Remembering Garnett McCoy - Archives of American Art Blog

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Friday, January 21, 2011


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I am deeply saddened to learn of Garnett's death...his encouragement meant so much to my career! We had so many wonderful talks about the South and his native Virginia. He told me a wonderful story about his father:

"My father was trying to teach us about history and called Robert E. Lee the greatest man who ever lived. Then he paused and said 'Oh, next to Jesus that is.'"

Rest in Peace dear Sir!

My remembrances of Garnett are given more to the pedestrian side. In the many years I knew G. at the Smithsonian Museum of American Art we would often have lunch together usually at the old Hecht Co. dinning room. He would always have a hamburger medium rare and a Budweiser beer. Talk was randomly about artists, politics, sports, family, & always enjoyable. He always seemed to have a favorite winter & summer "uniform" -- brown tweed sport coat & khaki pants in winter, seersucker suit in summer.

He was dedicated to his poker club one night every week of the year - also to swimming nearly every morning, often competitively. He was a warm & welcoming co-host at many Xmas parties at the museum. If you knew him well, he was a man of compelling interest and humor -- a man easy to love, and a man always to be missed and never forgotten.

Both Anne (Payne) and I joined AAA (Washington) staff in 1972, Anne as a Technician and I as the Adm. Officer. I knew less than nothing about American Art and Garnett was always so patient with me when I'd ask him to explain why Jackson Pollock, standing over a canvas throwing paint at it, was such a highly sought after work of art!! He also tirelessly edited many of my budget narratives which required a lot of work!! His greatest gift to me was blessing Anne's and my marriage which is 36 years, two children, and three grandchildren long. Those of us who knew Garnett know the world has lost a good person.

One of my fondest memories of my early career was working with Garnett McCoy. He was the personification of the Archives of that day...gentle, erudite, a little odd but perfect for the rarefied world of the Smithsonian.

I have many stories about Garnett but one of my favorites was the night several of us went to dinner at the Tabbard Inn. Garnett drove (an old Volvo,what else). As we left, we were surrounded by police, made to get out of the car and produce ID. We were suspected of being robbers. The situation was soon cleared up. What Garnett told the police and forgot to tell us was that his car had been recently stolen, found and returned. During that time, it had been used to "knock over" a Seven-Eleven and the police still had it listed as the crime car. Garnett was so nonchalant about the whole matter...so Garnett. Just a little oversight on his part.

He will be missed.

Mr. McCoy was clearly a remarkable man. I stumbled upon this article quite by accident, but was pleased to learn more about him.

I really love the old Royal manual typewriter, as well. I (obviously) am more than willing to use a PC, but a part of me still misses the ancient Underwood I used in decades past.

very good post but I stumbled upon this article quite by accident

I have many stories about Garnett but one of my favorites was the night several of us went to dinner at the Tabbard Inn. Garnett drove (an old Volvo,what else)
he is a good man !

your blog is really so nice, thanks for sharing it

A great shame to lose such a man, thanks for this post, it engenders a feeling of fond nostalgia for, perhaps, more genteel times and life....though I'm happy not to have to use the old typewriters!

May he rest in peace.

This is a great post about McCoy. Thanks for sharing it!

R.I.P Garnett McCoy. I never knew you but I'm sure you were hell of a guy. =)

Wow my mother has a type writer pretty similar to the one above!

Sad story. I have always liked writers and art makers.

I found this article by chance and I think it's very interesting. I found the figure of a man faithful to their ideas and their habits: small and smart. In addition, the article made me think about the importance of an archivist. Thanks

R.I.P Garnett McCoy. You have done great things and accomplishements !

Excellent information, thank you very much. Congratulations on the quality of the website. Greetings from Brazil.

I didn't know about Garnett McCoy after reading this blog I have come to know that he was really very good person. It engenders a feeling of fond nostalgia for, perhaps, more genteel times and life....though I'm happy not to have to use the old typewriters!

That's such a good Blog, I found a good information here! I didn't know a lot about Garnett but now, I already know! thanks! Regards from Colombia

I wasn't aware as to who McCoy himself was until reading this, but R.I.P. you have accomplished a lot!

It seems like he touched a lot of people and helped them in their life. People like this from what I'd call 'the oldschool' style have a lot of respect from me. He reminds me of one of my old tutors.

Good and Excellent information, thank you so much. I'm comes here after googling the search engine.

original follow good work my friend best job thanx.

My heart skipped a beat when I've seen this typewriter you don't see them around nowadays, than I learned about Garnett McCoy. Honestly I first learned about his great persona in this article. unfortunately, after death we discover true meaning of once's life. NIce article, thank you.

Best regards
Srdjan, South Africa

Great Post.
Gretings from Argentina

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