Ex-principal takes Gettysburg post

David T. Booz becomes director of organization supporting national park

Carroll County

February 01, 2005|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

David T. Booz, A retired Carroll County high school principal began a new job yesterday that blends his background in education and administration with his passion for the Civil War.

David T. Booz, 56, is the new executive director of the 25,000- member Friends of the National Parks at Gettysburg, a nonprofit group founded in 1989 to support Gettysburg National Military Park.

"When I was 5 years old, my parents brought me up to Gettysburg," Booz said from his office there yesterday. "The whole atmosphere has always intrigued me. ... I had to call my father in Florida and tell him" about the job.

Booz vividly remembers that family outing, especially playing in Devil's Den, the scene of heavy fighting during the 1863 battle that most historians say turned the tide of the Civil War.

A 30-year veteran of Carroll County's public schools, Booz retired 2 1/2 years ago as principal of Century High. Since then, he had been an associate professor of education and American history at Carroll Community College. He lives just north of Westminster.

Booz is a 1967 graduate of Baltimore County's Milford Mill High School, and in 1971 obtained his bachelor's degree in history, with a minor in education, from what is now Frostburg State University. He earned a master's in history from West Virginia University in 1972, and a certificate in administration and supervision in 1984 from what is now McDaniel College.

He began teaching at North Carroll Middle School, then North Carroll High School, before becoming assistant principal there. He was principal at Francis Scott Key, South Carroll and Century high schools.

Booz also has been a member since 1976 of the North-South Skirmish Association, whose focus is competitive shooting with period arms, rather than re-enacting, he said.

The association has more than 200 shooting teams, based upon original units of the Civil War, he said. They use "muskets, breech-loading rifles, carbines, smooth-bore rifles, revolvers, cannon, mortar."

Booz belongs to the 1st Maine Heavy Artillery unit, and he has served the association as Chesapeake Regional Commander, national rules committee chairman, small-arms committee chairman, national inspector general, and national adjutant.

A new assignment

This new job found him, he said, after he heard a friend talking about it, and "one thing led to another."

"They knew I was a psycho on the Civil War," said Booz, whose ancestors fought on both sides. "I knew I had to apply."

He was officially named to the post Jan. 22 and, for now, plans to commute to Gettysburg.

Small projects

The group's current projects include having volunteers paint park buildings and zigzag fences, work on cannons and plant trees. The park service has been removing trees that had grown since the battle, blocking the view.

"The park is doing a great job," Booz said of clearing these trees. "People can really see important parts of the battle, the terrain. ... If you're on Little Round Top, you can see the battlefield.

"The Friends will help replant trees where they are supposed to be," he said.

Cannons, and their carriages, require intensive maintenance, in part because many have lead-based paint that must be sandblasted before repainting, he said. There are 415 of them; all but a few are replicas.

Most of the cannons date from 1895 to 1915 and are made of cast iron, steel or bronze. The original wooden carriages were replaced with metal painted to look like wood.

"The volunteers do most of the work," he said of these main- tenance chores. But the Friends group has undertaken some major projects for the park.

Acquiring land

In 2003, after a five-year effort, the group helped to buy and demolish the Home Sweet Home Motel, which intruded onto the battlefield and the edge of Pickett's Charge, a pivotal battle site. That removal was a top priority for the park service.

Friends spokeswoman Dru Anne Neil said the group most recently had acquired a 9.3-acre parcel south of town near the base of Big Round Top, the scene of heavy fighting on the second day of the battle, July 2, 1863. The property within the military park boundary was purchased for about $220,000 and is to be officially transferred to the park service this spring.

"If there's a property within the park's boundaries, then we're interested," Booz said. "I want to continue the work that's going on."

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