Robert L. Breeden, A Tribute (1925-2013)
Robert Breeden served on the Board of Directors of the White House Historical Association for 24 years, from 1977 to 2001. For the last 11 of these years, he was its chairman and chief executive officer. His involvement in the association, however, spans the organization’s entire life from its incorporation on November 3, 1961.
The association asked Dr. Melville B. Grosvenor, President of the National Geographic Society to produce the first White House guidebook. Mr. Breeden, a member of the staff of National Geographic, was given the job of directing a complex project on a very tight deadline.
Six months later, on July 4, 1962, the book went on sale at the White House with proceeds benefiting the restoration project of First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy. “She was a delight to work with . . . She knew the background of all the pieces of furniture and art,” Mr. Breeden observed in 1994. “She wanted something the White House visitor could take away that would be educational.” The White House: A Historic Guide is now in its 22nd edition and more than 4 million copies have been sold.
Mr. Breeden initiated the association’s publication of The Presidents, The First Ladies, and The Living White House, creating a body of popular works about the White House that have been read and enjoyed by millions of Americans. He was also founder and enthusiastic supporter of White House History, the association’s semi-annual journal devoted to the history of the White House and its occupants.
A U.S. Navy veteran of World War II service in the Pacific Theater, Mr. Breeden earned a master of Journalism from the University of Missouri. As Senior Vice President of the National Geographic Society, he managed six divisions, supervised the sale of more than 100 million books, launched National Geographic Traveler in 1984 and the Society’s children’s magazine, and built the Society’s Educational Media division from a small operation to an enterprise providing hundreds of high-quality products to schools.
Robert Breeden brought integrity and commitment to excellence to the association’s projects reflecting positively on the institution of the presidency, the White House and the families and staff that lived and worked there. For this, the White House Historical Association will always be indebted to his service.
Excerpts from a 1995 Oral History Interview with Robert Breeden
Robert Breeden’s Acceptance Remarks / James Hoban Lifetime Achievement Award (MP3)