Skip to main content

Sixteenth Regent (1996-1999)

Born and raised in Baltimore, Carew Cotton is the daughter of Henry Kyd Douglas Cotton and Jane Carew Reifsnider. She attended the Bryn Mawr School in Baltimore and then Bennett College in Millbrook, New York.

She was elected Vice Regent for Maryland in 1972, in that position chairing the Association’s Development Committee and serving as president of the Mount Vernon Inn restaurant-and-retail complex. She was instrumental in organizing major fund-raisers, including, in 1994, the first “An Auction, by George!,” a gala event that has since typically been held every three years; the First Ladies Lecture series, which featured talks by descendants of presidents’ wives about their famous female forbears; and the elegant April 2002 re-creation of President and Mrs. John F. Kennedy’s 1961 state dinner at Mount Vernon, held in tandem with the To Keep Him First capital campaign.

She met her second husband, Robert E. Lee IV, a direct descendant of Martha Washington when he was a member of Mount Vernon’s Advisory Committee; they wed in 1985.



Elected Regent in 1996, Mrs. Lee oversaw the expansion of the Mount Vernon Inn complex and restoration of the fruit garden and nursery. During her tenure, too, the restored servants’ hall was opened to the public, the museum was extensively renovated, and hundreds of objects from the collection were featured in three separate traveling exhibitions. She also initiated a fair for vendors of handmade 18th-century crafts, the first of which was held in September 1997; this annual event remains popular today.

Mrs. Lee was perhaps best known for her leadership in the early stages of the To Keep Him First campaign, an ambitious initiative originated to raise funds to educate Mount Vernon’s visitors—and those who might never visit—about George Washington’s character and his vital contributions as a Founding Father.

After stepping down as Regent, Mrs. Lee resumed her role as Vice Regent and retired in 2006—closing out 34 years of service to the Association. Her colleagues commended her for encouraging the staff “to try new ideas and take bold steps to change the way Americans feel about George Washington.”

To commemorate the 200th anniversary of George Washington's death, the Association released its first major traveling exhibition, Treasures from Mount Vernon: George Washington Revealed. The exhibit included Washington's false teeth, a plaster life mask of Washington from 1785, and a portrait from 1780. MVLA.