His Life

Obituary - Floyd Lawerence "Larry" Oaks

Floyd Lawerence (“Larry”) Oaks, born in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1943, passed away peacefully Sunday, February 28, 2021.  Still well-dressed and with a sparkle in his eye upon seeing his family, Larry finally stopped his worthy fight against Parkinson’s Disease and was fully restored by his Heavenly Father.

Larry grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, and attended the University of Alabama where he earned a bachelor’s degree with honors in American Studies and a master’s degree in Political Science.  He was a member of Chi Phi fraternity, which was the path that led him to his wife of 55 years, Susan Wiley Oaks.  After courting Susan for three years, she said, “Yes!” to his marriage proposal and their adventures together began.

Upon graduating from the University of Alabama, Larry and Susan moved to Virginia where Larry began pursuing a doctorate in International Relations at Georgetown University with a dream of being in the Foreign Service.  While pursuing his PhD, Larry began teaching high school social studies and later became an assistant principal.  In 1972 he became the proud father of Brian Wiley Oaks.  Never being one to sit idle, even with a toddler in the house, Larry took an interest in helping restore a historic train station in Vienna, Virginia.  There began his love for restoring all things which were cherished in their time but fell into disrepair.

In 1975, Susan, Larry and Brian moved to Waterford, Virginia, where Larry endeavored in his first house restoration (to be followed by the restoration of the Gilmer Street house and the Perry Street house.)  Realizing his interest in historic preservation and restoration along with his capable leadership, Larry was named president of the Waterford Foundation, whose mission was to preserve the historic buildings and open spaces of the National Historic Landmark of Waterford. 

Then, in a way only God could orchestrate, in 1980, Larry left his assistant principal position and PhD pursuit, along with their beloved home in Waterford, and went to Montgomery, Alabama, where he was hired as the Director of the Alabama Historical Commission.  Being a “local outsider” and not having any history in the political games that had unfolded in the state, Larry was the perfect choice for the job.  Little did the state of Alabama know the profound and lasting impact Larry would have on the state of Alabama and in the world of historic preservation.  His love of history, preservation, and restoration was now his full-time career pursuit, and he made his mark early and often both in Alabama and in Texas, where in 1998 he was hired to lead the Texas Historical Commission.  Larry retired in 2009, but was soon after called to duty as a consultant to the Hawaii State Historic Preservation Division. 

Larry’s greatest accomplishments during his career in historic preservation include:

Director of the Alabama Historical Commission (1980 – 1998)

·Restoring the Alabama State Capitol

·Establishing the Black Heritage Council in Alabama, the first minority heritage council which became the basis from which all others in the US were formed

·Restoring the Greyhound Bus Station in Montgomery, Alabama, which is now operated as the Freedom Rides Museum educating local, national and international visitors about a major turning point in our national history

·Serving on the United States President’s Advisory Council on Historic Preservation

Director of the Texas Historical Commission (1998 – 2009)

·Preserving the Texas Courthouses

·Excavating and Restoring the 17th Century Shipwrecked La Belle (which involved negotiating a treaty between the US and France in France!)

·Restoring the Texas Governor’s Mansion

·Serving as President of the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers

·Receiving the 2008 “Preserve America Presidential Award” for the Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program and visiting the White House to receive the award.

When not restoring and preserving historic sites and homes, Larry spent time with his family and friends; served as an elder in multiple churches; and traveled around the world.  Italy was a favorite destination for Larry and Susan, as it held the beauty of the countryside along with fine wine and gourmet food.  The mountains called to Larry from a young age through Boy Scout camp in New Mexico, and they kept calling him back to ski and fly fish throughout his life.  Family and friends were the benefactors of Larry’s passion for gourmet cooking and pastry making.  Larry always had projects going in his home and on his land, with the greatest project being a treehouse he designed and built for his grandchildren. Larry’s love for his grandchildren shown on his face whether he was having picnics in the treehouse with them or taking them for rides on his tractor.  Larry loved Connor and Sydney, and Connor and Sydney loved their “Pa.”

Larry is preceded in death by his parents, Walter and Dorothy Oaks.  He is survived by his wife, Susan Oaks, his son and daughter-in-law, Brian and Jenni Oaks, his two grandchildren, Connor and Sydney, his brother and sister-in-law, Allen and Kimi Oaks, his sister and brother-in-law, Lynn and Don Lambert, and his brother-in-law and sister-in-law, James Wiley and Kathy Harbin.

Service day and time to be determined. 

Donations can be made to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s ResearchFriends of the Texas Historical Commission, and the Lakeway Church.