Reginald Van Trump Truitt, pioneer in Chesapeake Bay study, dies at 100

April 15, 1991

Services for Dr. Reginald Van Trump Truitt, founder of the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory and a pioneer in the systematic study of the bay, will be at 11 a.m. today at Christ Episcopal Church in Cambridge.

Dr. Truitt, who was 100 and lived on Kent Island, died Thursday of pneumonia at the Memorial Hospital in Easton.

He began the laboratory in 1919 in a shack on Solomons Island, at first financing the work himself with help from the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries and the Maryland Conservation Commission. He retired in 1954 as its director.

He also retired in 1954 as director of the state Department of Research and Education under the Board of Natural Resources, which he helped start. The laboratory is now part of the University of Maryland.

Dr. Truitt began teaching in 1918 at the university, of which he was a graduate, and resigned as professor of aquaculture and zoology in 1943 to devote full time to the laboratory.

As a student at Maryland he played and coached lacrosse and was a member of the cross country team. Later he coached both teams, including the 1924 and 1925 national champions in lacrosse.

A native of Snow Hill whose family had been in the business of planting oysters in Chincoteague Bay, Dr. Truitt's interest in the Chesapeake and its residents helped him win many honors, including the 1981 Rachel Carson Award from the state and his inclusion in a group of "150 People Who Shaped the Way We Live" in a 1987 issue of the Sunday Sun magazine that celebrated the 150th anniversary of The Sun.

In addition to many professional papers, he wrote magazine and newspaper articles and was quoted in many more discussing the state of the bay and related matters.

After retiring, he wrote histories of Kent Island, Assateague Island and other features of the Eastern Shore.

He founded and was a past president of the Queen Anne's and Calvert County Historical societies and was founder and honorary member of the Worcester and Calvert County societies and a member of the Dorchester County and Maryland historical societies.

He graduated from Maryland in 1914, earned a master's degree there in 1920 and received a doctorate from American University in 1929.

He was a pilot in the Army during World War I. After the war, he was cited by the Navy for his advice to a mine warfare testing station on Solomons Island on underwater noises and bottom conditions.

He is survived by his wife of 60 years, the former Mary Virginia Harrington; two daughters, Virginia T. Sherr of Holland, Pa., and Gertrude T. Guthrie of Kent Island; 10 grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.

The family suggested that contributions be made to the Truitt Memorial Fund, which grants scholarships for students of the marine sciences at the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory.

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