Eleventh Regent (1976-1982)

Born in Richmond, Virginia, in 1921, Frances Archer Claiborne came from a family with a personal connection to Mount Vernon: her father, Herbert Augustine Claiborne, was an architectural adviser to the Association in the 1930s. In October 1963, learning she had been elected Vice Regent for Virginia, Ms. Claiborne noted the place’s “special significance” in her life, ever “since, at the age of five, I learned that my grandmother [Mrs. William Ruffin Cox, Vice Regent for Virginia] had slept there in General Washington’s bed.” She attended St. Timothy’s School in Stevenson, Maryland, and Sweet Briar College in Sweet Briar, Virginia.

Regent

Mrs. Guy and Mrs. Douglas Williams, Vice Regent for New York, discuss plans for the estate's new working greenhouse complex with physical plant director Herb Prevost in 1985. MVLA.

Mrs. Guy and Mrs. Douglas Williams, Vice Regent for New York, discuss plans for the estate's new working greenhouse complex with physical plant director Herb Prevost in 1985. MVLA.

In her six years as Regent, Mrs. Guy oversaw several major projects, the most significant being the kickoff of a capital campaign—the first since Miss Cunningham’s in the 1850s. Funds raised during Mrs. Guy's tenure and that of her successor, Mrs. Sharp, enabled the Association to upgrade electrical, fire, and security systems and begin constructing the Ann Pamela Cunningham Administration Building.

In addition, the Association assumed ownership and management of the Mount Vernon Inn complex from the National Park Service, which had operated the facility—located at the terminus of the George Washington Memorial Parkway (itself a National Park)—since the 1930s. Further, they began a multiyear scientific study of the Mansion’s interior paint colors, refined how the structure was furnished, and formulated plans for a new working-greenhouse complex, located apart from the estate’s historic area, that would, Mrs. Guy wrote, “double the output of plants available for the exhibition area and for retail sales to visitors.” The complex opened in May 1986.

Remembering the Past

Mrs. Guy in Washington's Study. MVLA.

Mrs. Guy in Washington's Study. MVLA.

During the same period, the Association resolved a controversial issue by deciding to construct a memorial in the slave cemetery, where it is estimated that more than 70 African Americans, who lived and worked at Mount Vernon are buried. Located 50 yards from the Washington tomb, the memorial was dedicated in September 1983.

Ending her time as Regent, Mrs. Guy resumed her role as Vice Regent for Virginia. She retired in 1995, observing that “a younger and more active Vice Regent” was needed. “It is heart-wrenching to leave,” she confessed, but added that she took comfort in “having been a part of the long line of those dedicated to preserving George Washington’s legacy.”

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