In many ways, Arthur Copeland “Copie” Hill was like most CWPT members: passionate about Civil War history and extremely concerned that the nation was rapidly losing the only physical memorials to that incredible event.
A true philanthropist who wanted his assets to benefit mankind, Mr. Hill envisioned creating a charitable foundation to set aside significant funds to preserve our country’s national heritage. In 1997, he narrowed his focus and dedicated his support to saving Civil War history through education and battlefield preservation. That same year he was diagnosed with a terminal illness. Mr. Hill passed away just two days before Thanksgiving, shortly after his 70th birthday.
As a very successful and self-made businessman, Mr. Hill, founder and owner of Hill Truck Rentals, was not content to watch passively as America’s hallowed ground disappeared under the onslaught of development. In Mr. Hill’s mind, such irresponsible development was erasing a period in our history that should not be forgotten.
It was Mr. Hill’s vision that his HTR Foundation would become the single largest source for private Civil War battlefield preservation funds in the United States. Last year, after presenting a five-year plan and consulting with Foundation trustees, CWPT received a grant for $100,000 from the HTR Foundation for conversion of the successful Civil War Explorer program to the Internet and for other website improvements, with expressions of interest in other year-to-year projects. HTR has also committed to supporting CWPT’s ambitious and innovative National Mapping Analysis project, which will map every campaign of the American Civil War to determine the disposition of every remaining tract of hallowed ground. Armed with this information, CWPT will seek proactively to preserve land before it becomes threatened.
CWPT President Jim Lighthizer recognizes that, even four years after his death, “Copie Hill’s influence looms large on the battlefield preservation landscape. His foresight and generosity will lead, in the very near future, to the direct preservation of hundreds, if not thousands, of acres of threatened battlefield land. It is a remarkable legacy.”
Jeffrey P. McClanathan, President of the HTR Foundation and a member of the CWPT Board of Trustees says, “It makes total sense to create an alliance with the premier public non-profit group preserving Civil War battlefields. To go it completely on our own would mean spending valuable resources to duplicate an already existing administrative structure, taking away resources that can go directly to the cause. The association with CWPT allows the HTR Foundation board to prioritize its donations based on the valued input of the CWPT.”
Copie Hill created his foundation so that a vital part of our nation’s history will never be forgotten. In doing so, he also made certain that, among those who care about saving battlefields, he would never be forgotten.
This article first appeared in the Spring 2002 issue of Hallowed Ground, the membership magazine of the Civil War Trust.
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