In Memoriam: Dr. Henry T. Skinner, 1907-1984
Dr. August E. Kehr
Dr. Henry Skinner was truly a horticulturist's horticulturist, and his recent death on November 26, 1984 leaves a void nationally and internationally. Among the specialists in the native Eastern rhododendrons and azaleas, Dr. Skinner stood at the apex. His knowledge of these plants came as a result of years of intensive study, traveling several thousands of miles to visit all locations where these plants were described in available botanical literature. As a result he had unexcelled first hand knowledge of the full range of Eastern species. His memorial for future generations will be the superior plants that he collected, bearing the initials HTS, and growing in species collections on four continents.
Dr. Skinner was born at East Sutton, Kent, England, and came to this country in 1927, serving in the U.S. Army Air Force from 1943-1945. He received his horticultural training at the Royal Horticultural Society's School at Wisley, Harvard University's Arnold Arboretum, Cornell University, and the University of Pennsylvania. His professional career went from Cornell University in 1931, to Curator, Morris Arboretum in 1940, and to Director, National Arboretum in Washington, D.C. in 1952 where he retired in 1972. During his career he received nearly every available horticultural award or medal given in this country, as well as the very prestigious Veitch Medal from the Royal Horticulture Society of which he was a vice president. The American Rhododendron Society awarded him its Gold Medal in 1965.
Outstanding among the plants that Dr. Skinner developed was 'Cornell Pink', the first truly pink form of Rhododendron mucronulatum , which still is the standard from which all other forms are measured. Another superior plant which is reaching its proper level of recognition is the rhododendron hybrid 'Queen Anne's,' a fully double flowered white which forms a gorgeous ball truss. Also a R. chapmanii x R. minus creation of his named Bowie. In addition there are many named forms of several of the Eastern deciduous species such as R. bakeri 'Camp's Red' which are living symbols of Dr. Skinner's brilliant career.
Dr. Skinner had a marvelous sense of humor and a facile manner of speaking with a pleasing touch of a British accent. As a consequence he was a popular speaker at scores of chapter and national meetings of the Society. He was always a modest individual and a truly gentle gentleman.
He and his wife Ann have lived for the past five years in Hendersonville, NC where he has developed a beautifully landscaped garden with many of his favorite plants.