Honoring Shipley Walters

Shipley Walters, center, is congratulated by her son, David Walters, and her daughter, Leslie Tuomi, for receiving the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution’s Historic Preservation Medal. (Courtesy photo: Davis Enterprise)

By Special to The Enterprise

Yolo County woman awarded Daughters of the American Revolution Historic Preservation Medal

Shipley Walters received the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution’s Historic Preservation Medal in a socially-distanced Zoom ceremony attended by her family, friends and DAR members, including California State Regent Susan Broderick. (News source: Davis Enterprise 11/05/2020)

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The Sacramento DAR nominated Walters for the medal in recognition of her 50 years of service in advancing the historic preservation of Yolo County archival records. Her work culminated in the establishment of a formal records-management program for county records, the Yolo County Archives and Friends of the Yolo County Archives.

In 2019, Yolo County named its newly renovated archives and library services building the Shipley Walters Center for Yolo County Archives and Library Services in her honor.

“Mrs. Walters’ contribution to Yolo County historic preservation cannot be overestimated,” said Sacramento Chapter Regent Janet Fulton. “Without Mrs. Walters,” she continued, “much of Yolo County’s historic records would have been permanently lost or inaccessible.”

Cottie Johnson, chair of the Sacramento Chapter’s Historic Preservation Committee, added, “Mrs. Walters is an inspiration. Her fascination with Yolo County history propelled her to author or co-author 10 books on local history subjects, in addition to her historic preservation volunteerism.”

The Historic Preservation Medal is the most prestigious award given by the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution to historic preservation community volunteers. It honors an individual whose study, promotion and dedication to historic preservation has made a distinguished contribution on the regional, state or national level for many years.

Presentation Text

NSDAR Historic Preservation Medal

Sacramento Chapter Nomination: Shipley Walters

By Janet Fulton, Regent, Sacramento Chapter


I am deeply indebted to the letters of recommendation provided by Mary Stephens DeWall, Ted Smith and Tom Stallard when developing the narrative explaining why Mrs. Walters is deserving of the Historic Preservation Medal. I know many of you may be already familiar with Mrs. Walters’ story, but many are not. It’s a particularly inspiring story for women exploring purpose in the second half of their lives.

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For 50 years Shipley Walters volunteered in Yolo County, California, to advance historic preservation of archival records, culminating in the establishment of a formal records management program for county records, the Yolo County Archives in 1985 and Friends of the Yolo County Archives in 1987. Additionally, Mrs. Walters substantially contributed to Yolo County’s historic record, both as an author of multiple books on local history and as the founder of Yolo County’s oral history program in 1990. When Mrs. Walters’ role as an advocate and preservationist became less critical, she continued her volunteer service by working directly with Yolo County Archives collections, ultimately serving more than 4,300 recorded volunteer hours. In 2019, Yolo County acknowledged Shipley Walters’ decades of service by naming its newly renovated archives and library services building the Shipley Walters Center for Yolo County Archives and Library Services in her honor.

Mrs. Walters earned a B.A. in French from Stanford University when she was a young woman in the early 1950s, returning to college herself after her daughter left home for college. She earned a Master’s degree in Library Science from the University of California, Berkeley, when she was 44. Mrs. Walters then worked for pay for several years, when the Yolo County Superintendent of Schools hired her to organize the county office’s professional library, later becoming a communications specialist and in 1976 preparing a slide show history of Yolo County Schools. She resigned in 1979 and exclusively focused her considerable talents volunteering on behalf of historic preservation in Yolo County.

Mrs. Walters’ odyssey in historic preservation volunteer community service began in December 1970, when the Yolo County Historical Landmarks Committee (later the Yolo County Historical Advisory Committee) recommended to the Board of Supervisors that county records be inventoried and that space be provided for storage of the county’s historical records. Such an inventory would update the 1916 California Historical Survey Commission’s Guide to County Archives in California by Owen C. Coy. Mrs. Walters, a member of the Landmarks Committee, volunteered to assist.

In the mid 70s when federal revenue sharing funds became available, Mrs. Walters and library staff wrote a successful proposal to hire a project archivist to inventory county records. The inventory was completed in 1976. When plans were announced to remodel the County Courthouse and build a new County Administration Building, concern arose that county records might be lost or destroyed in the process unless official action was taken to preserve them and provide a facility to house them. Mrs. Walters, from the Historical Advisory Committee, collaborated with county staff to develop a recommendation to establish a records management system for the county.

