In Remembrance: Richard Hewlett

by | Sep 17, 2015

Memorial services will be held at St. John’s Episcopal Church Norwood Parish, 6701 Wisconsin Ave., Chevy Chase, MD 20815 on Friday, September 25, 2015, at 11 a.m. Burial will be in Toledo, Ohio. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to St. John’s Episcopal Church Norwood Parish, the Washington National Cathedral, or a charity of choice.

Richard Hewlett was an extraordinary man who made many valuable contributions to the Church. A faithful member of St. John’s Episcopal Church, Norwood, Richard served as the senior warden and parish archivist for many years.

In 1977, three years before his retirement from the Atomic Energy Commission, Richard was contacted by Canon Charles Perry to make a complete inventory of all of the historical records of the Diocese. Nights and Saturdays he went through closets and shelves in Church House, discerning which were and were not archival materials.

In 1978, he was appointed as the historiographer of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, a role which expanded to include the Washington National Cathedral in 1980, where he established the Cathedral archives in the mid-1980s. Richard and his volunteers organized copious amounts of records and photographs and processed them for reference and storage, using a database designed by Richard. 

In 1993, the Diocesan and Cathedral archives were moved to their current home, on the fourth floor of the Administration Building, in a space he designed.

In 2003 he was installed as an honorary canon of the Cathedral in recognition of his exceptional voluntary leadership. 

Richard was a prolific writer. HIs works included published books on the life of Jessie Ball DuPont and the first Bishop of Washington, Henry Yates Satterlee, and on the creation of the Cathedral. He also penned innumerable journal articles for the Historical Society of the Episcopal Church, as well as A Guide for Parish Archives (now titled Archives for Congregations), which was so popular that it went into a second edition.  

Richard also served on the board of the National Episcopal Historians and Archivists.

Even as a young boy, history had an impact on Richard. He met Babe Ruth at spring training and traveled as a Boy Scout in Nazi Germany after an international Jamboree. 

Richard had a distinguished career as the Historian of the Atomic Energy Commission, where he promoted the cataloging and preservation of the public records of the agency. His first of three volumes of the Commission’s history was honored as a runner up for the 1963 Pulitzer Prize. While employed there he discovered, in a locked safe hidden under a basement stairwell, the Bush-Conant files relating to the creation of the atomic bomb, one of the most important document bases for any history of the Manhattan Project.

Even after he became Historiographer Emeritus in 2006, Richard continued his Tuesday and Thursday commitment to the Archives at the National Cathedral.  Whether communicating with an overseas scholar, or an interviewing graduate student (such as I was), or a church member with a box of old records, Richard was genial, professional, and faithful to his church.

Read the Washington Post obituary