for possible research of past horticultural events, and what is required to care for the storied White House grounds.

Norton says of his appointment, “I have always considered it an extreme honor to be the current head gardener for George Washington, our nation’s first president. To now support the preservation of the home of our current president is pretty terrific. It is the ultimate and continuous Alpha and Omega situation. It has been so special and surreal!”

Norton began employment at Mount Vernon estate on June 23, 1969. After receiving a degree in horticulture from Clemson University, he became the estate’s boxwood gardener. He was promoted to horticulturist in 1980 and has spent his career applying horticulture's latest plant science and management techniques in a historic setting. For the past 54 years, Norton has devoted considerable time to researching 18th-century gardens and gardening practices. He has led the restoration effort of the principal historic gardens and the overall landscape of the Mount Vernon estate.

Margaret Nichols, the 23rd Regent of the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association, says, “Dean Norton represents the best of Mount Vernon and George Washington: character, service, and commitment. The Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association is fortunate to have benefited from Dean’s expertise and spirit for more than five decades, and it is rewarding that he now has the opportunity to share his knowledge and talent in preserving the home and workplace of the President of the United States.”

Norton has received awards for conservation from the DAR and the Garden Club of America, as well as the Garden Club of America’s prestigious Elizabeth Craig Weaver Proctor National Medal. He is an honorary member of the Garden Club of Virginia and the Garden Club of Providence. Awarded an honorary doctorate from Washington College, Norton serves on the Clemson University Historic Prosperities Committee, on several historic property boards, and lectures nationally and internationally.


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