Publication Date

May 1, 1999

Perspectives Section

In Memoriam

Floyd Mallory Shumway, retired executive director of the New Haven Colony Historical Society and a former professor of history at Columbia University, succumbed to cancer on November 12, 1997. He was 80 years old.

A native of New York City and a 1939 graduate of Yale, Shumway had a long and distinguished career in business before he retired as a relatively young man to return to academia. He then earned a master's degree (1965) and a PhD in history (1968) from Columbia, where he subsequently served as an assistant dean and an assistant professor until 1978. During these years, he wrote, with John E. Pomfret, The Founding of the American Colonies, 1583–1660, and he edited, with Richard B. Morris, John Jay: The Making of a Revolutionary. A consultant to New York City’s Bicentennial Commission and a founder of the South Street Seaport Museum, he also published Seaport City: New York in 1776 in 1975.

In 1978, Shumway became director of the New Haven Colony Historical Society. In that capacity he not only published more than 100 articles on the town and the state, but he also used his considerable organizational and business experience to revitalize that institution and to tie it more closely to other organizations in the area. At the time of his death, he was editing a book on the 1839 Amistad trial, which followed a revolt of African slaves aboard a Spanish slave ship off Cuba.

A longtime member of the American Historical Association, Shumway founded and chaired the Friends of the Benjamin Franklin Papers at Yale, and he served on the boards of the Connecticut Historical Society, the New Haven Preservation Trust, the Acorn Club, the Friends of the New Haven Free Public Library, and the Friends of the Grove Street Cemetery. He chaired the Board of Deacons and was a trustee of the First Church of Christ in New Haven, where his funeral services were held.

A simple list of professional accomplishments, however, does not do justice to the life and achievement of this remarkable man. A scholar and a gentleman, he took his students to boardrooms, factories, and public hearings all over New York, and he set a standard of classroom excellence to which the rest of us could only aspire. He was also kind, gentle, and utterly without pretension. When my family arrived in Manhattan in 1968, alone and bewildered in a huge and overpowering city, Floyd became our first friend. His glamorous family, his impressive East Side townhouse, and his stunning library were like nothing we had ever before seen, and yet he belittled his sophistication and his elegance so as not to intimidate us.

Floyd is survived by his wife of 37 years, Emma Jean Clifton Shumway, as well as by two sons and a daughter from a previous marriage, by two stepdaughters, and by five grandchildren. He is mourned by students, colleagues, and friends who recall his devotion to history and his concern for community life.

Columbia University

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