Francis Bowes Sayre Jr.

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Francis B. Sayre Jr. (January 17, 1915 – October 3, 2008) was Dean of the Washington National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. for 27 years. He was the first grandchild of President Woodrow Wilson.

He was a vocal opponent of segregation, poverty, McCarthyism, and the Vietnam War. In March 1965 he joined Martin Luther King Jr. on the voting-rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. Sayre was unafraid to denounce Senator Joseph McCarthy, Republican from Wisconsin, during the hey-day of the latter's influence in the 1950s. In 1954, Sayre called McCarthy a "pretended patriot", adding "There is a devilish indecision about any society that will permit an impostor like McCarthy to caper out front while the main army stands idly by."[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Sayre was born in the White House in 1915, the first grandchild of President Woodrow Wilson. Sayre's father, Francis Bowes Sayre Sr., was a Harvard University law professor who later became an assistant secretary of state. His mother was President Wilson's daughter, Jessie Woodrow Wilson Sayre.

He graduated from Williams College and received his divinity degree from the Union Theological Seminary. He was a chaplain in the Navy during World War II and later had a parish in Cleveland, Ohio.


In 1946 he married Harriet Taft Hart (died 2003), daughter of Admiral Thomas C. Hart.[2][3]


Sayre retired as Dean in 1978. He died three decades later, on October 3, 2008, aged 93, at his home on Martha's Vineyard. His ashes were interred later that same month at the National Cathedral, where he had held the position of Dean and where he has been memorialized. He was survived by two daughters, two sons and eight grandchildren.


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