Harrison Ruffin Tyler

Harrison Ruffin Tyler Sr. (born November 9, 1928) is an American chemical engineer, businessperson, and preservationist. Tyler cofounded ChemTreat, Inc., a water treatment company in 1968 and restored the Sherwood Forest Plantation. He is a son of Lyon Gardiner Tyler as well as a grandson of former U.S. president John Tyler, and speaks on the history of the Tyler family. Tyler purchased Fort Pocahontas in 1996 and advocates for its preservation.

Harrison Ruffin Tyler
Born (1928-11-09) November 9, 1928 (age 93)
Virginia, U.S.
Alma materCollege of William & Mary
Virginia Polytechnic Institute
OccupationChemical engineer, businessperson, preservationist
Frances Payne Bouknight
(m. 1957; died 2019)
RelativesJohn Tyler (grandfather)
Julia Gardiner Tyler (grandmother)

Early life and educationEdit

Harrison Ruffin Tyler was born in November 1928 to Susan Ruffin and Lyon Gardiner Tyler.[1] His paternal grandparents were Julia Gardiner and John Tyler. Through his mother, he is a great-grandson of Edmund Ruffin,[2] and a descendant of Benjamin Harrison IV, Robert Carter I and Pocahontas.[3] She was a teacher and caretaker of the family's historical documents.[4] Despite his familial connections, Tyler grew up poor.[5]

Tyler was homeschooled by his mother and then attended Charles City County public schools. He briefly attended St. Christopher's School.[6]: 225  Possibly through Lyon's friendship with Franklin D. Roosevelt, Nancy Astor, Viscountess Astor funded Tyler's education at College of William & Mary with a $5,000 check.[5] He graduated with a degree in chemistry in 1949.[6]: 225  In 1951, Tyler completed a degree in chemical engineering at Virginia Polytechnic Institute.[7]


Tyler is a chemical engineer and businessperson.[4] After graduation, he worked as a project manager for the Virginia-Carolina Chemical Corporation where he led a plant in Charleston, South Carolina. Tyler became familiar with soft water. He learned how to treat hard water when he worked as a start-up engineer for a plant in Cincinnati. Tyler received a patent in water treatment pertaining to shiny aluminum. In 1963, Virginia-Carolina Chemical Corporation was acquired by Mobil.[6]: 225  The change in corporate culture prompted Tyler to found ChemTreat, Inc., with partner William P. Simmons. The water treatment company was headquarter in Glen Allen, Virginia.[6]: 225–226  He used chemistry to address problems with industrial water cooling systems.[8] The company worked with hospitals and the paper and pulp sector.[6]: 226  In 2000, Tyler led an employee stock ownership program at his company.[9][5] ChemTreat was acquired by the Danaher Corporation in 2007.[10]

Tyler is a preservationist. His family purchased the Sherwood Forest Plantation from relatives in 1975 and oversaw its restoration.[4][5] Tyler spoke publicly of his family's history.[8][11] In 1996, he purchased and financially supported the preservation of Fort Pocahontas.[6]: 226 [12] Beginning in 1997, Tyler sponsored annual American Civil War reenactments at Wilson's Wharf.[6]: 227 In 1997, he collaborated with the William & Mary Center for Archaeological Research to assess and research Fort Pocahontas.[6]: 226  In 2001, he donated $5 million and 22,000 books and documents from his father to the College of William & Mary department of history.[9] In 2021, the college renamed the department to the Harrison Ruffin Tyler Department of History in his honor.[9]

Personal lifeEdit

Tyler and Frances Payne Bouknight of Mulberry Hill Plantation, Johnston, South Carolina announced their engagement in 1957.[13][2] The couple were married from July 1957 until her death on February 8, 2019, and had three children: Julia Gardiner Tyler Samaniego (1958), Harrison Ruffin Tyler Jr. (1960), and William Bouknight Tyler (1961).[6]: 226 [14] They resided in Richmond, Virginia.[2]

Tyler has identified as conservative and pro-business.[7]

Tyler had a series of mini-strokes starting in 2012 and now has dementia.[5] He lives in a Virginia nursing home and his son William oversees the Sherwood Forest Plantation.[9] His grandfather is the earliest former President of the United States with living grandchildren.[5]


  1. ^ "Dr. and Mrs. Tyler are Parents of Second Son". Richmond Times-Dispatch. November 23, 1928. p. 13. Retrieved September 21, 2021.
  2. ^ a b c "The Tyler". Daily Press. June 17, 1979. p. 207. Retrieved September 21, 2021.
  3. ^ Junek, Greg (April 19, 1996). "Spotlight Shines on Tyler History". Tyler Morning Telegraph. p. 1. Retrieved September 21, 2021.
  4. ^ a b c Kilian, Michael (August 2, 1992). "Grandfather Tyler's Magnificent Plantation". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved September 21, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  5. ^ a b c d e f Brockell, Gillian (November 29, 2020). "The 10th president's last surviving grandson: A bridge to the nation's complicated past". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved September 21, 2021.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i Besch, Edwin W. (2017). U.S. Colored Troops Defeat Confederate Cavalry: Action at Wilson's Wharf, Virginia, 24 May 1864. McFarland. ISBN 978-1-4766-2737-3.
  7. ^ a b Weinger, Mackenzie (January 27, 2012). "Tyler's grandkid: Newt's a 'jerk'". Politico. Retrieved September 21, 2021.
  8. ^ a b "John Tyler chemistry class gets surprise lesson on American history". The Progress-Index. 2007-07-29. pp. A9. Retrieved September 21, 2021.
  9. ^ a b c d Kolenich, Eric (April 23, 2021). "William & Mary renames three buildings, history department that honored Confederate supporters". The Roanoke Times. Retrieved September 21, 2021.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  10. ^ Blackwell, John Reid. "Buyout enriches workers". Richmond Times-Dispatch. Retrieved January 6, 2021.
  11. ^ Junek, Greg (April 20, 1996). "Celebrating 150 Years Ex-President's Kin Joins City In Festivities". Tyler Morning Telegraph. p. 1. Retrieved September 21, 2021.
  12. ^ "Charles City County: Fort Pocahontas (U.S. National Park Service)". National Park Service. Retrieved September 21, 2021.
  13. ^ "Bouknight-Tyler Betrothal Announced". The Times Dispatch. July 7, 1957. p. 45. Retrieved September 21, 2021.
  14. ^ "Obituary for Frances Payne Bouknight Tyler, 1933-2019 (Aged 85)". Daily Press. February 13, 2019. pp. A10. Retrieved September 21, 2021.

External linksEdit