UD unveils portrait of Townsend Hall namesake
Pictured at the unveiling of the portrait of John G. Townsend, Jr., at the University of Delaware's Townsend Hall are, from left, Susan M. Townsend, P. Coleman Townsend, Jr., Robin Morgan, dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and Richard B. Carter, author of the book "Clearing New Ground, The Life of John G. Townsend, Jr."

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1:15 p.m., May 5, 2010----A portrait of John G. Townsend, Jr., a prominent spokesperson for farmers and the agricultural industry who served as Delaware governor and U.S. Senator, now hangs in the University of Delaware's Townsend Hall, which bears his name.

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On April 28, Townsend's grandson, P. Coleman Townsend, Jr., joined friends of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources to unveil the portrait and honor his memory.

Originally named Agricultural Hall, Townsend Hall was renamed in 1983 and dedicated to the memory of John Townsend for his dedication to agriculture and his contributions to state and national government. He served as Delaware's governor from 1916-1920 and as U.S. Senator from 1928-1940.

“Coleman has followed in his grandfather's footsteps as a supporter of agriculture and farmers here in Delaware,” said Robin Morgan, dean of the college. “We are thankful to the Townsend family for their donation and to their longstanding support.”

The portrait was donated by Coleman Townsend and his wife, Susan M. Townsend, both UD graduates. Coleman Townsend, who holds a bachelor's degree in agriculture from UD, is a member of the University of Delaware Board of Trustees.

In addition to service to the University, the Townsends have been involved as trustees in numerous non-profit organizations in the region, including Winterthur Museum and Country Estate, Delaware Art Museum, Delaware College of Art and Design and the Delaware Center for Horticulture.

“The Townsend family has a long, close, and warm relationship with the University of Delaware and I find it all fitting that the portrait of such an advocate for agriculture will hang here in this building,” said Richard B. Carter, author of the book Clearing New Ground, The Life of John G. Townsend, Jr., who gave remarks following the unveiling.

The book -- number five in the Delaware Governor's series published by the Delaware Heritage Press -- details the life of John Townsend from his birth in Worcester County, Md., to his “whirlwind of business activity,” and his political career.

Townsend's connection to agriculture began with a move to Selbyville, Del., in 1896 where he started growing strawberries. He moved on to establishing his own bank, the Baltimore Trust Company, helping support farmers in the region.

By the time of his death in 1964 at age 92, Townsend had diversified into poultry, corn, soybeans, and many other crops, growing Townsend, Inc. into one of the largest agribusinesses in Delaware.

The former governor's political career took him through some of the most dynamic times in American history, covering World War I, women's suffrage, education reform, prohibition, improvement of state highways and transportation, and financial recovery following the Great Depression.

Coleman Townsend said, “I hope that the students, faculty, and staff who pass by this portrait will have presence enough to take advantage of all of the great opportunities here and to meet their full potential and dreams the way that this man did.”

The portrait was painted in 1920 by Clawson S. Hammitt, of Wilmington, Del. Hammitt painted portraits that now hang in the U.S. Capitol, the State House in Dover and in other locations at the University of Delaware.

Article by Katy O'Connell
Photo by Danielle Quigley

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