Harry Clifton Byrd died on October 2, 1970, of a heart condition, in University Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. He left behind an incredible legacy of devotion to the welfare of his alma mater, the University of Maryland, and the citizens of the state of Maryland.
That devotion manifested itself in many ways. From his earliest days as a faculty member and administrator at the university, he was full of plans and ideas to improve the institution, and throughout his career, no detail was too small to receive his attention, from parking spaces to window screens to the introduction of new academic courses and the construction of major buildings. He persistently lobbied the members of the General Assembly, the governor, the Board of Regents, and the citizens of Maryland to obtain support for his beloved university. He would often roust university staff members out of bed late at night to walk the campus with him and discuss plans for improvements, and when he left the university in 1954, he insisted he had never taken a day of vacation in 42 years.
Through his vision and intensely hard work, he led the transformation of the University of Maryland from a “cow college” to an institution of significant academic standing at the time of his resignation from the presidency.
His contributions to environmental and agricultural affairs in Maryland and his push to bring higher education to an ever-growing population endeared him to many citizens around the state. He served his state with pride, and, while never holding elected office, he worked tirelessly to put Maryland on the map in the academic world and the political arena.
Harry Clifton Byrd was truly, as his epitaph reads, an “Educator, Statesman, Conservationist, The Father and Builder of the Greater Consolidated University of Maryland.” Without his vision and leadership, it is impossible to imagine what the University of Maryland of today might be.