The Alliance is saddened by the loss of the Virginia conservation giant, Tayloe Murphy, who passed away on September 15th.  Tayloe served in many roles in his esteemed career, and was honored by the Alliance in 2006 with our “Frances Flanigan Environmental Leadership Award” for all he has done for the Chesapeake Bay.

Tayloe Murphy (third from left), poses with the Board of the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay in 2006, during the presentation of the “Frances Flanigan Environmental Leadership Award”

To honor Tayloe, Nissa Dean, Virginia State Director, wrote a tribute to her personal hero and role model.

There are few times in life when we get to say we met a true hero. As defined, a hero is “a person noted for courageous acts or nobility of character”. William Tayloe Murphy, JR was not only a courageous man, but perhaps possessed the most noble of characters I’ve ever seen. Shortly after the very first Chesapeake Bay Agreement was signed, in December of 1983, Tayloe began working on the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act, which was enacted by Virginia’s General Assembly in 1988. This was one of the first pieces of legislation that tied together land use and water quality, setting aside specific requirements for developing lands east of Interstate 95. It protects waterways from nonpoint source pollution by preserving trees and vegetation along streambanks, establishing those areas a “Riparian Preservation Areas”, establishing certain zoning requirements, and requiring septic systems are pumped out every five years. All of these actions prevent nitrogen, phosphorus, sediment, and bacteria from entering streams, rivers, and ultimately the Chesapeake Bay.

I remember meeting Tayloe when I was a young girl, somewhere between six and eight years of age, so probably around 1980 – 1982. My grandparents owned a restaurant, The Driftwood, in Coles Point, VA, not far from Westmoreland State Park, and “down the road” from King Copsico Farm, Tayloe’s home. Tayloe and his wife, Helen, knew my grandparents, Ruth and Joe McCoy, and frequented their restaurant often. On this day, he and Helen stopped by the restaurant while I was with my grandfather as he was prepping for the dinner service. They came around the side entrance and popped into the kitchen to say hi. As I was introduced to them, they were both so kind, friendly, and inviting. I had no idea at that age who Tayloe was, or the profound impact he would have on what would be the focus of my future career. Some 20 years later, I found myself admiring Tayloe at an event celebrating the signing of the Chesapeake 2000 Agreement, or C2K, as we liked to call it. I was freshly graduated from VCU, working at the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, absorbing and learning everything I could about the Bay and this infamous Agreement. I sought Tayloe out at every event and made sure to say “Thank you for all you’ve done…”. He was so gracious and always said “Be sure to tell Joe I said hello!”. His accomplishments were remarkable, inspiring, and changed our world in many ways.

In addition to his state service as a member of Virginia’s House of Delegates from 1982 – 2000, he also served as Secretary of Natural Resources under the Honorable Governor Mark Warner from 2002 – 2006, and as Chair of the Chesapeake Bay Commission for three terms. He leaves behind him an incredible legacy of Chesapeake Bay restoration policy and work that has been catapulted beyond measure due to his dedication and steadfast commitment. Tayloe’s honorable character and ability to work across the aisle inspired my career, and I’m sure hundreds of others’. Our most sincere condolences go to his family, friends, and colleagues as we mourn his passing.