By Sally Pearsall Ericson, Director of Marketing and Public Relations
Dr. William E. Barrick, Executive Director of Bellingrath Gardens and Home, has announced plans to retire in the summer of 2019.
At Bellingrath Gardens and Home, Dr. Barrick manages the 65-acre historic estate and serves as a trustee for the Bellingrath Morse Foundation, the estate of Walter and Bessie Bellingrath. Under his direction, the Gardens and Home have become a major tourist destination on the Gulf Coast, attracting 110,000 visitors each year.
“For the past 18 years, along with the able assistance of my wife, Jessica, we have had the pleasure of assisting with the perpetuation of the dreams of Walter and Bessie Bellingrath,” Dr. Barrick said. “I am thankful to all of the employees who have been a part of insuring that Bellingrath Gardens and Home continues to be ‘a fitting and permanent memorial to Mrs. Bellingrath.’ Bellingrath Gardens is truly one of the great Southern gardens and has brought pleasure to millions of visitors since the Bellingrath family first opened their Gardens to the Mobile community in 1932.”
Preston Bolt, Chairman of the Bellingrath Morse Foundation, commented, “Dr. Bill Barrick and his wife, Jessica, have been strong and unfailing advocates for preserving and enhancing the legacy of Walter and Bessie Bellingrath. They will leave us an indelible legacy from their inspirational work in caring for our state’s oldest public garden.”
Dr. Barrick has been Bellingrath’s Executive Director since 1999. Before that, he was Executive Vice President and Director of Gardens at Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Ga., for nearly twenty years.
The Barricks have greatly expanded the Gardens’ outreach into the Mobile community; developed a highly successful Friends of Bellingrath membership program; and created new and exciting Special Events, along with a winter and summer lecture series, Winter Wednesdays and Wonderful Wednesdays. As a result of their fundraising efforts, the Rose Garden was completely renovated and the signature bridge over Mirror Lake was rebuilt.
During Dr. Barrick’s tenure, the interpretive aspects of the Gardens were enhanced through a series of educational films shown in the Delchamps Gallery of Boehm Porcelain, covering a wide array of topics. Through a grant from the Exxon/Mobil Corporation, interpretive panels were added to the Bayou Boardwalk.
Dr. Barrick used his horticultural expertise and design skills to return much of the Gardens to pre-Hurricane Frederic conditions and to significantly improve the horticultural displays throughout the Gardens. Similarly, he used his talents to redesign and expand the annual Magic Christmas in Lights attraction, now in its 23rd year. In December 2014, USA Today readers voted Bellingrath Gardens and Home’s Magic Christmas in Lights into the newspaper’s list of the “10 Best Public Light Displays in America.”
After the Gulf oil spill in 2010, Dr. Barrick was asked to be part of a national public relations effort by BP to promote tourism in the states that were impacted by the oil spill. As the representative for the state of Alabama, Dr. Barrick and the Gardens were prominently featured in this advertising campaign.
In 2015, Dr. Barrick received two major honors: The American Horticultural Society’s Liberty Hyde Bailey Award, given to an individual who has made significant lifetime contributions to at least three horticultural fields; and the Auburn University College of Agriculture’s Outstanding Alumni Award for the Horticulture Program. The award recognizes Auburn University College of Agriculture graduates who have made a significant contribution to their professions and have a record of outstanding personal and professional accomplishments.
In his nomination letter for the Liberty Hyde Bailey Award, Edward C. Callaway, chairman and CEO of Callaway Gardens, wrote: “Bill brought an exquisite sense of design that is unparalleled in our experience. He is an artist who uses plants as his paint and the living world as his canvas. He is remarkably gifted in his ability to imagine and create guest experience in gardens.”
Dr. Barrick received BS and MS degrees from Auburn University and a PhD in Landscape Horticulture from Michigan State University. After graduation, he served as an Assistant Professor in Ornamental Horticulture at the University of Florida. Dr. Barrick is also an affiliate professor in ornamental horticulture at Auburn University and has served on the Auburn University Agricultural Advisory Committee.
Dr. Barrick is a past Chairman of the American Horticultural Society and has been active in numerous horticultural organizations, including the American Association of Arboreta and Botanical Gardens, of which he is a past President; the American Public Garden Association; the board of the Southeastern Flower Show in Atlanta; The National Wildflower Research Center; The National Arboretum Advisory Council; and the visiting committee of Longwood Gardens.
He is a 1994 recipient of the Arthur Hoyt Scott Horticulture Medal and the 2012 Governor’s Tourism Award from the Alabama Tourism Department. He is a graduate of Leadership Georgia, Leadership Mobile and Leadership Alabama.
He is the author of the American Horticultural Society’s “75 Great American Garden Plants,” co-author of the American Horticultural Society’s “Southeast SmartGarden Regional Guide,” and a contributing writer for “How to Achieve A Heaven on Earth.”
Dr. Barrick serves on numerous boards of civic and community organizations, including the board of Mobile Bay Convention and Visitors Bureau, where he currently serves as Chairman; the board of the South Mobile County Tourism Authority, as a founding member and Chairman; the Providence Hospital Foundation and the Festival of Flowers; and the Downtown Mobile Alliance.
The Barricks are members of Dauphin Way United Methodist Church and are involved in several cultural organizations in the community.