Many of the staff and researchers at the Library of Virginia remember our colleague and friend Robert Young Clay for his vast knowledge of the records in our collections. Bob, who died last year, left his papers to the Library, and I recently completed processing them. I knew Bob for about eight years before his retirement in 2001. I recall how he assisted me with answers to some of my most puzzling questions, and seeing him helping patrons with their genealogical research.
I also remember his biting humor, lack of patience at times, the slamming of the phone receiver, and banging of a book against the reference desk.
But for those who never saw it, there was another side to Bob, and that comes across in some of the items contained in his papers. While much of the collection is made up of his research on the Clay family and its allied lines, there are also materials which demonstrate the personal side of Bob, a “kinder and gentler” side that not all staff or patrons may have seen.
Back in 1984, a certain reference archivist did not endear himself to officials in Fairfax County. Business owners in Mercer County, West Virginia, were growing increasingly frustrated with state officials in Charleston. There was even talk of the county rejoining the Commonwealth of Virginia. “The way I heard … read more »
Robert Clay, a familiar face to anyone conducting archival research at the Library of Virginia from 1970 until his retirement in 2001, died May 6, 2010. I had the pleasure of working with Bob for the first two years of my employment at the Library in the late 1990s. As a new member of the archives reference staff, I had much to learn and Bob was an excellent teacher. I bombarded him with questions about Virginia Land Office patents and grants, Revolutionary War bounty warrants, Confederate pensions, chancery causes, and tithables. He patiently and graciously answered every one of my many queries. I also watched him work with patrons and marveled at his ability to deal with any situation (good or bad) without losing his good humor. My favorite memory of Bob involves a reference call I received concerning coat of arms. Let’s just say that the caller was…..difficult; my lack of knowledge on the subject did not help matters. Unable to answer the caller’s questions to their satisfaction, I transferred the call to Bob. Later, when I followed up with him in order to learn more about the topic, he looked at me, smiled and in a mischievous voice said “don’t ever do that again.” He then handed me this sketch!
Please use the comment section of this post to share your memories … read more »
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