William Hayes Ackland

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William Hayes Ackland
Born William Hayes Acklen
September 06, 1855
Nashville, Tennessee
Died February 16, 1940
Resting place
Ackland Art Museum
Residence Belmont Mansion
Nationality American
Occupation Author
Art collector
Spouse(s) Laura Crocker
Parents Joseph Alexander Smith Acklen
Adelicia Acklen

William Hayes Ackland (1855-1940) was an American author, lawyer and art collector.


Early life[edit]

William Hayes Acklen was born on September 6, 1855 in Nashville, Tennessee.[1][2][3][4] He later changed his last name to Ackland.[1][2] He was the son of Colonel Joseph Alexander Smith Acklen (1816-1863), a lawyer from Alabama who had served in the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848, and Adelicia Acklen (1817-1887), a wealthy widow and socialite.[2][5] His maternal grandfather, Oliver Bliss Hayes (1783-1858), was a lawyer and later Presbyterian minister from South Hadley, Massachusetts; he was related to Rutherford B. Hayes (1822–1893), who went on to serve as the 19th President of the United States from 1877 to 1881.[2][5] His brother, Joseph H. Acklen (1850-1938), served as U.S. Representative from Louisiana from 1878 to 1881.[2]

He grew up at his family plantation home of Belmont Mansion in Nashville and on family plantations in Louisiana.[2] He received a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Nashville, followed by a Bachelor of Laws from Vanderbilt University.[2][4] Indeed, he was one of the very first students at Vanderbilt, as he attended when the university had just been opened.[2]


His legal residence was in Washington, D.C., where he officially practised as a lawyer.[2] However, he became a socialite, spending much of his time attending society galas and balls in Washington, but also in Ormond Beach, Florida, Lake Mohonk, and York Harbor, Maine.[2][3] He would go to England once a year for the English season.[2][3] He became known as a genteel gentleman and a member of high society.[2]

He published a novel about Sterope, one of the seven Pleiades in Greek mythology, and three volumes of poetry.[2][3][4] He also wrote his memoirs.[2] In the 1880s, he did some journalism in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.[2] He also wrote plays and attended theater performances often.[2][3] He also corresponded with Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882), Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882), Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (1809-1894), James Russell Lowell (1819–1891), and John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892).[3]

Additionally, over the years, he became an important art collector.[2][4] To preserve his art collection, he wanted to establish a museum on a Southern university campus.[4] However, the idea of a museum in his honor was rejected by Duke University and Rollins College.[4][5][6] Instead, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill agreed, and the Ackland Art Museum was established on its campus.[3][5][7] There is also a marble sculpture of him wearing Buster Brown shoes in the museum.[6]

Personal life[edit]

He married Laura Crocker (1871-1931) on June 2, 1896 in Cleveland, Ohio.[1][4] They had had no children and divorced a year later.[1][4] He inherited US$100,000 from one of his late half-sisters.[4] By the time of his death, he left an estate of US$1,350,000.[4]


He died on February 16, 1940.[1] He was buried in the Mount Olivet Cemetery.[1] However, his will stipulated that he be buried on the site of his museum. He was thus buried a second time, at the Ackland Art Museum.[1]


Primary source[edit]

  • William Hayes Ackland, Sterope: The Veiled Pleiad (Washington, D.C., 1892).[8]

Secondary source[edit]

  • John Emil Larson, William Hayes Ackland, 1855-1940 (Chapel Hill, North Carolina: Ackland Memorial Art Center, 1958).


  1. ^ a b c d e f g FindAGrave: William Hayes Ackland
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Ackland Art Museum: Biography of William Hayes Ackland
  3. ^ a b c d e f g UNC University Libraries
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Robert Franklin Durden, The Launching of Duke University, 1924-1949, Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 1993, p. 288 [1]
  5. ^ a b c d Daphne Athas, Chapel Hill in Plain Sight, Eno Publishers, 2010, p. 193 [2]
  6. ^ a b James Vickers, Chapel Hill, Mount Pleasant, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing, 1996, p. 114 [3]
  7. ^ Sue Clark, Angela Harwood, Steve Kirk, Artie Sparrow, Anne Holcomb Waters, Travel North Carolina: Going Native in the Old North State, John F. Blair Publisher, 2010, p. 261 [4]
  8. ^ Google Books