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Thursday, June 11, 1998

Edward Nabb

SALISBURY, MD--Cambridge attorney Edward H. Nabb, whose forebear came to the Eastern Shore in the early 18th century as an indentured servant, has endowed the Research Center for Delmarva History and Culture at Salisbury State University for $500,000.
 
Lets face it. This (the Chesapeake Bay region) is where the United States began, said Nabb. There should really be a center somewhere here for a repository for that information.
 
The gift is a challenge grant. The University and its fund-raising arm, the SSU Foundation, will endeavor to raise an additional $500,000 to match the Nabb endowment. In appreciation, the University is also renaming the facility the Edward H. Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History and Culture.
 
I can't think of a more appropriate name to grace the Research Center, said SSU President William C. Merwin. Ed Nabb has been not only a friend to higher education in this region, he and his familys lives have been inextricably a part of the fabric of the Eastern Shore for three centuries.
 
Nabbs zest for living is memorable: For his 81st birthday last December, for example, he treated himself to a new red Mazda Miata. His four children range from age 48 (Ed Jr.) to age 11 (Ian). With another famous Eastern Shore resident, Dick Henson, founder of Henson Aviation, Nabb is one of only two Marylanders who are members of the UFOs, United Flying Octogenarians.
 
He is famous throughout the region for his annual holly run to Tangier Island each Christmas, bringing in that evergreen for islanders to decorate their church and homes. Now in its 30th year, the last holly run saw 35 plane loads flown in.
 
He is the only person on earth to have received all three of the worlds top power boating awards: induction into the Power Boat Racing Hall of Fame and American Power Boat Association Honor Squadron; and the Medal of Honor of the Union of International Motor Boating.
For over 40 years he has been a member of Harrington, Harrington and Nabb, the states oldest law firm. He still maintains an office there. He prepared for the bar by reading law, one of the last in Maryland to do so.
 
Except for a few night courses, he never attended college. During World War II he joined the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, rising from the rank of private to captain. As a high school graduate in Officer Candidate School where he took classes with Massachusetts Institute of Technology and University of Michigan alumni, Nabb remembers wondering if he would survive. At night in the barracks he would study in his bunk with a flashlight under the covers. Perseverance triumphed. He graduated first in his class. In Manila after the war he helped build the University of the Philippines. Later, he served in Korea.
 
A firm believer in the power of education, Nabb has helped countless Dorchester County students attend college. As president of the Nathan Foundation for the last 25 years, he has overseen the awarding of $600,000 in scholarships--all to Salisbury State--to local young people, many of whom could not have afforded to go otherwise.
 
His endowment will now help build an institute that supporters claim is unlike any other on the Eastern Shore, if not the country.
 
According to Becky Miller, Research Center director, the facility is unique in that it is devoted to the history of a region incorporating three states (Delaware, Maryland and Virginia), and not just one. It also happens to be one of the earliest settled regions by European immigrants to the New World. Because the Chesapeake was often the first way station to settlers who continued on, the Shore is an important national genealogical source for family history. On a recent Thursday, for example, the Center was serving researchers from West Virginia, Massachusetts, Ohio and California. Others have journeyed from as far away as Canada, Britain and the Bahamas. Drawing researchers to the Center is a series of unique collections. These records of family history of the region are second to none, said Dr. G. Ray Thompson, chair of the History Department at SSU and a co-founder of the Research Center. We are frequently told that even the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at Salt Lake City, which has wonderful genealogical resources, does not have records that we have here.
 
Thompson is referring to the Leslie P. Dryden Collection, a 250-volume history of original field research on some 2,000 Eastern Shore families.
 
The Research Center also has copies of the oldest continuous sets of courthouse records in the continental United States, dating back to 1632.
 
Recognizing the Centers potential, the late Wilcomb Washburn, head of the American Studies Program at the Smithsonian Institution, donated his personal library of more than 10,000 volumes before his death, and the Donner Foundation of New York has established a $75,000 Washburn memorial at the Center.
 
From rare land survey records and maps, to unique photographic collections, the Center has become a safe haven for those wishing to preserve both ephemera and original source documents of the Eastern Shore.
 
The Center is also the lynchpin of a new SSU Master of Arts in history, with a specialty in Chesapeake studies, established this spring.
 
Interest on monies from the Nabb endowment will help fund programs and educational initiatives at the Center. For more information call 410-543-6312.  



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