Published: March 17, 2009
W. Samuel Tarlton, well-known antiques dealer and historical preservation professional, died on March 12, at Mayview Convalescent Center; he was 87 years old. He was a former partner in Craig & Tarlton, Inc, and owner of Glenwood South Antiques and Fine Art.
Tarlton was born in Union County, N.C., in 1921, the eldest son of Dewey S. and Sarah Griffin Tarlton. He graduated from Wingate Junior College in 1940, and from Wake Forest College in 1942, Phi Beta Kappa. He volunteered to the US Navy and, as an officer, spent 3½ years on active duty, first in the Atlantic theater and later the Pacific. In 1943, he married Cleo Baucom of Union County, whom he met at junior college.
He returned after the Navy to complete a MA in history at Wake Forest College, and doctoral studies at Duke University. He taught a year at Cumberland University in Tenn., then entered the field of historic site preservation and development.
In 1955, Tarlton took charge of the new North Carolina Historic Sites program, and steered it through its first 14 years, enjoying a distinguished reputation in the field, serving on the advisory board of the Historic American Building Survey and the governing board of the American Association for State and Local History. In 1959, he was awarded the Cannon Cup for Historic Preservation in North Carolina.
In 1969, Tarlton resigned from the state programs and joined a partnership with James Craig, forming Craig and Tarlton, Inc in Raleigh. They were soon recognized as major dealers in Americana, selling to museums such as the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts, the Brooklyn Museum, the Metropolitan Museum, the White House, and major collections throughout the United States. In the fall of 1985, Craig and Tarlton, Inc, dissolved their partnership through a major auction conducted by Christie’s at their Raleigh gallery. Tarlton continued at Glenwood South until his death.
In 2003, he was awarded an Anthemion Award by Capital Area Preservation for the restoration of a house near downtown Raleigh.
He is survived by his son, William S. Tarlton, Jr, daughter Meribeth McKenzie, both of Raleigh, grandsons Raymond Tarlton, Esq of Raleigh, and Russell Tarlton of Dudley, N.C., granddaughter Robin Bailey and husband David of Durham, N.C., great-grandchildren Grayson, Sammy and Ian Bailey of Durham, and Aliza Tarlton of Dudley, N.C., and by his devoted friend, John Mehlhop of Apex, N.C.
A celebration of Tarlton’s life will be held at Glenwood South Galleries, 126 Glenwood Avenue, on Sunday, March 22, from 3 to 5 pm.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to any of Sam’s charities: Wingate University, Wake Forest University Museum of Art, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts, the Joel Lane House, Gregg Museum of Art and Design at N.C. State University, Raleigh City Museum, Wake Forest University Birthplace, American Red Cross, the Salvation Army and Helping Hand Mission.