Earl Alvin Gerhardt Jr., 81, of Johnson City, died at his home on Sunday, February 5, 2012, after a long battle with prostate cancer. He was born in Lynchburg VA, son of the late Earl Alvin Gerhardt Sr. and Georgia Burton Gerhardt. His brother, C. Burton Gerhardt, and sister, Anne Gerhardt Lenhert, are also deceased.
After graduating from Davidson College, Mr. Gerhardt served in Korea as an infantry first lieutenant in the Korean War, receiving a combat infantry badge, a bronze star and a Korean service medal with three clusters. Upon his discharge he returned to Lynchburg and joined the family firm, Lynchburg Hosiery Mills, working in sales and advancing to vice president, secretary and treasurer. When the business was sold he entered the Cooperstown Graduate Program of the State University of New York, receiving a master’s degree in museum studies.
In 1974 Mr. Gerhardt became the first professional director of Rocky Mount, an historic house in Piney Flats which was built in 1770-72 and served as the first capitol of the Southwest Territory from 1790 to 1792. During his tenure the museum received accreditation from the American Association of Museums, expanded its museum and educational areas and introduced first-person interpretation.
In 1992 he became the Director of Museum Program and Studies at Tusculum College, establishing an undergraduate museum studies program and directing the official President Andrew Johnson Museum and Library. He retired in 2000.
While living in Lynchburg, Mr. Gerhardt served as volunteer director of the Lynchburg Historical Museum. He was president of the Lynchburg Historical Society in 1970-71 and a founding member of the Virginia History Federation, now the Virginia Association of Museums, serving as its president in 1972-1973.
After becoming a museum professional and moving to Tennessee, he served as president of the Tennessee Association of Museums in 1977-79 and vice-president of the Tennessee Historical Society in 1981-83. He was named to the Tennessee Committee for the Humanities in 1979, serving until 1983.
He was president of the Southeastern Museum Conference from 1984 to 1986 and received its James Short Award for outstanding service and leadership in 1993. He was a member of the council of the American Association of Museums from 1984 to 1989 and, in 1990-1992, was treasurer of the American Association for State and Local History, which gave him its Award of Distinction in 2008. He also received the John Schlebecker Award from the Association of Living History, Farms and Agricultural Museums in 2003.
In 2000 the Tennessee Association of Museums gave him a special Millennium Award for leadership and service during the last century, and last March the Northeast Tennessee Museum Association, of which he was a founding member, recognized him with a special award.
He was an Eagle Scout, a Rotarian and a member of the Watauga Avenue Presbyterian Church in Johnson City.
Mr. Gerhardt is survived by his wife, Sally T. (Flournoy) Gerhardt; four children, Elizabeth M. Gerhardt, of Galveston TX; E. Frederick (Fritz) Gerhardt and family, Amy and daughters Abigail and Karenna, of Newark VT; Thomas F. Gerhardt and family, Elizabeth Lodge and children, Madalina and Ionut, of Lincolnville ME, and Anna C. Gerhardt and children, Sarah, Cabell and Benjamin, of Weaverville NC. Other survivors include a brother-in-law, Donald H. Lenhert, of Manhattan KS, two sisters-in-law, Alice F. Schmitthenner, of Wooster OH, and Mildred F. de Marcellus, of McLean VA, and four nephews.
A memorial service will be held at Watauga Avenue Presbyterian Church on Wednesday, February 8, 2012, at 10 a.m., with the Rev. George Rolling, pastor, officiating. The family will receive friends informally in the church fellowship hall after the service and at the residence at any time.
A committal service will take place in the Carrington family cemetery on Lake Gaston in Mecklenburg County VA on Saturday, February 25.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to Watauga Avenue Presbyterian Church or American Friends Service Committee.