David Edward Finley was the first director of the National Gallery of Art, a position he held from 1938 to 1956. After receiving his undergraduate degree from the University of South Carolina in 1910, Finley moved to Washington, D.C., to attend George Washington University School of Law, graduating in 1913, and practiced law before joining the army during World War I. After the war, Finley returned to Washington to work in federal service as a special assistant to Secretary of the Treasury Andrew Mellon from 1927 to 1932. This relationship led to Finley’s position with the National Gallery, which Mellon founded in the late 1930s. During his tenure at the National Gallery Finley also assumed leadership positions with a number of arts and preservation organizations, including president of the American Association of Museums from 1945 to 1949, founding chairman of the National Trust for Historic Preservation from 1950 to 1962, and founding chairman of the White House Historical Association, which he led from 1961 to 1977. Among his many awards and honors, Finley received a Smithsonian Henry Medal in 1968 and a Theodore Roosevelt Distinguished Service Medal as well as honorary degrees from Yale and Georgetown Universities. Both the Library of Congress and the National Gallery of Art are repositories for Finley’s papers.
CFA Service: 1943–1963; Vice Chairman 1945–1950; Chairman 1950–1963