The Historical Advisory Committee, led by Mrs. Walters, insisted that all the record retention schedules be evaluated by the County Librarian and considered for archival storage. In 1982, the Board of Supervisors approved a records management function under the County’s General Services Agency and an archival function under the County Librarian. At the same time the Board authorized renting warehouse space to house both programs.

In 1983, with assistance from Mrs. Walters and from staff at the California State Archives, the County applied for a National Historical Preservation and Records Commission grant to hire an archivist. The grant included a stipulation that the county raise new, nonfederal funds by Sept. 1, 1984. The Historical Advisory Committee, chaired by Mrs. Walters, assumed responsibility for raising the funds as no county funds were available. The county’s historical community responded to the challenge with enthusiasm and vigor, exceeding fundraising goals.

By then approximately 1,500 linear feet of county historical records had been relocated to an unheated, non air-conditioned, rented warehouse where they remained for over eight years. Mrs. Walters and the new archivist established a volunteer program and held a variety of workshops to train volunteers.

After National Historical Preservation and Records Commission grant funds were expended, the historical community under Mrs. Walters’ leadership continued fundraising to support a part-time archivist. There were house tours, buttons, additions to the Write Your Name in History ledgers, the Faces of the Past exhibit at the County Fair Booth, postcards, notepaper – an amazing variety of activities. As funding for archives staff became more and more uncertain, Mrs. Walters’ and county staff discussed the need for a support group for the archives – conversations that led to the formation of the Friends of the Yolo County Archives in 1987, a group critical to the survival of the archives.

Mrs. Walters served as the founding president of the Friends of the Yolo County Archives, soliciting board members that regionally represented all parts of Yolo County -- a board structure that remains. Not content to merely attend meetings, Mrs. Walters became the first editor of The Archives Ledger, the Friends of the Yolo County Archives’ newsletter.

Also in 1987, Mrs. Walter’s first book on local history was published, Yolo County: Land of the Changing Patterns, co-authored with Joanne L. Larkey. Mrs. Walters continued to author and co-author nine more books, the last in 2010 when she was in her early 80s. She further wrote a regular column for the Woodland Daily Democrat from 1984-1988.

In the late 80s, county library staff began planning for a permanent central support/administration building that would also incorporate the county archives/records center programs. Mrs. Walters assisted to plan the archives/records center section of the new facility as well as the move of all county records. Simultaneously, in 1990 she began the Yolo County Archives’ oral history program, training volunteers and conducting oral history interviews herself.

In the early 1990s, a fire in the new archives building delayed the move by 6 months. All of the records had to be stored in big trailers because of a deadline to leave that building. But, with everyone pulling together the move was completed over the Christmas holidays in 1993 and the new archives facility opened to the public in January 1994.

Mrs. Walters continued to volunteer at least weekly and again helped with the training and support of a volunteer team at the archives.

Before retiring as an archives volunteer in 2012, Mrs. Walters experienced one more archive peril – the mold crisis of 2005-6, caused by inadequate climate controls.

Throughout her 50 year involvement with Yolo County history, Mrs. Walters was also involved in a myriad of other community activities, including the League of Women Voters, Suicide Prevention, Davis Comic Opera, Meals on Wheels, teaching English as a second language, leading tours of the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts, serving as Foreperson of the Grand Jury, and as a founding member of St. Martins Episcopal Church Choir and singing with the UC Davis Chorus.

Mrs. Walters’ vision to include facilities along with services in the Friends of Yolo County Archives founding documents made the financing of the Yolo County Archives and Library Services Building possible. When the original financing for the building fell through, the Friends stepped up and agreed to serve as a Public Benefit Corporation to enable the sale of $625,000 in Certificates of Participation for the financing

Today, the recently renovated facility has been outfitted with appropriate climate controls and compact shelving which will permit a significant increase in holdings – refinements Shipley Walters only dreamed about when the building was planned. Mrs. Walters was at the forefront of the almost 50-year odyssey to preserve, protect and ensure the widest possible use of the county’s historical records, a testament to her dedication, foresight, perseverance, commitment and collaborations with many.

The National Chair, Historic Preservation Committee, said this about Mrs. Walters when informing the Sacramento Chapter of her award:

Ms. Walters’ commitment to the preservation of the history of Yolo County, and tireless efforts to establish the Yolo County Archives are truly outstanding. The generous gifts of her expertise and years of service to her community are impressive. Because of Ms. Walters efforts, the history of the county and area have been enhanced and will be preserved, enjoyed and shared with many generations.

Thank you, Mrs. Walters, for 50 years of service. At this time, the Sacramento Chapter would like to present you with the Historic Preservation Medal.