Chestertown’s proximity to Washington, D.C., has brought many visitors to our community with an eye on retirement or a second house. Not surprisingly, new residents often arrive with lifetimes of experience serving the nation at one of the nation’s highest levels.
Bill Leary is one of those people whose arc of experience is impossible to portray in a short interview.
His expansive academic career alone would be enough to discuss. As a historian teaching American history at William and Mary, the University of Alabama, he helped found the first course in African American history at the University of Virginia during the Civil Rights era.
In a leap of faith, Leary moved to DC to marry his wife, who was working at the National Archives. Leary applied and was accepted, and it was the beginning of more than 40 years in government service in the National Archives and the National Security Council, the President’s principal forum for national security and foreign policy decision-making. There he became Special Advisor to the National Security Advisor and Senior Director of Records and Access Management, the clearing house for determining Federal documents’ secrecy level.
Retiring to Chestertown in 2012, Leary saw an opportunity to dive back into his passion for history and recognized that the Historical Society of Kent County and Sumner Hall offered a forum to explore the Black history of Kent County.
An avid researcher, Leary co-founded and curated Kent County Legacy Day, from its first event celebrating the history of Charlie Graves and the Uptown Club in 2014 to last year’s honoring of Kent County’s African American veterans. This year’s Legacy Day will take place in August and will highlight a retrospective of Legacy Days past.
Here are a few excerpts from an extended interview with Bill Leary about his time at the National Archives and National Security Council.
This video is approximately fourteen minutes in length.