Lyon Gardiner Tyler (1853-1935)

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Lyon Gardiner Tyler

Lyon Gardiner Tyler (1853-1935) President of the College of William and Mary was also known as a prominent Virginia historian. He was the son of U.S. President John Tyler and his second wife Julia Gardiner Tyler. His paternal side of the family dated back to the colonial period: his grandfather John Tyler attended the College of William and Mary where he was a friend and classmate of Thomas Jefferson, both students of the influential science professor William Small. He served in various capacities in the Revolutionary cause and later was a judge in the Federal Court of Virginia.

Lyon G. Tyler attended the University of Virginia earning both a bachelors and masters degree. In 1888, Tyler was appointed president of the College of William and Mary. He brought the institution back from ruin following the Civil War and its closing from 1881-1888. He assembled a faculty known affectionately as the "Seven Wise Men," himself holding the chair of history.

Under his tenure, the College became a state institution in 1906. He began the William and Mary Quarterly, an historical and genealogical journal. He also wrote a number of histories: Narratives of Early Virginia, 1605-1925; Letters and Times of the Tylers; Encyclopedia of Virginia Biography and Williamsburg, the Colonial Capitol. His writings were influenced by his allegiance to Virginia, by a strong belief in states' rights, and by his need to defend the reputation of his father and his presidential administration. He was further influenced by his wish to secure the primacy of the colony of Virginia in United States history as well as reminding his readers that the College of William and Mary was the first institution of higher learning in the South.

He also advocated suffrage for women and in 1919 the College of William and Mary became the first state college in Virginia to admit women. Tyler retired in 1919 as president and is ranked as one of the most effective leaders. A member of the Class of 1893 described him sixty years later as a "lovable man, an ardent Southerner" who led "a remarkable body of scholars."

Tyler married twice, first to Annie Tucker Tyler and secondly to Sue Ruffin Tyler. His voluminous personal and professional papers are in the Earl Gregg Swem Library and the department of history bears his name.

Material in SCRC

  • There are several collections in the Special Collections Research Center in Swem Library related to Lyon Gardiner Tyler and the Tyler family.


Preceded by College of William and Mary President Succeeded by
Benjamin S. Ewell

1854 - May 11, 1888

Lyon G. Tyler

August 23, 1888 - June 30, 1919

Julian A.C. Chandler

July 1, 1919 - May 31, 1934


A note about the information in this wiki
Unfortunately, many of the early original records of the College of William and Mary were destroyed by fire, military occupation, and the normal effects of time. The information available here is the best available from known documents and sources at the time it was written. Information in this wiki is not complete as new information continues to be uncovered in the SCRC's collections and elsewhere. Researchers are strongly encouraged to use the SCRC's access tools for their research as the information contained in this wiki is by no means comprehensive.