The Historical Society of Washington, D.C., lost a champion, visionary board member, and great friend on November 20, 2015. Austin H. Kiplinger, a member, donor, and advocate for more than 50 years, former chair of the board of trustees, chair of the advisory council, and contributor to Washington History magazine, died at age 97. His contributions to journalism, business, education, the arts, and his country are legion. His contributions to the Historical Society helped define what the organization is today and what it will be in the future.
Universally admired for his enthusiasm, the twinkle in his eye, and the positive energy he brought to every encounter, “Kip” truly got it about the importance of history. As a journalist for newspapers, radio, and television, and the publisher of the groundbreaking Kiplinger letters, he drew from the past to understand contemporary events and, boldly, predict future trends. The Kiplinger personal finance publications invented that genre of publishing and became reliable guides for millions of American households. Kip understood the responsibility inherent in advising the general public, and it was that sense of responsibility, of service to his communities, that underlay his hard work for the Historical Society.
Kip’s passion for his city’s history also explained his service to this organization. Not only did he lead the Historical Society’s board, he co-chaired its most ambitious capital campaign. With Walter E. Washington and Albert H. Small, Kiplinger led the effort to raise more than $20 million to restore the old Carnegie Library as the headquarters of the Historical Society and install a City Museum here. While the museum proved unsustainable, the Historical Society continues to enjoy its distinguished home thanks to their efforts.
Kip was proud of the writing he did about local Washington and understood the value of the local story while never forgetting its national context. In addition to his own writing, he and his family contributed enormously to the historical record as collectors of Washingtoniana. The Historical Society, already enriched by Kip’s attention and hard work, was doubly enriched in 2012 when Kip and Knight Kiplinger donated 4,000 rare historical prints, maps, photos, and paintings from the Kiplinger Washington Collection started by Kip’s father, Kiplinger Washington Editors founder W.M. Kiplinger. And just weeks before his death, Kip was filmed giving a hearty rendition of the old Ourisman Chevrolet ad jingle for this year’s Making D.C. History Awards tribute to Ourisman Automotive Group.
The Historical Society will publish more on Austin H. Kiplinger’s legacy in the coming months. For now, the Board of Trustees, the staff, and the members offer their heartfelt condolences to Knight and Ann Kiplinger and the entire extended family on their profound loss.