The N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources named William J. McCrea, a veteran department employee, as the new executive director of Tryon Palace. McCrea has been serving as interim director of Tryon Palace since March of this year.
McCrea replaces Lee Johnson, who was abruptly fired in February after 16 months on the job. The N.C. DNCR issued a short statement about Johnson’s dismissal: “Careful thought and consideration has been given and a change in leadership has been made for Tryon Palace. Mr. Johnson’s appointment as director has ended effective Feb. 23, 2017. We appreciate his service to Tryon Palace and to the state.”
McCrea has worked for the department for 36 years, in roles including head of Architecture and Restoration for the North Carolina State Historic Sites and associate director of the North Carolina Museum of History.
Most recently, he has served as director of Regional Museums, overseeing the Museum of the Cape Fear in Fayetteville, the Mountain Gateway Museum in Old Fort, and Museum of the Albemarle in Elizabeth City, where he led that institution’s year-long 50th anniversary celebration. The anniversary was highlighted by a highly successful symposium on the Underground Railroad in northeastern North Carolina.
“Bill’s extensive experience with North Carolina’s history museums and state historic sites make him a natural choice to lead one of our most treasured state institutions,” said Susi H. Hamilton, secretary of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. “I’m delighted to have someone with his background in this position of leadership at Tryon Palace.”
McCrea holds a bachelor’s degree in art history from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and a masters’ degree in architectural history and historic preservation from the University of Virginia.
He has been involved with the restoration of numerous state-owned buildings and was the project manager for the N.C. Museum of History’s national award-winning permanent exhibit on the history of the state, “The Story of North Carolina.” He has consulted with nearly 40 museums and historic sites throughout the southeast.
While serving as interim director, McCrea has been involved with the exterior restoration of the New Bern Academy, the renovation of the Douglas Complex, roofing work on the Palace, the design and bidding of a new HVAC system for the Palace, and most recently the Candlelight Tour. Over his years with the department, Bill has made many trips to Tryon Palace to consult on a variety of subjects.
“It is an honor to be selected to lead Tryon Palace, one of North Carolina’s premier historic attractions. I look forward to working even more closely with the Tryon Palace Commission, Foundation, African American Advisory Committee and especially the professional and hardworking staff in New Bern,” McCrea said.