Clay Eals to be Southwest Seattle Historical Society’s first executive director

Author, advocate, and historian Clay Eals will make history at the Southwest Seattle Historical Society as its first executive director. Here’s the announcement from SWSHS:

The board of the Southwest Seattle Historical Society has hired veteran heritage advocate Clay Eals as the organization’s first executive director.

Eals is perhaps best known locally as editor of the “West Side Story” history book about the Duwamish peninsula and a leader of the successful drive to secure city landmark status for the Admiral Theater. He will begin work in the new half-time position on Jan. 1, 2013.
As part of oversight of the Southwest Seattle Historical Society’s programs and projects, including the Log House Museum, Eals will be responsible for volunteer recruitment, fundraising and outreach. The organization also plans to retain the part-time position of museum manager, which reports to the executive director.

“We are so excited to announce this major step, which we trust will bring us to new levels of prominence and sustainability,” says Marcy Johnsen, president of the society’s board.

“Clay is a well-known author, community activist and passionate advocate for history and preservation,” she says. “He has volunteered hundreds, if not thousands, of hours for our historical society, and his track record, which includes recent work in communication and fundraising for a children’s services organization, has prepared him to lead us to greater visibility and community engagement.”

Eals has worked since 2008 as communication officer for Encompass, a family-services nonprofit organization based in North Bend. He relishes the new opportunity.

“The new position really taps into my heart for history,” Eals says. “It’s a wonderful chance to help people get fired up by the stories of West Seattle – kids and adults alike.

“I have often said that if you love where you live, the historical society is the organization for you because that’s where you can discover how it got to be so loveable. I look forward to working with everyone – board members, volunteers and the community at large – to bring out and share the memories and connections that inspire us all.”

The Southwest Seattle Historical Society board decided to seek an executive director after completing a self-assessment as part of the Museum Assessment Project of the American Association of Museums and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

The self-assessment included an intensive site visit in August 2011 by consultant Steve Friesen, director of the Colorado-based Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave. Among Friesen’s top recommendations was that the society hire an executive director.

The board of the society began the executive-director search last summer. After two rounds of interviews in the fall, the board selected Eals.

Eals is a native Seattleite whose mother was born and raised in West Seattle. For 15 years, he worked for four Northwest newspapers (two daily and two weekly) as a reporter, photographer and editor.

The last of those four stints was for the combined West Seattle Herald and White Center News, which he edited from 1983 to 1988. During that span, in 1984, the Southwest Seattle Historical Society began, and Eals became a founding member. Working with the society, Eals edited and led production of “West Side Story,” the 288-page history book of the Duwamish peninsula that was published in 1987 by Robinson Newspapers, the parent company of the West Seattle Herald and White Center News.

After “West Side Story,” Eals joined the board of the Southwest Seattle Historical Society and in 1989 began three years as board president. In that period, he served on the three-member steering committee of the society’s Save the Admiral Task Force, which mobilized citizens to persuade the Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board to provide landmark protection for the 1942 Admiral Theater.

Eals later worked 13 years as a writer and editor for Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. As an author, he wrote and had published two books, both biographies, on child film actress Karolyn Grimes (“It’s a Wonderful Life”) and singer/songwriter Steve Goodman (“City of New Orleans”) and wrote for and designed a third book on Seattle baseball history.

For the Southwest Seattle Historical Society, Eals headed several yearly “Homes with History” tours, participated in the 1994 campaign to secure Alki voter approval of the society’s purchase of the building that became the Log House Museum, emceed dozens of society events and worked to foster the society’s partnership with South Seattle Community College.

Most recently, he has represented the society in a coalition of four heritage organizations behind the “This Place Matters” effort to ensure preservation and restoration of the fire-damaged, city-landmark Fir Lodge/Alki Homestead log building one-half block from the society’s Log House Museum.

Eals and his wife, Meg, live in the north Admiral area of West Seattle. He also has an author’s website at

You’re invited to a reception to meet and greet Eals in his new role on Sunday, January 13, at the Log House Museum, 61st and Stevens, noon-4 pm (with a program starting at 2 pm).

10 Replies to "Clay Eals to be Southwest Seattle Historical Society's first executive director"

  • N.A. Neighbor December 12, 2012 (1:45 pm)

    Congratulations to Clay! What a perfect fit for him and the Historical Society.

  • Barbara Mc December 12, 2012 (3:48 pm)

    Hooray! Congratulations Clay, you will do a great job..

  • DML December 12, 2012 (3:50 pm)

    This is really great news. Congratulations all.

  • Deb Barker December 12, 2012 (4:04 pm)

    Clay – Congrats on the commute reduction. Could THIS be your dream job? All the best to you and the SWSHS. Play ball…

  • Mark Neuman December 12, 2012 (6:02 pm)

    Perfect fit, perfect pick.

  • Patti Mullen December 13, 2012 (6:51 am)

    The Historical Society is so VERY lucky to have you on board, Clay! Congratulations!

  • Dave Eskenazi December 13, 2012 (7:10 am)

    Hearty congrats to Clay and to SWSHS. Great things to come for both!

  • miws December 13, 2012 (9:50 am)

    Congrats to Clay! With his devotion to everything West Seattle, he is right up there with “Mr. West Seattle” Normie Beers!



  • Larry Carpenter December 13, 2012 (6:03 pm)

    What wonderful news! So happy for Clay and for SWSHS–hoping you’ll let us old-timers stay on as volunteers, Clay.

  • Paul Dolejsi December 14, 2012 (12:12 pm)

    Congratulations, Clay! Excellent choice for the local community!

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